It’s summertime—when cold beer and the hot sun make for endless days and epic nights.
When we stuff our bags with beach towels, fill our cars with good friends and jump into whatever water we can find.
It’s a time when we load our playlists with summer jams that become the soundtrack of our memories. When songs become anthems and moments are etched on our hearts in permanent ink.
I love this time of year.
I still hear songs on the radio that remind me of that college road trip with the girls or that middle school crush way back when, and a whoosh of happy memories and good times come flooding back.
Music is powerful.
It stays with us. It gets stuck in our hearts and heads, and it provides a soft spot to land when we need it most.
And while I’ve grown up on and love popular music, something happened when I became a mom.
The music started sounding different. Suddenly I became hyper-aware of the lyrics to my favorite summer songs, and I wasn’t just hearing beats and hooks anymore.
I realized that somewhere along the way, I had become numb to all the songs filled with blatant disrespect for women, with angry words about f*ck this and f*ck that, with girls singing about making their bodies just right in an attempt to gain approval.
I became a mom, and suddenly I was actually hearing the words.
The momma lion in me wanted to freak out and put my daughter in a bubble away from anything mainstream. But honestly, that’s not realistic or much fun for either of us, in my opinion. Music is a form of artistic expression, and she deserves to experience that art in its many varieties.
But it gave me pause as to the kind of music I could consciously bring into our home as a way to at least begin to curate her musical experience. I think our kids learn the most from what we model, and I started realizing that if I’m being mindful about so many of the other aspects in my life, why couldn’t I be more mindful about my music choices as well?
I’m not saying that I became someone I’m not. And I’m not going all crazy trying to shelter her. I still listen to almost all my favorite music from the last few decades; I Just don’t share all of it with my daughter just yet. (Yes, that would be me with the sunroof open and the windows down, blaring Jay-Z on my solo errands away from the kiddo.)
But in opening myself to finding some more positively-messaged music, I ended up turning myself onto some new artists that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise (and liking many mainstream ones even more). And now we have some pretty epic kitchen dance parties that don’t require censored versions of songs.
While there are scores of genres not represented here, the following are just three mindful albums and three upbeat songs we’re jamming in our house these days.
The first three are musicians you may not have heard of, and the last three are mainstream hits we’ve got on repeat.
Enjoy and share in the comments what you’re jamming to with your kids. We’re always looking for new (and old) music to shake it to this summer.
1. Artist: MC I-AM; Album: Dance Away Your Density: Mantra Mash-Up
MC I-AM is Panache Desai, spiritual teacher and East Indian DJ, originally hailing from London, England. Trained by a long line of Hindu Brahmans, he mixes modern beats with ancient Sanskrit chants creating mindful songs that make you want to get up and dance. His sound definitely appeals more for those who like club music, as it is a fast-paced mix of hip-hop, electronic and dub-step beats. We love to jam it when we’re jogging or just to get energized in the morning.
2. Artist: Marti Nikko and DJ Drez; Album: Dreaming in Sanskrit
DJ Drez calls his sound “an organic blend of mystical hip-hop, reggae roots and Indian raga that has been known to instigate an ecstatic dance party one instant and soothe a group into a meditative savasana the next.” Featuring the soulful voice of his talented partner Marti Nikko, this album stirs something deep inside and organically gets the body moving. With dance beats and ballads alike, this album transitions from day to night providing a sacred soundtrack for fun in the sun with the whole family or evenings on the patio sans kids. I love to jam to it in the kitchen when I’m cooking dinner or in the morning when my kiddo and I do a little wake-up yoga.
3. Artist: One Village Music Project; Album: Keep Breathing
The One Village Music Project was born out of the Amala Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit that brings together youth of all backgrounds (many of who are refugees and immigrants) for impactful, inspiring events and experiences. This youth-led music project features musical genres from all over the world, including this hauntingly gorgeous rendition of “Precious Human Life,” a song adapted from the well-known Dalai Lama quote (that I’ve heard my 3-year-old singing more than once at the breakfast table.) The songs on this album are as eclectic and soulful as the youth who sing them.
4. Artist: Colbie Caillat; Song: Try (from album Gypsy Heart)
Colbie Caillat is a Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum artist who comes across as an authentic, everyday-girl. About herself she says, “I love listening to Bob Marley at the beach, while drinking a kale smoothie in my 20-dollar Target bathing suit with zero makeup. At the same time, I love having my amazing style and hair and makeup team get me ready for shows. Other times, I’ll be dancing to dub-step in my dressing room, while drinking Jameson and eating donuts for breakfast.” She is unabashedly herself, and “Try” stirs something in all women (and men) who desire to be loved, seen and heard simply for being themselves. It’s the kind of message I have on repeat in my own heart and to my daughter everyday.
5. Artist: India Arie; Song: Video (from album Acoustic Soul)
India Arie celebrated fame early in her career, earning Grammy Awards and acclaim for this breakout hit, “Video” in 2001. And although she has grown both spiritually and musically in the 15 years since this song was first released, it still hits a deep chord in me about the desire we all have to assert our beauty just as we are. All of India Arie’s music (especially her latest album Songversation) shows that music can be catchy, popular, soulful and mindful all at the same time. Although “Video” is the jam my daughter and I most love to dance to, “I Am Light” is one of her songs that brings tears to my eyes and gratitude to my heart every time I hear it.
6. Artist: Pharrell Williams; Song: Happy (from Despicable Me 2 soundtrack)
Yes, everyone on the planet probably knows this song (and maybe you’re sick of it), but it still deserves mentioning because honestly we haven’t gotten tired of it yet! While not all of Pharrell’s music is kid-friendly, this song is an anthem in our house. When Oprah interviewed Pharrell in 2014, he shed tears of gratitude seeing people from all over the world recording their own Happy-inspired music videos singing and dancing along to his hit song. With all the tragedies in the news, I think we could all use a little more happiness.
Author: Kayla Floyd
Editors: Caitlin Oriel; Yoli Ramazzina