“Through music, children learn the songs and games that their parents knew as children. It’s good for their self esteem and it’s good for the mother tongue,” says Jose-Luis Orozco, who at 67, is the grandfather of Spanish children’s music in the United States. “During Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important to emphasize that we contribute to society and so does Latin music.”
Spanish-language children’s music not only does a lot to ensure that Latino culture is passed down through generations, it infectiously promotes bilingualism, and by extension, awareness and understanding.
From Orozco’s latest album of songs about good food to Lucky Diaz’s family-friendly party music to Chino & Nacho’s lullaby versions of their chart-topping songs, here are five Spanish-singing kids artists you should know.
1. José Luis Orozco
José Luis Orozco started singing for children in 1970. After traveling the world as a young singer with the Mexico City Boys Choir, he moved to the Bay Area to attend college, and started appearing at schools to sing and play guitar.
“I was invited to perform where children spoke Spanish,” Orozco recalls. “The teachers didn’t have access to much music in Spanish then. I brought the songs that I learned from my grandmother, and I saw that there was a need to keep on doing it.”
He has since released 15 albums for children and become a leading voice for bilingual education, providing training to teachers as well as performing for hundreds of thousands of children each year.
On his latest album, ¡Come Bien! Eat Right!, just out on Smithsonian Folkways, Orozco’s out to spread the word about good nutrition. If you’ve never heard kids sing about whole grain bread, vegetables and oats, you will now.
2. Sonia De Los Santos
With the spirit in which family music great Pete Seeger brought “Guantanamera” to English-speaking audiences, Sonia de los Santos sings a beautiful Spanish version of “This Land is Your Land” on her new children’s album.
De Los Santos, who relocated to New York from Monterrey, Mexico, is known to parents and kids from her bilingual collaborations with kids’ music guru Dan Zanes.
Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León to the New York Island, due Oct. 30 on Festival Five Records, includes her down home interpretation of Mexican classic “La Golondrina,” as well as a wonderful, whooping take on Juan Luis Guerra’s “Ojalá Que Llueva Café.” With guest appearances by Zanes and New York rapper La Bruja, this debut is an instant classic for bilingual families and beyond.
3. 123 Andres
Colombian native Andrés Salguero — known as 123 Andrés — is a rock star for little language learners, with songs that lay out a lesson plan for bilingual classroom fun.
His recent album ¡Uno, Dos, Tres Andrés en español y en inglés! is nominated for a Latin Grammy in the Children’s Music category.
The song “Daddy Was a Migrant Worker” is a poignant anthem for proud sons and daughters. On the lighter side, 123 Andrés reminds parents what every kid knows: jumping is a universal language.
4. Chino y Nacho
When Latin urban tropical stars Chino y Nacho first released their song “Bebe Bonita,” they didn’t mean that kind of baby. But after Nacho had a baby boy, the duo did turn to the infant audience with Chino y Nacho For Babies, joining the ever-growing genre of lullaby versions of music that parents (and in this case, older siblings) like.
The album is another nominee for the 2015 Latin Grammy Children’s Album of the Year
5. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band are kind of like a bilingual B-52’s for kids. They’ve gained a cult following with a succession of high-spirited albums in both English and Spanish.
Los Angeles-based husband and wife duo Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis were the first Americans to win a children’s Latin Grammy, and they’re in the running again this year for their latest Spanish-language album Adelante, featuring the track “Piñata Attack.” Party on!