Various Artists

World Playground, Vol. 2

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Intentionally or unintentionally, some of the children's music that comes from the U.S. can be very condescending -- some adult artists make the mistake of underestimating kids' intelligence and end up talking down to them. But World Playground 2, Putumayo's follow-up to its first World Playground compilation, proves that children's music doesn't have to be sophomoric or unintelligent. Taking a look at children's music from different parts of the world, this CD is fun and lighthearted without being condescending or dumbed down. Musically and rhythmically, World Playground 2 is fairly sophisticated -- the material is children-friendly but not childish. And that material ranges from Columbian Cumbia (La Sonora Dinamita's infectious "A Mover la Colita") to Indian pop (Lucky Ali's "Teri Yaadein") to South African pop (Miriam Makeba's "Pata Pata 2000"). Putumayo compilations are usually full of surprises -- head honcho Dan Storper has very eclectic tastes -- and World Playground 2 is no exception. In addition to focusing on major superstars like Makeba and ska/reggae veterans Toot & the Maytals, the compilation makes some unlikely choices. Take Mexican singer Claudia Martínez's "Nichim Uvil," for example. Putumayo could have easily found a well-known Spanish-language hit from Mexico; instead, "Nichim Uvil" is performed in the Tzotzil language. (The Tzotzils are an Indian tribe that are related to the Mayans.) Rhythmically, "Nichim Uvil" is unlike much of the mariachi, ranchero, and Tejano that Mexicans are known for -- its soft, gentle rhythms bring to mind some of the more understated Brazilian pop that comes from Rio de Janeiro. One rather puzzling choice is Toot & the Maytals' "Freedom Train"; while this is an excellent political song, it's unclear exactly what it has to do with children's music. Regardless, World Playground 2 is a fine compilation that people of all ages can enjoy.

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