What is Danny mesél?

Danny Mesél (Stories with Danny) is a series of musical and theatrical performances for children, performed by Hungarian-based American musician Danny Bain. At a Danny Mesél performance, you are just as likely to see traditional African drums and a Brazilian berimbau as you are to be chased by a home-made trombone made from a kitchen sink or asked to play a xylophone made from a ladder and junk metal. The catchy melodies, exciting stories, and Danny’s unique brand of musical comedy make for a one-of-a-kind show that is fun for the whole family.

While Danny’s first performances were based on African musical and storytelling traditions, his repertoire has since expanded to include folk music and traditions from around the world. Today he can be seen performing musical stories and children’s concerts, and putting on puppet shows both on the stage and on the water. Whatever the event, it can be sure that a Danny Mesél performance will blend the boundaries between theatre and music, and offer children a unique way to explore language, music and dance, learn about foreign cultures, and discover exciting instruments.

Performances are available in both Hungarian and English and, while appropriate for young and old alike, are especially recommended for children ages 3 to 10. Danny also conducts workshops for English learners, combining language and music education.

„He sits down on a small footstool behind the xylophone. With a mallet in each hand and bells on his feet, he begins to play. The children gather around him, resting on pillows and cushions. They’re watching, listening to the music, absorbed in the story and ready to join in – to yell “Lelelelelele!” together at just the right moment. This is how time passes with Danny at a performance.”

(Andrea Székely, director, Kabóca Puppet Theatre)

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Danny and his Instruments

Danny Bain was born in the United States, and grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC, where his interest in music began at an early age. While pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies at West Virginia University, Danny was able to take advantage of the university’s renowned world music program. He distinguished himself performing with the African, Brazilian, and Latin music ensembles, and later even had the opportunity to study abroad in both Ghana and Brazil. After graduating in 2009, he further pursued his studies in these regions independently.

In 2010, Danny’s travels led him to Hungary, which he quickly made his home. With the support of the Kaboca Puppet Theatre in Veszprém, he premiered his first Danny Mesél performance in 2013.

Danny’s first performances for children were simple folktales that he would recite while accompanying himself on an African gyil. The gyil [’dʒil’] is a kind of wooden xylophone traditionally played by the Dagara and Lobi people of West Africa, and whose origins date back to the 1300’s. It is a pentatonic instrument, meaning the scale consists of five notes. It is made by suspending 14 wooden keys on a frame over 14 gourds. Spider web silk covers small holes in the gourds, and antelope or goat skin is used for fastenings. When the keys are struck with a rubber mallet (Danny’s mallets are made from car tires) the sound resonates in the gourds, and the vibrating spider silk causes a buzzing sound. The music accompanying these stories was inspired by traditional African themes and rhythms he learned at the Dagara Music Center in Medie, Ghana, where he studied with gyil virtuosos, Bernard Woma and Tijan Dorwana.

In more recent years, Danny has begun to make use of a wider variety of percussion instruments from around the world, and even a number of homemade instruments, such as the washboard guitar, plumb-bone (kitchen sink trombone), recyclophone (xylophone of recycled metal), and yaybahar (ummm… google it!). Meanwhile, his performances have begun to incorporate more elements of drama, with instruments that often function as puppets (and vice-versa) to help create a unique theatrical style.

Danny has received several awards for his work with children’s music and theatre. In 2015, his book and CD, Ez nem az apu hangja!, was recognized by the Hungarian Children’s Literature Institute as one of the 50 best children’s and youth books released that year. In 2017, his show “Kodzsugukila, the Witch” won a special prize at the 9th Children’s and Youth Theatre Review, and in 2018 he won the prestigious Michel Indali Award. He performs regularly both in Hungary and abroad, visiting schools, theatres and festivals around Europe.

Performances & Workshops

The Children in the Tree

Interactive musical folktale set to African rhythms

Danny first performed his adaptation of this African folktale at the Kabóciádé Family Festival in Veszprém in 2013. Since then, the story of Kitenji, Tenten, and Koko has become a favorite of countless children and adults in Hungary and abroad. The spellbinding sound of the Ghanaian xylophone carries the audience away to the African savannah, where they learn to beware the tricks of the conniving, wicked witch, and discover how to revive those victims which she so diabolically devoured.

Adapted by: Danny Bain and Szántó Viktória
Performer: Danny Bain
Length: 25 minutes + 20 minute instrument introduction

Watch The Children in the Tree trailer

The Gingerbread Man

Interactive musical folktale set to African rhythms

In this performance we meet one of the most famous characters of American folk culture: The Gingerbread Man. The delectable dessert must flee from his peckish pursuers—the Little Old Lady, the Little Old Man, the Cow, the Donkey, and the Chicken—running on and on until he arrives to the edge of the river, where he meets a sly and sleepy fox . . . What happens next will remain a secret here, but one thing’s for certain: young and old alike will be singing along with the catchy melodies by the end of the story!

Adapted by: Danny Bain
Hungarian text: Márton Jankovics
Consultant: Viktória Szántó
Performer: Danny Bain
Length: 25 minutes + 20 minute instrument introduction

Take a look into the performance

Sassouma and the Wind

Interactive musical folktale with African melodies and dances

Sassouma, a determined and daring young girl, leaves her aging father and their small mud home behind, setting out into the desert on the back of her three-humped camel to find the source of the wind, which has been blowing sand into their village and destroying all the crops. Singing along to the sound of her camel’s footsteps in the sand as she travels through unbearable heat and overwhelming wind, she will need her wits, a few special tools, and a little bit of magic to finally save her village. At the end of the story, the children can even learn the Dromedary Dance to accompany Sassouma’s songs.

