Teacher Andrew Pennell discusses how he wrote and composed New Zealand’s new rail safety song Stop Look Listen and Think.
‘Taihoa, titiro, whakarongo… mahara’ – goes the catchy chorus in a new safety song designed for school students to sing along to around Aotearoa.
The song – Stop Look Listen and Think – has been released by Waka Kotahi for Rail Safety Week, 7-13 August 2023. It’s written and composed by Andrew Pennell, a music teacher at Wellington College who has previously worked in primary schools. TrackSafe Foundation helped get the messaging right.
A music video, audio files and printable lyrics are all available for primary school teachers to use with their students.
Andrew says his brief was to create an enjoyable song with clear messages about how to safely cross railway tracks.
‘For kids in primary school and above, life has its share of risks which they increasingly need to manage themselves. The idea was to give them the basic skills, the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe as they’re growing up.’
He wrote the song with the classroom in mind. For example, pauses in the lyrics before each chorus give teachers that moment to encourage students to join in and sing along.
‘There's a lot of repetition in it to learn the words. And there’s space for movement so juniors might want to have a dance around during the instrumental sections. Kids can act along with the cartoon actions in the video too – all things that add a touch of fun and solidify the safety learning at the same time.’
He says the song could be a prompt for story writing and poems, art or looking into trains and technology.
The finished song is sung by Haritoa Waaka, a former music and songwriting student of Andrew’s.
‘I reached out to her when I needed a singer because I knew she'd be keen to give it a go. Haritoa is a fantastic singer and has excellent te reo. She’s a really talented up and coming performer.’
Andrew made the song on Logic Pro and GarageBand software, with a mix of software instruments and the guitars and ukeleles he has at home. While he has a passion for composition, the song has a different sound and melody to the rock music he makes for himself.
‘This started with me thinking about songs that have stuck with me since I was a kid, like Make it Click. I knew it needed a hook as memorable as that.”
Over to you teachers, to make this new song stick.