Singer and songwriter DARIA had released a new album in tribute to healthcare workers all over the world via her new song which will be released on February 11, 2022. “Thanks To The Doctors And Nurses” is an honest and inspirational song that models an archetypal heroism for children to emulate while also conveying joyful lyrics, jazzy rhythms, and delightful instrumentals.
Throughout the pandemic, DARIA has been conducting virtual, pro bono music workshops with kids around the world. “Thanks To The Doctors And Nurses” was inspired by a group of immigrant children in an Australian program who were learning English as a second language and expressed great gratitude towards your medical professionals who they had met.
DARIA has developed ancillary materials such as lyric sheets, a karaoke version of the song, posters, and thank you cards for use in the classroom and as a practical way of thanking specific doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. These materials are available free of charge on the Teachers Pay Teachers website, HERE.
DARIA (whose full name is Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) is a performer, songwriter, folk singer, and ethnomusicologist who has been performing for four decades. Her songs are anthems for social justice, inclusivity, and stewardship for the Earth. As a pioneer in the genre of “World Music for children”, DARIA is also known for her bilingual translations of popular folk songs in languages including Spanish, Quechua, Yiddish, and Ladino, among others. Her bilingual, family-friendly version of “La Cucaracha” is a viral kids’ music hit on YouTube with over 5 million views. A fierce advocate for indigenous rights and civil rights for all, DARIA was born in the USA but raised in rural South America. She has won four Parents’ Choice® Awards, as well as Parent and Teacher’s Choice Awards and multiple additional educational and children’s music awards.
DARIA recently discussed her life and career via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in music and songwriting and did you always gravitate towards the children’s genre?
DARIA: Actually, I grew up loving folk music and having lived in various cultures, I felt that folk music – the music that people loved and sang from generation to generation – was the quickest way to get to the heart of the culture I was living in. In folk music, you are always challenged to make what is old new, to rewrite a song, to add your own verses or touch here or there. I think I was becoming a songwriter even when I thought of myself only as a folk singer. I was born in 1959 and was a child during the 1960s. I remember being inspired by artists who said what was on their mind. Joni Mitchell asked why anyone would pave paradise and put up a parking lot. Janis Ian was singing about race and beauty long before they were topics elsewhere. I somehow felt that if they could sing about what was on their mind – ecology, race, justice, peace – then I could and should, too!
MM: How did you break into the industry and how would you describe your style?
DARIA: I came of age after the ‘60s peace and love movement declined, and it seemed that no one was interested in listening to folk music anymore. While trying to figure out how to make a living doing what I loved, I was asked to play at a local library and found that kids were interested in the songs from different cultures that I played, the unusual instruments I used, and how I could create a “hootenanny” right there in their local park or reading room. Kids were open to using music to build community and to express more idealistic ideas that the rest of the world denied. The first show went so well that referrals started to come in and soon I was playing schools, fairs, festival and other venues. I had the opportunity to apply to represent the USA at World Expo in Seville, Spain in 1992 and I was thrilled when I was chosen. When people started to ask about buying records of my music and particularly my own songs – like the Earth Day song – I decided it was time to go into the recording studio, and I made my first record. I call my style “world music for children” because you will hear the musical influences from the many cultures where I have lived with a focus on a young audience that see itself as global citizens.
MM: You grew up in South America and now do work for international venues so what are some of the biggest cultural differences you experience in regards to how children react to your music and teaching?
DARIA: Growing up in rural Peru, music is regarded less as “entertainment” and more as fun time spent with others. Everyone looks forward to the carnivals at harvest time and special Patron Saints Days. During these celebrations, everyone has a chance to participate and music is for everyone. In indigenous cultures, there is a lot less attention given to “who’s the best singer or musician” and much more emphasis on how music and dance brings up all together. That’s the environment I create when I play live – there’s an instrument for everyone, space for everyone and no judgement made on how you sing or how you move or what your ability is. It’s a safe place for joy, through music. I find that many kids and their parents just love having a place where everyone can participate and feel like they totally belong!
