Which are your favorite bands and musicians? Is your top ten list like mine, with music from only three or four different countries? Are they sung in only two or three languages? Now that I realized this, I’ve decided to challenge myself: I’ll look for more diversity on the songs I listen to.
Music is one of people’s main cultural expressions. They may represent a native language, a local style, instruments that don’t exist anywhere else. They may be songs about a daily life which is easily relatable, or protest songs about a reality that is completely different from our own. Sometimes music correspond to millenary traditions or maybe they are just the last summer hit.
I am not a great expert in music, I don’t play any instrument and even my speaking is out of tune. But I love to spend hours on Spotify, going from one song to another, until I find myself listening to the Macarena somehow. That’s why I’ve had a lot of fun searching for music from all around the world and creating an exceptionally globalized playlist. I started with five songs from Brazil, to spread our ziriguidum to the world. Music from every continent follows next.
The playlist below is available on Spotify, and it would be great if you could comment how do you like it and suggest new songs. So, from times to times, I will update it thanks to your tips.
Here it comes, the 1.0 version of our playlist!
Os Mutantes – Panis et Circensis.
Os Mutantes are like the Brazilian Beatles, but better. Ok, maybe they are not, but truth is that besides being rock pioneers in Brazil, they did something amazing: mixing rock with tropicália and other references of our culture. All of that with a woman on a leading role, the great Rita Lee.
Caetano Veloso – Vaca Profana.
Caetano is one of the most famous Brazilian singers worldwide, thankfully. Vaca Profana was composed to Gal Costa, another beautiful Brazilian voice. That song is one of the best examples of Caetano’s poetry, with its enigmatic verses that mingle the paradox of a sacred woman and a profane cow with references to Brazilian, Spanish and global culture.
Céu – Varanda Suspensa.
This song is pleasant and joyful. The gorgeous video was recorded with a Super8 camera, retouched and painted by hand. It features a very paulista Céu, dancing in a way that is totally non-sexy but one hundred percent charming. Céu could be considered a prominent representative of current MPB (Brazilian Popular Music). However, she is a quite smart artist who knows that this is such a limited concept for all the rhythms and influences that Brazilian music includes nowadays.
Tássia Reis – Semana vem.
I must confess I don’t actually listen to rap, but with her sweet voice combined with other genres such as R&B and reggae, Tássia Reis made me give it a try. Haven’t I said that music could represent the zeitgeist of a country? This woman uses her rhymes to voice causes that are current not only in Brazil but in Occidental world in general: the empowerment of black and poor women and the fight against inequality, misogyny and abusive relationships.
Baiana System – Barra Avenida Pt. 2.
You may like it or not, but one thing is certain: there’s nothing like Baiana System. This quote is from BNegron and it is on the release of the album Duas Cidades. As the musical expert that I am not, I find it difficult to explain Baiana System. What I do know is that I love the ability of this group (collective? Sound system?) to put together drums, brass and Brazilian folk instruments, rhythms like ijexá, sambareggae, dub, kuduro and electronic to create their own unclassifiable sound.
Argentina. Sumo – La rubia tarada.
We leave Brazil and start our musical trip by my neighbors. I have find out that rock is very important business in Argentina. It is quite relevant since the sixties and was hugely popular during the eighties. It was in this context that the mythical group Soda Stereo was born. Also from this days is Sumo, founded by the Italian-Scottish singer Luca Prodan, who arrived in South America to escape his heroin addiction. La Rubia Tarada praises that portion of Argentina that is composed by enlightened people, in oppose to a superfluous and materialist part of the society.
Uruguay. Jorge Drexler – Guitarra y vos.
If I could meet any of the artists on this playlist, probably I would choose Jorge Drexler. Physician and musician, he is a highly cultured artist. His melodies and lyrics are the product of a lot of studies and thinking. He is self-taught in general, but also learned from experts like the Spanish composer Joaquin Sabina and folk singers from the many countries where he has been on tour. I have a theory that anyone who listen to some of Drexler´s albums with an open heart and mind, would be a better person only 40 minutes after.
Mexico. Natalia Lafourcade – Tus ojitos.
Natalia is truly in love with her homeland. Her three last albums honor the composers who influenced her: artists from Veracruz, from Mexico in general and from all the Latin America. In Musas, project that had the second volume released past February, she sings accompanied by Los Macorinos, old-school folk guitarists.
Portugal. Salvador Sobral – Amar pelos dois.
Crossing the Atlantic, we land in Portugal. The first time I heard about the Eurovision Song Contest was last year when I came to live in Spain, but it exists since 1956. In 2017, the song Amar pelos Dois was not only the first Portuguese song to earn the contest, but it was also the one with the biggest score ever. Certainly, it was the melodic voice and moving performance from Salvador Sobral what captivated the audience. This shy singer had the support of Caetano Veloso and J. K. Rowling.
