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Lesson 1: Learning “A.K.I.K.O.”

Aim: How can we use melody and rhythm to create a chant?
Summary: Students learn the chorus to “A.K.I.K.O.”; explore the concept of melodic variation; and create their own rhythmic chant.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources, Musical Explorers Student Guide
Standards: National 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, 11
Vocabulary: chant, variation

“A.K.I.K.O.” is one of Emeline’s signature and best-loved songs. Once, when performing in Japan, Emeline worked with a translator named Akiko. The two built a bond, and Emeline wrote this song as a tribute to her friend who inspired her to imagine a better world during turbulent times.

Emeline Teaches “A.K.I.K.O.”

“A.K.I.K.O.” Demonstration

Haitian artist Emeline teaches “A.K.I.K.O.”

Sing “A.K.I.K.O.”

  • Listen to the audio track “A.K.I.K.O.”
  • Emeline sings in Haitian Creole, a language that is based predominantly on French but mixed with a bit of Portuguese, Spanish, English, Taíno, and West African languages.
  • Learn the pronunciation of the four Haitian Creole letters that make up the lyrics to the choral refrain.
  • Learn to sing the chorus with the audio track “A.K.I.K.O.” chorus.



E si m’ t’anvi chante lajwa
E si m’ t’anvi taye banda
Rakonte yon bèl istwa
Nou tout t’a va mande yon lwa
Pou fè repouse tout pye bwa
Pou jwe lago kache lespwa, ann chante:

A.K.I.K.O., A.K.I.K.O.

Menm si se vre nou betize
Moun, save di nou pap sove
Pèsonn p’ap anpeche m’ reve
Reve yon bèl bato desann
Ranmase tout moun ki t’ap tann
Pou nal fè yon bèl fèt ansann


Si tout moun, tout peyi
Nan lemond t’a va rive yon jou reyini
Tankou yon paradi
Nou t’a jwenn yon pawòl
On langaj, on mizik, on melodi
On ti mo, k’ fe maji

Fò n’ chante pou lavi miyò
Pou tout sa k’ap dòmi deyò
Pou tout sa k’ap viv andeyò
Pou yon jou kap yo ka chanje
Pou tout timoun kab jwenn manje
Pou n’ krusifye tout prejuje







What if I want to sing a song of joy?
What if I want to dance a banda
And tell you a beautiful story?
We all would plead for a law
To make all the trees grow back,
To play hide and seek at night and sing:

A.K.I.K.O., A.K.I.K.O.

If this is true, we messed up.
Savant says there is no salvation for us,
But no one can stop me from dreaming,
Dreaming of a beautiful boat going along
Picking up everyone waiting
To make a party together.


If everyone from every country
In the world was reunited
As in paradise,
We would find
A language, a music, a melody
A little magical word.

We have to sing for a better life,
For those sleeping in the streets,
For all those in the countryside,
For the card to flip,
For all the children to eat,
for no more prejudice.





Create Variations of the Melody in “A.K.I.K.O.”

  • Through call and response, sing the chorus of “A.K.I.K.O.” Note that it includes just five notes.
  • Continue using call and response as you explore the five notes in the melody, using some or all of the following tools:
    • Body scale
    • Solfège (sol, do, la, do, sol)
    • Scale degree (5, 8, 6, 8, 5)
  • Once the class feels comfortable with the tools above, you can use them to explore variations on the melody. Start by changing one note (e.g. sol, do, do, do, sol) and gradually change more. You can also play with tempo.
  • This can become a kind of “Simon Says” game, where you try to stump the class. Invite students to come up and act as the leader.

Explore the Underlying Rhythms in “A.K.I.K.O.”

  • Listen to the audio track “A.K.I.K.O.” rhythm loop. Note that there is a rhythm played by the percussion that acts like a motor, keeping the song moving and making you want to dance. Learn the rhythm as a class, using body percussion or instruments.
  • Divide students into two groups. One group will keep the steady beat while the other group taps the rhythm. Combine the groups to hear the layers together, and perform with the audio track “A.K.I.K.O.” rhythm loop. Have the groups switch parts whenever you call, “Switch!”
Creative Extension

The Name Game

  • Your students will create rhythmic chants based on the spelling of their names, like Emeline did with Akiko’s name. You can demonstrate using your own name first.
    • Chant the letters of your first name, trying out different rhythmic patterns until you find one that you like.
    • Add a simple melody to your pattern; you can choose the notes from “A.K.I.K.O.,” or use any other notes you want.
    • Teach the chant to the class through call and response.
    • Ask for volunteers to follow the same process, using their own names.
  • Play the name game.
    • Put everyone’s names into a hat. Form a circle, and have the class keep a steady beat.
    • Ask for a volunteer to go into the circle, pick a name out of the hat, and create a chant based on that name. Teach the chant to the class using call and response.
    • The student whose name was chanted goes next. Continue until everyone’s name is performed.
Creative Extension

Poem of Inspiration

In Write Your Own Poem of Inspiration (PDF), students will have an opportunity to write an acrostic poem about a friend or family member based upon the letters in that person’s name.

Musical Word Wall

Add the words chant and variation to the Musical Word Wall.

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