September 29, 2008

Le Nouvel Album de Sesame Street!

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , — Joe Hennes @ 1:34 pm


Not content to keep to one country, Sesame Street has cloned, doppleganged, and otherwise duplidupliduplicated itself into over 30 co-productions all over the world. Each one has its own set of characters, but the jury is still out on how many provinces and commonwealths exist within Elmo?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s World.

To celebrate the international aspect of all things Sesame, Putamayo Kids has released ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSesame Street Playground,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù a CD chock full of songs from Streets around the world. Also included with the CD is an extensive booklet with liner notes and a bonus DVD.

The CD contains music from Sesamstraat (The Netherlands), Takalani Sesame (South Africa), Zhima Jie (China), 5 rue Sesame (France), Ulitsa Sezam (Russia), Plaza Sesamo (Mexico), Galli Galli Sim Sim (India), Shara?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢a Simsim (Palestine), Rechov Sumsum (Israel), Kilimani Sesame (Tanzania), Vila Sesamo (Brazil), and of course, good old USA, home of the Whopper.
The music itself is pretty great. I only wish I spoke all of these different languages so I could get that much more out of it. The theme songs to Sesamstraat and Galli Galli Sim Sim are both included, which sound remarkably familiar. We also get the Chinese version of “Rubber Duckie” and the Brazilian version of “One Small Voice.” The rest of the songs are catchy, but not as familiar to American audiences.

Something I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t always take special notice of is the liner notes. In this case, a full booklet is included, featuring a brief synopsis of each song (which is important if you don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know what ?¢‚Ǩ?ìOhgneyat Al Lo?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ba Al Sha?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢beyya?¢‚Ǩ¬ù means) and translations into Spanish, French, and German. The notes are cute and informative, and now I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve figured out how to say ?¢‚Ǩ?ìMr. Noodle?¢‚Ǩ¬ù in four languages!

The cover, in my opinion, could use a little improvement. As you can see, it looks like a watercolor painting done by the artiest 10-year-old in the class. It doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t quite fit in with the rest of the Sesame Street library, but after looking at some of Putamayo Kids?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ other releases, it definitely fits in well with those. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d assume that this album would have a better release with other international titles rather than Sesame albums, but it might have been nice to have something eye-catching to both demographics. Still, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m perplexed by Cookie Monster?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s hovering cookie basket, Zoe?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s claw feet, and why half of the characters included on the cover don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t appear in the album at all.
By far, my favorite song on the album is Takalani Sesame?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s ?¢‚Ǩ?ìPollution Song,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù which is one of the songs included on the bonus DVD. Part of the song is in English (one of 11 languages spoken on the show), which makes it a little easier to follow. I like the design of Moshe, the walkaround character, and the low, gravelly voice of Zikwe (the blue monster) fills out the song nicely in a way we don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t often hear on our Street. The song also includes everyone?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s favorite Muppet to help create false rumors, Kami, in the only clip I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve seen of her that didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t involve a lesson about being HIV positive.

Also notable is Rechov Sumsum?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s ?¢‚Ǩ?ìEn Den Dino,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù which features Ronnie Rock, an Israeli children?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s performer who doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t look anything like his name should be ?¢‚Ǩ?ìRonnie Rock.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù The chorus has mostly nonsense words, which makes it easy to enjoy, although if you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢re listening to a song to which you don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t recognize the language, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll all be nonsense to you anyway. Still, the inclusion of this song saddens me, if only for the fact that we didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t get an appearance by Moishe Oofnik.

Two songs from Sesame Street USA made it onto the album: ?¢‚Ǩ?ìElmo?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Song?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSing.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù I suppose the former was included to forgive the fact that Elmo is on the cover (as is with most Sesame releases these days), though I would have preferred one extra international song. I did enjoy the inclusion of ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSing,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù which is sung in both English and Spanish, making for a proper fit in this compilation. Wiki fact: Did you know that Emilio Delgado wrote the Spanish translation for ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSing?¢‚Ǩ¬ù? Es verdad!

The only dud of the 5 DVD tracks is ?¢‚Ǩ?ìThe Song of Caretakers?¢‚Ǩ¬ù from Ulitsa Sezam. The video features Na-Na, which, as far as I can tell, is the Russian equivalent of The Wiggles. The song is pretty much a music video for these guys, and Muppets don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t even show up until we?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢re two minutes into the three minute song. On top of it all, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s the third song out of the five to feature a regional celebrity, rather than spotlighting the best of the puppet characters.

In all, I found the CD and DVD to be most fun. Since I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t have the biggest interest in foreign language music, I doubt it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll jump off my shelf too often, but that doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t mean it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s not well-done or entertaining. The one reason I would bring it out again and again would be for the DVD portion. If Putamayo Kids or Sesame Workshop decide to release another volume, I would hope that they?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d make it a DVD with a bonus CD, rather than the other way around. I haven?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t seen much of the international characters, and they?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve teased me enough to make me want more.

All said and done, I would recommend the album, but only if your heart yearns for world music. If not, then a second listen may not be in your future.

Sesame Street Playground will be available in stores on September 30.
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