Listen and Learn

Our Big Neighborhood

Put your artistic skills to the test with the Our Big Neighborhood coloring book sheets! Thanks to our friends at Gage Academy of Art for the designs. Download and print out all three below:

Music and Song

Afro-Peruvian Percussion – Afro Peruvian percussion instruments were originally created out of the simplest household items such as spoons, chairs, table tops, and handclaps. Anything that made sound could be used as an instrument including a simple box (cajon) or a donkey’s jaw bone (quijada). Click here to watch Monica Rojas & DeCajoli perform.






Beatboxing – Beatboxers use their mouth, lips, tongue, and voice to create sounds that sound like a drum machine. There are two basic sounds that are used to create a drum sound: for the kick drum { say ‘boots’ } and for the snare drum { say ‘cats’ }. Now, say them together. Click here to watch beatboxing in action.




Jazz – Jazz music is like a musical conversation. Rather than using words, jazz musicians use music to talk with one another. This is called improvisation. Click here to learn more about Jazz.




– Shona-marimba music was brought to the United States from Zimbabwe more than forty years ago from Duminsani Maraire. He started the first marimba band at the University of Washington, right here in Seattle! Click here to listen to Marimbas.





Songster – A Songster is a traveling musician usually playing a banjo, fiddle or guitar. As Songsters passed through towns and cities, they learned to play music for all kinds of occasions, audiences and environments. Click here to listen to some songster.





Steel Pans – Steel Pans were originally created out of objects such as car parts, paint pots, dustbins, oil drums and biscuit tins. At some point these percussion instruments were melodically tuned and became steel pans. Click here to listen to Steel Pans.



Dhaanto Dhaanto is a popular community dance from Somalia that offers a fun way to meet people and celebrate with friends. Performed in a group, girls, boys and eventually elders, line up opposite each other and clap their hands and move their feet together. These movements are believed to be inspired by camel riders who move gracefully through the Horn of Africa. Learn more about The CAEMP Project.



Flamenco – Flamenco is an art style from Spain that combines music (toque), song (cante), and dance (baile). Dancers stomp their feet, clap their hands, and snap their fingers which adds to the beats in the music. Many dancers improvise their moves to fit the mood and rhythm of the music, making each dance new and unique!





Hula – In Hawaii, hula has been used for hundreds of years to tell stories of history, myth, and culture from generation to generation. Hula was created long before the Hawaiian people created a system of writing. Instead they communicated through dance and song. Click here to learn more about the Hula.





Lion Dance – In Vietnam, the Lion Dance (múa lân) is called the unicorn dance. The unicorn is a mythological animal and tradition has it that wherever a unicorn appears, people will have peace, happiness and wealth.





Tap Dancing – Tap is a dance created from metal plates that are attached to a dancer’s shoe. These metal plates, when tapped against a hard surface, create a percussive sound – making these dancers musicians!





Tinikling – Animals and nature play an important role in many Philippine dances, like in the popular Tinikling dance. Acting like the Tinikling birds jumping between rice paddies to avoid traps, dancers hop in and out of bamboo poles that are moved along to music.


Traditions and More


Capoeira – Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form that is a mix of dance, music, martial art, and gymnastics. Cartwheels and handstands are two of the essentials moves in Capoeira. Click here to watch a Capoeira demonstration.





Crankies – Crankies are an old-fashioned form of a movie! Made by hand and set to music, the paper scrolls through a box and tells a story. Click here to learn more about Crankies.






Duwamish Storytelling – The first residents of the Seattle area were Natie Americans of the Duwamish (Dkhw’Due’Absh or “The People of the Inside”) tribe. Stories are shared and passed down through generations in order to guide, and heal one another. They teach us how to live in the world in a good way. Today, we are standing on Duwamish land here at the Seattle Center. Watch Blake Shelafoe perform the Warrior Dance at the Duwamish Longhouse.



Macehualiztli – The sun was very important for the Ancient Aztec people of the Mexican region. They danced and sang for the sun every day to give light to their harvest. This particular dance was known as Macehualiztli, which means “deserving.” Watch a special performance of Hummingbird.





Origami – Origami comes from two Japanese words – Ori (folded) and Kami (paper). Traditional origami uses a piece of paper in the shape of a square and does not allow any cutting. An ancient Japanese legend says that if you fold one thousand cranes you will be granted a wish.





Pungmul – Pungmul is a type of Korean folk music that combines work and play. Originally created by farmers, Pungmul is known for its colorful costumes and upbeat drumming, led by a kkwaenggwari (small hand gong). The rhythm and dancing of the artists invites prosperity and good luck for all.





Sanshin – The “three strings”) is from the southernmost region of Japan called Okinawa. This 3 stringed fretless lute instrument sounds much like a banjo. The body is covered both front and back with snakeskin and has no sound hole. Watch Mako & Munjuru perform at Northwest Folklife Festival





Sign Language – American Sign Language (ASL) is the third most widely used language in the U.S. Many people with hearing impairments communicate by using ASL, which combines hand signs, gestures, and facial expressions to create words and sentences.