The Flying Tent

When I was a kid I grew up watching Sesame Street on television. The dancing, singing Muppets and their human friends helped me learn to read and recognize numbers at a very early age, but also taught me about being a kid in a grownups’ world. How to handle my emotions, how to resolve conflicts with friends, and how to appreciate the wonder of life was all handled on Sesame Street. The show has a special place in my heart.

The world’s changed a lot since my childhood, and a lot of television is now appearing online, either on streaming channels or video sites. Sophia Ali of International Children’s Television has teamed up with Michael Frith and Kathy Mullen of The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, and Dr. Seuss fame to create The Flying Tent, a Web series on YouTube of children’s classic songs in both Urdu and English.

The Flying Tent is a sing-along series for young children (pre-school age) featuring muppets who are customized to the South Asian appearance in look, language, and behaviour.

“With over 500 million children under the age of 14, South Asia has the largest child population in the world, yet there is almost no educational programming designed specifically for them. We felt we needed to rectify that and so ICTV & The Flying Tent were born,” says Sophie Ali in a press release for the series, launching today on YouTube.

This could be of significant help to many of Pakistan’s 20 million out of school children. Smartphones and cheap Internet plans could make programs like these accessible to children on the streets and in rural areas. And they’re great for children of Pakistanis in the diaspora who need to stay in touch with Urdu.

The characters include Zum Zum, a girl elephant with a penchant for dance, a parrot called Auntie Pashmina, a tidy camel called Cha Cha Oont, Pi the Imp, and Bundoo the monkey family. They’re cute without being cutesy, and visually very attractive for young children, with their bright colors and fluffy textures.

Here’s Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes rendered as Sir, Kandhey Taang aur Pair in Urdu. Some of the singing has been done by Natasha Humera Ejaz, Pakistan’s rising musical star. Find a kid today and have some fun with these songs. You’ll be very impressed and your kid will probably laugh a lot.

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