Spain. Els Amics de les Arts – El seu Gran Hit.
This is a band from Barcelona, reason why they sing in Catalan. I was told they are not the same they used to be etc, but I am not nostalgic at all. I really enjoy their last album, Un Estrany Poder, full of dancing hits, unlike their previous works. Although, their lyrics are as creative as always, talking about the daily life of intelligent people, with a wit humor and a little bit of pessimism.
Serbia. Boban i Marko Markovich Orkesta – Khelipe E Cheasa.
The folk music from the Balkans is a very particular one, and it is called truba, which means “trumpet”. It has inspired Gulag Orkestar, the debut album from Zach Condom (a.k.a. Beirut). But we are looking for authentic Balkanic artists, so who goes into the playlist is the Boban and Marko Markovic Orkestar, one of the most famous groups in that region. They have become more popular after their songs were featured on the soundtrack of movies from Emir Kusturica, who is the owner of Golden Palms and Silver Bears and Lions.
South Africa. Miriam Makeba – The Click Song.
When I listen to Miriam Makeba’s songs, I get instantly happy, because one can easily feel her smiling while singing. Makeba became the South-african voice during apartheid. Although she had lived on the exile for thirty years, she always defended Africa as her true home. Faithful to her roots, Miriam disseminated traditional xhosa songs like Pata Pata. She was also a highly cultured woman and her repertoire included interpretations that goes from Portuguese to Yiddish.
Nigeria. Fela Kuti – Zombie.
Fela Kuti is one of the few who can claim to have created a new musical genre, the afrobeat. What characterizes this rythym is the mix of Yoruba music with jazz and funk, very (very) long jam sessions, orchestras up to 80 musicians and, fundamentally, political commitment. Kuti was the main anticolonialism voice, reason why he was persecuted in Nigeria. He influenced many artists around the world and his legacy keeps developing and unfolding in new musical genres.
Ghana. Worlasi – One Life.
Amongst the songs which I only discovered while writing this post, this is my favorite. Usually, it is difficult to relate to songs that are sung in a language we don´t understand. Worlasi was different, I felt he was easily connectable. Did you also want to sing along with him, but needs to improve your éwé level? So, you should watch the video, where the subtitles allows us to at least understand the lyrics. The video also features Sena Dagadu, another Ghanaian singer and displays scenes of their home country.
Pakistan. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Mere Hashke Qamar.
Nusrat was a Pakistani master of qawwali, which is related to sufi, the mystic branch of Islam. Singing qawwali is usually a family business, and the Ali Khans have already been doing it for 600 years. According to Jeff Buckley, who claimed to be his biggest fan and even covered versions in Urdu, qawwali searches for a connection with Allah. First, through the beauty and meaning of the lyrics, after, through repetition, allowing people to reach a state like nirvana. For that reason, concerts of this Pakistan singer could have the effect of a spiritual experience to some people. Peter Gabriel and Eddie Vedder are also amongs Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Occidental fans.
Australia. Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu – Bayini.
Gurrumul was the most famous aboriginal artist of all time. He was born blind, but it didn’t stop him from being a multi-instrumentist. Bayini is one of his most popular songs and goes about mythological beings of his culture. His first album was released on 2008 and had great reviews. His voice charmed Elton John, Björk and Sting, amongst others who described it as having a transcendental beauty.
New Caledonia. Ok! Ryos – Co era so.
It was quite a challenge to find information about this group, which has the humble figure of 340 monthly listeners on Spotify. This peaceful and harmonious song, that easily transports us to a Pacific beach, is part of the kaneka movement. It aims to promote the cultural union between more than 300 tribes that inhabit New Caledonia to strengthen an independentist attempt, as the island is French territory. Some of the obstacles that Ok! Ryos and other Melanesian artists face are the geographical isolation and poor internet access of the islanders. For that reasons, it is very difficult to propagate their media on social networks. Maybe we are helping them a little?
South Korea. Twice – Candy Pop.
On the opposite corner of popularity, there is the K-pop fever. This is one of the main elements of the “Korean Wave”, the spreading of this country’s culture all over the world. As an example, the videoclip for the song Likey, from the group Twice, has over 200 million views on Youtube. Another video released four days before by Taylor Swift has 180 million views. K-pop songs usually have their title and refrain in English so be catchier, and some groups also sing in Japanese. The oriental discipline never fails: these groups are composed by trainees, teenagers recruited by big labels and trained until they are prepared to their debut as artists. But you would never guess the rigorous lifestyle of this artists by watching their videos, full of super happy and smiley kids, choreographies, bright colors and glitter.
So, how do you like this playlist? It is very eclectic, so please don’t forget to comment which ones you like the most and each are not your style at all. Which songs do you think should be on the updated version? I’ll be waiting to hear your recommendations!