Guess what?? Polyglossic is one month old today! Happy blogiversary to me!
I’m going to celebrate this happy occasion right – with music and dancing :) A few months ago I decided to see if I could make a playlist with songs in all different languages with only what I had on my iPod. And I actually did it, with only a tiny bit of cheating. So I give you – my Polyglossic Playlist!
Some slight cheating: I decided that a little bit of English was okay, as long as it wasn’t the whole song; I also decided that if a song was only partially in one language, I could use that language again (so you’ll see, for example, that Arabic repeats sort of). Other than that, here are 14 songs in 15 languages! I wish I could burn you all a mix CD or upload the whole thing here, but of course there is copyright to consider, as well as geographic distance, so I decided on the next best thing: youtube videos. You can go to the youtube playlist so you can listen to the whole thing streaming while you read, or you can click on the individual links below to hear that particular song.
I hope you enjoy!
You might recognize the band Cornershop from a little tune they had a few years back called Brimful of Asha. I first heard this glorious song on one of Joe Strummer’s radio broadcasts; he calls it “6 minutes and 21 seconds of something else.”
Speaking of Joe Strummer…this song is exactly what the title makes it sound like. And it is magnificent. I was listening to this song (and, let’s be honest, it’s original version) constantly during the uprisings all over the Arab world last spring; this just perfectly captured that spirit. Also, I’m obsessed with Rachid Taha. Like…I started taking Arabic classes because of how much I love this music.
I saw this band a few years ago at a music festival in England. It was rainy, we were literally up to our ankles in mud, our tent had just sprung a leak, and we didn’t recognize anybody on the bill for that day. With nothing better to do, we picked Divokej Bill because we’d never seen a Czech band before; they ended up being probably my favorite discovery of that whole four-day weekend. This is my favorite song by them…the youtube clip weirdly has four minutes of blank space at the end, but I just had to share this song with you.
Cesária Évora is a legend, and is part of the reason I really want to learn Portugese. This is probably my favorite song of hers, although it’s very hard to pick. Ms. Evora passed away just a few months ago, and the world music community lost someone irreplaceable.
Balkan Beat Box is a multicultural, multilingual punk-gypsy-party band, à la Gogol Bordello. And yes, they are every bit as fun live as that previous sentence might suggest.
Check out the original version of this folk song that they remixed for this track.
Tuareg music (specifically what some people call “desert blues”) is phenomenal. Tinariwen is the big name among them, and deservedly so, but Toumast is also just incredible. You really should listen to this whole album – I couldn’t find a youtube version of the song I really wanted to share, but this song was my introduction to this band and I was hooked. My favorite is called “Innulamane” and it will seriously knock your socks off.
(Here is an acoustic version of it that I just discovered…killer guitar, and it includes an English translation)
The Dusty Foot Philosopher is probably one of my desert-island albums, and I don’t even particularly like hip-hop. It is just perfection from start to finish. This video itself is worth watching.
Freshlyground are pure joy. I was lucky enough that they came to play a show in DC last year and, seriously, two hours of pure joy. You might recognize them from a little duet they did with Shakira for a certain World Cup; I’m so thankful that that painfully catchy song introduced me to this wonderful band.
*Caveat- I’m almost positive, but not completely positive, that this is in Zulu. Using my limited skills as an amateur phonologist I decided it was Zulu and not, say, Shona (I definitely hear at least two different click consonants) or Xhosa (I also hear my favorite phoneme). But I don’t have any contact with South African languages so please please correct me if I’m wrong!
This song appears on Robbie Robertson’s stunning album Music for the Native Americans. The link I’m posting here seems to be the original Kashtin version of the song, and it’s even better, if that’s possible. (It really rewards headphone-listening.)
Khaled has been called “The King of Raï”, so of course I’m a little fixated (see note to track #2 above). This song was a huge international success, and it puts a huge smile on my face – part of the reason for that smile might be the huge smile Khaled has when he sings the song (watch the video!)
When I was living in St. Petersburg, Tarkan came to town to play a show, and I’ve never seen Russian girls go so crazy. This was the top music video for weeks on Russian TV…so yes, it’s a few years old. But how can you resist that dark hair and those dance moves?
This is my biggest cheater song on this list, since it’s mostly in English. But it’s one of the most ridiculously happy songs I’ve heard in a long time, so I don’t care.
I’m almost positive that this is, in fact, Icelandic, and not, say, Hopelandic.
Bi-2 are my very very favorite Russian band. When I discovered them, on a Russian friend’s recommendation, it was like a gate had been opened, and I suddenly was aware of a connection to the language and the people around me like I had never been before. There is one song that I listened to whenever I was lonely or homesick or depressed (which, I’ll admit, was pretty frequent, especially during that Arctic winter), so these guys have a very special place in my heart.
This song is off one of their newer albums, and it makes me dance uncontrollably. The last part of the refrain says: “No need for tragedy – turn the music up!”
Gruff Rhys is the lead singer of the weird and popular and weirdly popular band The Super Furry Animals (SFA OK!). One reviewer I read called them “flummoxing”, and meant it in a good way. I have loved Welsh for a lot of reasons for a long time, and the fact that this is the catchiest darn song I’ve heard in a while makes me want to learn Welsh even more than I already did.
So there you have it! I hope you found some new songs to love and maybe heard some languages you hadn’t heard before.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am always looking for new music recommendations, so if you have any you want to send along, leave a comment or e-mail me!