Written by: Danny Bain
Hungarian text: Anna Sándor
Performer: Danny Bain
Length: 20 minutes + 20 minute song and dance activity

The Bird Princess

Interactive musical folktale set to African rhythms

“Ka-uuu, ko ko kó!” Deep in the heart of the jungle, a little bird’s song rings out from an old, dilapidated hut as she longs for her true love. And when Kwame, a young man from the village, stumbles inside, lost and hopeless–well, he might just be the one she’s been waiting for. Hesitant at first to take a bird for a bride, when he sees her colorful feathers and listens her beautiful song, he too, falls in love. And although the villagers may laugh and mock him at first, everyone is shocked when they discover the little bird’s true, royal identity.

Adapted by: Danny Bain
Hungarian text: Viktória Szántó
Performer: Danny Bain
Length: 30 minutes + 20 minute instrument introduction

Technical Requirements

The production is suitable for any environment, both indoors and outdoors, in a classroom, park, or on a main stage. At a typical performance, the children and families will sit around the performer on a rug or on cushions. Afterwards, depending on the size of the event, Danny can give the children a chance to come up and try the instrument themselves.

In a more intimate environment, for a smaller number of people, there is no need for amplification. If the audience is farther from the performer, or the atmosphere is especially noisy, amplification may be necessary. (1 microport, 2 microphones)

Space requirements: 2,5 m * 2,5 m
Set up: 15 perc
Dismantling: 15 perc

Workshops for Children

Musical Storytelling Workshops

Dramatise a story with music! In Danny’s musical storytelling workshops, students from preschool through elementary explore how music and instruments can be incorporated in storytelling. Students participate in a variety of fun and engaging activities that help develop language, musical, and dramatic skills, including:

  • Learning how dynamics, tempo, pitch, and instrumentation can be used in a theatrical setting to make a performance more dramatic and exciting.
  • Practicing simple rhythms and polyrhythms, and learning how to produce different tones on hand drums and other instruments.
  • Participating in interactive group performances of well-known stories, during which they will need to respond to musical and dramatic cues.
  • Learning new songs and dances that go with familiar stories.
  • Thinking about and creating musical effects to represent characters and events in a story.
  • Exploring how music can be used to express emotions and ideas, and discovering new approaches and techniques for musical composition.
  • Working in small groups to compose and perform their own musical story.

Danny also gives musical storytelling workshops for students learning English as a foreign language.

Watch a Clip from a Storytelling Workshop

 

Homemade Instrument Workshops

What defines a musical instrument? In the west we tend to think of instruments as expensive objects made by expert craftsmen, but in many parts of the world it is still common to build instruments from whatever tools and resources are available to the average person. In Danny’s homemade instrument workshops, students discover the music in everyday objects. Activities include:

  • Learning about homemade instruments in various cultures around the world
  • Learning how instruments work, and what makes a membranophone, aerophone, or idiophone
  • Building unique instruments from springs, balloons, tin cans, and other household objects and recycled materials
  • Making water drums, and exploring how water can be used to create remarkable musical effects
  • Creating “forest music” with common materials that might be found on a typical hike in the woods
  • Coming up with new ideas for unusual, surprising, or funny instruments
  • Experimenting with how to create real music from new instruments, rather than just silly sound effects

With older students, Danny’s homemade instrument workshops can easily be tied into larger lessons both about sustainability and the physics of sound.

Watch Danny performing a Homemade Instrument Song

Ez nem az apu hangja!

Danny’s first children’s book and CD, Danny mesél – Ez nem az apu hangja!, was released in 2015. Brought to life by the exotic and colorful illustrations of Mariann Maray, the book carries the reader away to the savannahs, jungles, and deserts of Africa. The accompanying CD contains Danny’s musical performances of the stories, played on the Ghanaian gyil. The book was chosen by the Hungarian Institute of Children’s Literature (Magyar Gyermekirodalmi Intézet) as among the year’s top 50 books for children and young adults. Currently, it is available only in Hungarian.

Buy the book now!

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References

References and selected performances

Watch The Children in the Tree trailer
Danny mesél @ FEM3 Café

Kabóca Puppet Theatre, Veszprém (www.kabocababszinhaz.hu)
Ciróka Puppet Theatre, Kecskemét (ciroka.hu)
Betűtészta Publisher, Budakeszi (betuteszta.com)
Két Egér Book Store, Budapest (www.keteger.hu)
The Anglo-American School of Moscow (aas.hu)
Orchidea International School, Budapest (www.orchideaiskola.hu)
English School of Budapest (englishschool.hu)
Barabás Villa, Budapest (barabasvilla.hu)
Ferencvárosi Cultural Center, Budapest (fmkportal.hu)

Kabóciádé Family Festival, Veszprém
Downtown Community Square (Belvárosi Közösségi Tér) family festivals, Budapest
Marczibányi Téri Művelődési Központ
MÜPA
Nerk i teatra, Kaunas (LT)
Ütős Fesztivál, Agárd
Kultkikötő, Balaton
Bondoró Utcaszínház Fesztivál, Kapolcs
Művészetek Völgye, Kapolcs
Holnemvolt Székelyföldi Mesefesztivál (RO)
Tiszavilág days, Lakitelek
Székölykök Children’s Festival, Ika vára (RO)
Storytelling Festival, Veszprém
Partiumi Hungarian Days, Szatmárnémeti (RO)
English Camp, Kászonaltíz (RO)
Fairytale Days of Aliga (Aligai Mesés Napok), Balatonaliga
Békásmegyer Community Center theatre programs, Budapest
Sunday Picnic at Akvárium, Budapest

Contact Us

Danny Bain
Danny Bain
For professional questions contact:
danny@dannymesel.hu
Bain Melinda
Bain Melinda
For bookings, press, or information contact:
melinda@dannymesel.hu
+36 20 429 4650