Zoolojams are the brainchild of Philip Handmaker, veteran teacher and songwriter, creator of such projects as educational hiphop project ProfessorPhlip.com
and bilingual Spanish-English children's music performer Mister Felipe
Says Handmaker, "One of the highlights of my Albuquerque childhood were the trips I took to the Rio Grande Zoo. The powerful sights, sounds and smells engraved themselves in my memory, provoking wonder and curiosity that have endured a lifetime."
Teaching music in a small charter school in Taos, Handmaker worked with students to take these emotions and set them to music. The result is Zoolojams, a rollicking set of infectious songs that teach about animals. Ranging in style from driving rock to rootsy Americana to bouncing ska/reggae, the songs have been featured on the Children's Hour program on KUNM radio and been performed to enthusiastic audiences across northern New Mexico.
When students at Anansi Charter School
were studying various regions of the world, their excitement about animals needed to be made into songs. Handmaker would cook up a melody, rhythm and chord progression, and students would cook up lyrics to go with it. Polar regions, rainforests, Africa, North America, Australia, China... the songs piled up for years, frequently requested by students during music classes.
Here is a clip from an interview, describing the songwriting process while being interviewed by Katie Stone live on "The Children's Hour"
on KUNM in Albuquerque.
From August to November, 2016, Handmaker recorded these thirteen songs in his home studio, slowly layering tracks. Scratch tracks, cajón, bass, rhythm guitar, keyboards, percussion, electric guitar, banjo, oud, melodica--the songs started to take shape.
At last it was time for the vocals, with Brooke Ann Zanetell singing lead on some tracks and Handmaker himself on others. Kids' voices were recorded with a handheld recorder at the school. Royalty-free animal sounds were tracked down on the internet.
Finally, some talented friends gave their time and energy on instrumental solos: Jeremy Jones of Big Swing Theory played soulful tenor saxophone on "Sloth song", "Duck-billed Platypus", and "Polar Bears". Rachael Penn of the Pot Creek String Band played fiddle on "The Sloth Song". Jim Stewart played harmonica on "Howler Monkeys" and "Who's That Bird".
Handmaker mixed it all at home with the invaluable assistance of Jim Wilson (Voice of Eye). Mastering was handled by Omar Rane at The Tone Palace.
Contact Zoolojams here!