MM: Why did you decide to focus on healthcare workers as a central theme in this new release?
DARIA: I didn’t! During the pandemic I reached out to many of my friends who are music teachers around the world. I offered to do free songwriting workshops with their kids and loved how creative each class was. My goal was to take the students’ mind off of Covid and illness, giving them a stress-free place to create a new song with me. In the process, one group of students who were immigrants to Australia kept circling back to the topic of doctors and nurses. In their journey to their new home, it seems that they had met doctors and nurses who they felt had not only saved their lives but made them feel loved, wanted and cared for. Their expressions of gratitude were so moving that I later assembled them into a song and – with their permission – began recording it here in the United States. It seemed like the perfect “theme song of gratitude” for the pandemic.
MM: How long did it take you to complete this recent song?
DARIA: We were back and forth in the studio for a month or so, due to the pandemic, but were able to get it all recorded in about 2 months.
MM: What are you thinking music-video-wise for this song?
DARIA: I have two videos in the works for this song. One is by a very talented music video animator from the Ukraine. Her storyboard shows kids in different world setting thanking the doctors and nurses who are there to help. In this video, we purposefully break down stereotypes. Woman are seen as doctors and women of color are seen as doctors. Men are seen as nurses and healthcare workers of all nationalities are represented. The music video shows that it is universal to share our gratitude with those who tirelessly dedicate themselves to caring for others. The second video is an ASL (American Sign Language) version of the song. Many of my friends and fans come from families with both deaf and hearing folks. Whenever I can, I create an ASL version of each song so everyone can enjoy it in their own way.
MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten about your music?
DARIA: I love it when grandparents come up to me after a show and tell me that they enjoyed the concert as much as their kids. One mom told me that my CD was her family’s favorite because it was “kids’ music that didn’t make her want to run out of the room screaming!” My goal has always been to create music that makes all ages smile and feel good. When I get feedback like that, I know I have hit my mark.
MM: How would you describe your live performances?
DARIA: One festival presenter likes to call my live shows “a trip around the world where kids get to become part of the music.” During the shows, I’ll introduce an instrument like a talking drum or a cajón box drum and then a child gets to come up on stage and play it. Meanwhile, the audience has over 100 other percussion instruments to discover and to use to play along. I take time after every show to let kids try the instruments they’ve just seen in the concert and to ask me questions or to just have fun and explore. This is an awesome space for kids who are shyer or kids who are on the autistic spectrum.
MM: What was it like working virtually through the pandemic?
DARIA: Most musicians I know feel very frustrated in working remotely during the pandemic. We love to have that special feedback that comes from a live audience. That said, we have all found new ways to create new songs and to do music with our friends and fans, so there certainly are some benefits. For instance, I would never have this song if the pandemic did not force me to create songwriting workshops that reached halfway around the world!
MM: How do you hope your career evolves over the next five years?
DARIA: I am so proud of several of my songs that have been used all around the world. My hope now is to keep recording and making music that makes a difference. In 2019, there was a horrific attack on a mosque in New Zealand. A few days after that, two community choirs from that city reached out to me asking if they could use my song “Assalam Aleykum” – a song that is based on the Muslim greeting – as a way to show solidarity with their local Muslim community. Later I heard that a choir of senior citizens learned the song to show their support and to demonstrate how much they cared. These are the kind of musical connections that I dream of. And I am hoping for this for “THANKS TO THE DOCTORS AND NURSES. If it helps anyone in the healthcare field feel like the hero that they truly are, then I’ve accomplished my goal!
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
DARIA: Almost everyone can sense that the world is going through tremendous changes now. Everywhere I see people who are trying to weave together what has been broken apart. We all do it in our own small ways, but together something bigger is building. I want to add my voice to the chorus of those who are singing and working to heal our planet and create a place that is safe, just and free for everyone.