Funga Alafia

Content: Music & Social Studies (Community Building)                 Teacher: Bobbi Jo Will
Topic: Singing & Incorporating Instruments                              Date: October 13th, 2009
Level: Grade4                                                                                 Time: 30 minutes

National Standards for Music:
1.b. Sing expressively, with appropriate dynamics, phrasing, and interpretation.
1.e. Sing in groups, blending vocal timbres, matching dynamic levels, and responding to the cues of the conductor.
8.b.: Describe ways in which the principle and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with those of music.

Wisconsin State Standards for Music:
A.4.2: Sing expressively with appropriate dynamics, phrasing and interpretation


1.    Given instruction and printed song lyrics, students will learn how to sing the song "Funga Alafia."
2.    Given instruction, students will create rhythms with instruments to the song "Funga Alafia" with a small group. 
3.    Given instruction and group collaboration, students will perform the song "Funga Alafia" to the class.  Each student will participate in the performance in at least one way.

Why is it important students learn my lesson? What academic subject will I link to?
Since the arts (music, drama, visual arts, etc.) are such an important aspect of many cultures, I believe that it is very important for students to explore music when studying about different cultures around the world.  This chant could introduce a unit on traditional folk music or West Africa itself.  Since Funga Alafia is a traditional African welcome chant, I can also envision the teaching and singing of this song being utilized as a community building activity.  This could be sung to a new student to welcome them to class, or even just as a warm-up activity. 

Background for Teachers:
Funga Alafia is a greeting song sung throughout parts of West Africa.  Some people attribute it to the Hausa people of Nigeria.  The song is often song with gestures that reflect the translations. 
Translation: Alafia means “good health” or “peace” in Yoruba (one West African language).  Ashay is similar to the Yoruban word Oh-shay, which means “thank you.” (This information is from Ruth Gurgal's information sheet).
Since there are over 2,000 languages spoken in Africa, there are various translations of this song including:
  • "We come to welcome you to this place"
  • "I welcome you into my heart today." 
  • With our eyes we welcome you
    With our hands we welcome you
    With our hearts we welcome you
    See, we have nothing up our sleeves
Map of West Africa:

Steps in Lesson:

1.    Introduction/Building Background Knowledge
a.    Explain to students that we are going to continue learning about West Africa by taking a look at one of their traditional folk songs Funga Alafia. 
b.    Funga Alafia is a West African welcome chant that has various translations, all pertaining to welcoming others with an open heart.

2.    Body
a.    Play clip of Funga Alafia for students.

b.    Hand out lyric sheet to each student.

c.    Play clip again and have student tap beat on desk and follow along with lyrics (mentally). 
d.    Teacher says "Funga Alafia."  Students echo "Funga Alafia."
e.    Teacher says "Ashay Ashay."  Students echo "Ashay Ashay."
f.     Teacher sings "Funga Alafia." Students echo "Funga Alafia".
                i.    Teacher clip to keep beat, students may join in if they would like.
g.    Teacher sings "Ashay Ashay." Students echo "Ashay Ashay."
                i.    Do f & g twice, with second 'ashay ashay' lowering in pitch like in clip.
h.    Teaching sings "Funga Alafia." Students respond "Ashay Ashay."
                i.    Again twice to practice varying pitch.
i.      Split the class in half.  Have one class be the caller (Funga Alafia) and other half response (Ashay Ashay).  Switch roles after successful completion.
j.      Now we are going to add instruments.  Split the class into groups of 4 students each.  Have students create own instrumental music go along with song.  They may use given instruments, personal belongings (pens, notebooks, etc.) and own body.  Reinstate that there is no 'one right way' to add instruments to the song.  Also make it clear that each student much participate in performance in at least one way.  Movement may also be added if desired.  
k.    Give students about 5 minutes to plan and practice.
l.      Performance of Funga Alafia by each group.

3.    Closure
a.    Positive Reinforcement- Recognize effective group work and creativity.
b.    Discussion: 
                      i.    How were group interpretations alike? Different?

4.    Assessment

a.    Teacher will informally assess student participation in learning the song throughout lesson.
b.    Teacher will informally assess student's ability to create a rhythm for Funga Alafia.
c.    Teacher will assess students by making sure they are participating in the planning and performance (in at least one way) of group's interpretation of Funga Alafia.

This lesson could be extended to teaching students rhythms to play with specific instruments while singing.  Students could also create their own welcome chant in English (or any other language they know) that could be sung to visitors as well. 
The class could proceed by the students creating an entire class version of Funga Alafia that would incorporate movement, singing, and instrumentals.  The class could write directions for movements, singing, and instrument parts so that another person could join the class and learn the parts. 

Next Steps/Connections to Other Subjects:
Students may be interested in learning other welcome songs/chants that are traditionally used around the world after they are introduced to Funga Alafia.  This chant could be used as an opener to a Social Studies unit on West Africa, or specifically while learning about music's influence in their culture.