Book Reviews: Songscape World

Ruth Coles
Saturday, January 1, 2022

Ruth Coles takes a look at Songscape World by Lin Marsh, published by Faber.

I rarely receive anything interesting in the post, let alone in the post to my school address, so you can imagine how happy I was to receive a copy of Marsh's new book, Songscape World, which is an addition to her other ‘Songscape’ publications.

Songscape World is a collection of 18 songs in different languages from all around the globe. The countries the songs have originated from and their languages are: Ghana (Twi), Indonesia (Bahasa), Switzerland (Italian), Palestine (Arabic), DR Congo (Kituba), South Africa (Zulu), Chile (Spanish), Slovakia (Slovak), China (Mandarin), USA (English), Croatia (Croatian), Zimbabwe (Shona), Russia (Russian), Portugal (Portuguese), Poland (Polish), Lebanon (Arabic), Sweden (Swedish) and India (Khasi).

My first instinct was of mild alarm as to how I would learn these new languages; never fear – the QR code on the inside cover gives you immediate access to Marsh singing all the songs with the correct pronunciation. When I caught up with Marsh to ask her about this book, I was eager to know how she went about this. Marsh works for the British Council as part of their World Voice Initiative and travels around the globe delivering singing workshops. On embarking on this new project, she cast her net out to her (probably enormous) network to find native speakers of these languages who were delighted to coach her.

There are a huge variety of styles in this book, from upbeat to lyrical and everything in between, all orchestrated with backing tracks and guide tracks. There is a balance of unison songs with some beautiful two-part arrangements and one three-part. The opening song can be used as an excellent warm up and there is plenty of potential concert repertoire too. As with all of Marsh's arrangements and compositions, she writes with a great awareness of the vocal range of a Key Stage 2 child.

Thinking of the classroom and how many languages that are spoken by the children we all teach, I cannot wait to get started with these. As teachers, we will have the privilege of witnessing a child's delight when they hear a song they recognise, that's in a language they know. They will be the expert and will be able to assist their peers and teachers alike. I do hope many others will join me in this endeavour.