The Peanut Vendor

DISCIPLINE: Music General


In this lesson, students will learn the song “El Manicero” (“The Peanut Vendor”), featured on the soundtrack from the award winning feature film A Tuba to Cuba. Students will learn about the background of the song in connection to Cuban and New Orleans jazz. Students will examine traditional Cuban and jazz instruments in order to re-create and perform the song for an audience.



  • Determine the meaning of the song lyrics of “El Manicero”.
  • Identify Cuban and jazz instruments used in the song. 
  • Create gestures to match lyrics.
  • Create and use original musical instruments.
  • Sing the song “El Manicero”.
  • Perform a song for an audience.



National Core Arts Standards

MU:Pr6.1.Ka With guidance, perform music with expression.
MU:Pr6.1.1a With limited guidance, perform music for a specific purpose with expression.
MU:Pr6.1.2a  Perform music for a specific purpose with expression and technical accuracy.

Common Core State Standards

ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.1 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.1 Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.



Teachers should review the media resources in the lesson, as well as listen to the soundtrack from the film A Tuba to Cuba. Teachers should consider times to play music from the soundtrack throughout the day in order to familiarize students with the songs (e.g., during independent work time, arrival, dismissal). Teachers should have wooden claves or make Homemade Maracas with students. 

Note: Teachers can select one or two verses to focus on. Real peanuts should not be used in this lesson due to allergies.





  1. Play the song “El Manicero” by Preservation Hall Jazz Band from the soundtrack playlist from A Tuba to Cuba and have students listen. Replay the song and ask: What do you notice about the song? What instruments do you hear? Where would you hear this song or similar rhythms?


  1. Tell students the song is Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s rendition of the song “El Manicero”. One of the most famous pieces created by Cuban musician Moisés Simons, “El Manicero” (“The Peanut Vendor” in English) is arguably the most famous piece of Cuban music. With historical ties to Central and West Africa, this rumba song has over 160 different recorded versions. Explain to students that Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs this song in the documentary A Tuba to Cuba


  1. Display or distribute Lyrics: “El Manicero” for students on the board. Discuss the meaning of the song lyrics with the students and analyze the lyrics in both English and Spanish, describing how the song was influenced by the cries of street vendors selling peanuts in Cuba. 


  1. Highlight the first line in the lyrics and discuss the meaning and add gestures (actions) to the words. Then follow the same process with each line and verse. Note: Teachers can select one or two verses to focus on. Real peanuts should not be used in this lesson due to allergies.

Maní…(Peanuts…) – students pretend to crack open a peanut
Maní…(Peanuts…) – crack open a peanut
Si te quieres por el pico divertir (If you want your beak to have fun) – toss the peanuts in mouth
Cómete un cucuruchito de maní (Eat a little bag of peanuts) – chew the peanuts


  1. Have students turn and talk to discuss the question: What do these lyrics make you visualize? How do the actions help you understand the lyrics in Spanish?



  1. Play “El Manicero” again while displaying lyrics on the board and have students sing along in either English or Spanish. Teachers should recite a line and students should echo back.


  1. After listening and singing along, break students into groups and have them share and discuss: What possible instruments could we use to recreate the song? What materials would you need in order to create your instrument for performance? Have students brainstorm and plan with their group possible instruments, as well as materials needed to create their instruments.


  1. Tell students that they will now be creating original instruments in order to perform
    “El Manicero”. Model how to play the claves and the maracas using the provided materials, showing how to create each instrument. Have students choose to create claves or maracas using the recommended materials, or learn the lyrics in English or Spanish to perform the piece. Provide time for students to gather and organize materials. As students work on creating their instruments, continue to play the song aloud for students to listen to as they work independently.



  1. Once students have created their instruments, provide time for practice as a whole group. Perform the song as an ensemble, having some students sing the lyrics, others play their claves or maracas, and others make the gestures (actions) related to the Spanish vocabulary. 


  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the song “El Manicero” by observing the ensemble performance and recording student responses to the follow-up discourse questions. Ask: What is the song “El Manicero” mostly about? What Cuban and jazz instruments were used in the song?



Music Tales. (2021). El Manisero: essential rumba song behind Caribbean music world expansion. Retrieved from https://musictales.club/article/el-manisero-essential-rumba-song-behind-caribbean-music-world-expasion



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Amanda Stewart, Digital Curriculum Developer
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



Animated GIFs