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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Music Club

I'm here in Shanghai teaching English at a school for adults. I really dig the job. It has just the right combination of structure & creativity. Many of the lessons are written by the people at the main office, & then the teachers present the lessons in class. But we also create some of our own lessons as part of the students' cultural experience.

Once a week, I write a lesson for what I call Music Club. I choose an iconic song from Western culture & play it in class. As they listen to the song, the students try to decypher the lyrics. During the second part of the class, I play two or three cover versions of the same song but in different genres. Then we discuss which version they liked the best.

One week we did the song Fever. I played the original version by Little Willy John, then we listened to the more famous version by Peggy Lee, & finally we heard Madonna's dance version. The class overwhelmingly voted for Madonna's as their favorite rendition.

Sometimes I like to choose extremely different or unlikely cover versions of the songs to help spark conversation. I found an orchestral version of Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer, a lounge act version of Radiohead's Creep, & a whispy Celtic version of the classic Over the Rainbow. Surprisingly, these are the versions the students tend to like the best.

Last week we did the song I Swear, originally by John Michael Montgomery, but probably more famous for the version by All-4-One. I found a Muzak-esque version of the song & played it in class. Before I could tell them, the whole class recognized the artist as Bandari, saying they love their music - it's relaxing & they use natural sounds like birds & waterfalls in the background.

Later, I asked some other students & the Chinese teachers if they had heard of Bandari. They all had & they all seemed to love them. Bandari is apparently a sensation here in China. I'd never even heard of them before.

How about you? Have you ever heard of this musical group?

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