Lesson #5 – When Cultures Collide

Time: 40-50 Minutes

Creator: Betsy Nolan, Musical Educator

Institution: Edmunds Elementary, Burlington, VT


What is this lesson about?

In this lesson students will explore what happens when musics from different cultures collide to form new styles of music.

Learning Objectives:

Students will describe a piece of music without judgement.

Students will listen to a piece of music that combines musics from a variety of cultures.

Students will learn about a Vermont based music trio that combines musical styles from Burundi, Congo, Somalia and the United States.

Lesson Plan: NNP #5

Section 1: Listening & Responding

Before saying anything about it, play the video Africa (I’m Coming Back to You) once and ask students to listen with an open ear/mind, perhaps write down any reactions/thoughts/feelings they experience.

Possible Questions:

1. What do you hear? – Using the word bank, describe what you hear.  Do not share your feelings or opinions about the music.

Vocabulary Word Bank

Melody, harmony, major, minor, instruments, loud, soft, dynamics, tempo, beat rhythm, timbre, crescendo, decrescendo, form, verse, chorus, bridge, mood

2. Emotional Response:  Based on our group description, talk about how this music makes you feel and why.

3. What is familiar about the style of this song? What parts of the music are like other music you have listened to? What aspects are different?

4. Provide contextual about the song by sharing the video A2VT Concert and introductions. 

Section 2: Social & cultural practice

Explore how the different cultural experiences of the members of A2VT effect their music?

1.  What aspects of their music reflect their experiences in Africa?

2.  What aspects of their music reflect their experiences in America?

3. How might their music be different if they had remained in Africa? If they had been born in America?

Section 3: Engaging

The United States is a country of immigrants.  The unique musical styles that have emerged in this country have been influenced by the musics of people all over the world.

Choose a style of American popular music (Blues, Rock & Roll, Hip-hop, Country, Jazz, etc,).  Use the internet to research it’s history.  What cultures influenced its creation?  What can you guess about why or how these cultures collided?

Be prepared to share your findings with the class.

Section 4: Reflection- Think, Pair, Share

Ask students to answer the following questions about their work using the think pair share.  For each question students will be given a minutes to think (or write) their thoughts about the question, then they will share their thoughts in a pair, finally students will share to the large group.

1.  What surprised you about the history of the music you researched?

2.  What surprised you about the presentations of other students?

3.  How does understanding the history of a musical style affect the way you understand the music?

4. What changes to American popular music do you predict for the future?

Vermont Framework of Standards


Students show understanding of music CONCEPTS and VOCABULARY by…

A7-8:14 Students analyze, interpret, and respond to art by…

A7-8:17 Students show understanding of how the arts impact life by…

A7-8:18 Students show understanding of how the arts shape and reflect various cultures and times by…


H&SS7-8:16 Students examine how different societies address issues of human interdependence by…

  • Describing aural examples of music using appropriate terminology (e.g., pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, form, timbre, texture, articulation, harmony, phrasing, style).
  • Explaining qualities (elements, principles of design, expression) that may evoke emotion and meaning.
  • Relating varied interpretations of works of art using some or all of the following (e.g., observation, personal experience, cultural context).
  • Comparing/contrasting works of art, which may include a student’s own work.
  • Demonstrating an understanding of how the arts contribute to physical and mental health (e.g., self-expression, such as anger, joy, confusion, frustration).
  • Researching and describing how the arts reflect cultural values in various traditions throughout the world.
  • Analyzing how shared values and beliefs can maintain a subculture (e.g., political parties, religious groups). i
  • After examining issues from more than one perspective, defining and defending the rights and needs of others in the community, nation, and world (e.g. AIDS in Africa; One Child Policy in China; nuclear waste disposal). i
  • Analyze differences and similarities among people that arise from factors such as cultural, ethnic, racial, economic, and religious diversity, and describe their costs and benefits.
  • Seven Days Article about A2VT

    Culture Club – A2VT introduce African hip-hop to Vermont.

    A2VT sing and rap about feelings of missing their homeland, friends and family back in Africa. From the CD “Africa, Vermont” by A2VT:

  • A2VT performing at the North End Studio with introductory clips.