Welcome to my 6th entry in Awesome Music from Around the World. In this entry you’ll find music from Algeria, Belarus, Hawaii, Turkey and Mali. Enjoy!
Joy isn’t as common as infatuation, anger or disappointment in modern pop music, but it shines through in this single from Algerian singer Rachid Taha. In this song, Taha greets everyone from Grace Kelly to Superman to his own buttocks while hand-delivering greeting signs to people throughout his neighborhood.
Turkish pop singer Tarkan has been compared to an early Elvis Presley, both for his music talents and for bringing sex appeal to cultures that are still in many ways repressive in that regard. There’s definitely a bit of a peacock to Tarkan, but “Simarik” (“spoiled”) remains a catchy and fun song nonetheless.
Isreal “IZ” Kamakawio’ole’s take on “Somewhere over the Rainbow” works thanks to its simplicity (only vocals and ukelele) and Kamakawio’ole’s beautiful, haunting voice. An activist for Hawaiian rights and pride, Kamakawio’ole is still a revered figure there. After his death in 1997, his body was laid in state; after his body was cremated, his brothers paddled a traditional canoe to a bay where Kamakawio’ole’ spent much of his childhood and released his ashes into the ocean.
Rokia Traore’s spare, meditative song goes well with this fan-made video, which features close-up views of insect and plant life. Both (to me, anyway), feel calm, a little alien, and unexpectedly beautiful.
Step about the magic chernyj bumer, or “black boomer” for a ride with Seryoga, the #1 rapper from the former Soviet Union. The conceit for the music video–beautiful women gather in a black BMW to dance in the hidden music club inside–is mildly clever but emotionally and sexually retarded. But the song itself works well combining Seyoga’s lyrics, a hip-hop beat, and accordians.
I’ve been trying to include more women singers in this list, but I would have found a way to include the Pipetttes no matter their gender (even though I already included England in my first entry). The Pipettes combine the catchiness of early 1960s girl groups with a bit of modern pop and polish. It’s not the deepest niche, but when it works, as it does here, its glorious. “Pull Shapes” is British slang for dancing, by the way.
I came across this sample of my old writing, probably from around the time of Return of the Jedi, or possibly a little earlier, at a recent visit to my parents’ house.
I still think a shot-for-shot adaptation of this story would make a better movie than any of the Star Wars prequels.
I’ve got another entry of Awesome Music From Around the World coming soon, with entries from Hawaii, Turkey, Algeria and other countries. Stay tuned.
Full Text: “Han Solo Blasted a bad guy & Ran away when he came to a lake and Swam and he got out and Hopped in his ship and burped. One day I talked and skiped.”
My Awesome Music Around the World feature is approaching 50 entries and shows no sign of slowing. This entry features Swedes mixing swing and hip-hop, a Malawian singer alongside the lead singer from Vampire Weekend, macho Chechen dancing, and more.
Leningrad, a ska-punk band based out of St. Petersburg, formed shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. “Dorogi” (the road) has a great beat and takes full advantage of the lead signer’s gravely voice as well as the band’s full brass section. I love music videos that tell a story, and this is a great one. It follows an unassuming Russian youth who wakes up alone and bloodied, and then flashes back to the night before. The video manages to be simultaneously bleak, engaging, and life-affirming. I won’t spoil the ending except to say that it ends on one of the most badass, and Russian, notes in music video history.
Malawi’s Esau Mwamwaya and the England-based DJs Etienne Tron and Johan Karlberg to form The Very Best, a band that mixes African and Western genres. Warm Heart of Africa is one of several great songs on the band’s first album, released in 2009. The song manages to be distinct, fun, and catchy, and the video features a dancing giraffe and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig. What more could you ask for?
“They say I sound old school, baby, like Frank and Sammy Davis,” sings MOVITS! lead singer Johan Rensfeldt, but the Rat Pack never mixed old-school swing with hip hop, and they couldn’t sing a word of Swedish. MOVITS! gained some fans in the United States after appearing on the Colbert Report, but they deserve a lot more, for this number especially. (Click here for a less pretty copy of the video with lyrics in English.)
In “Va a Escampar,” (the rain will clear) La Vela Puerca take their time, building from Sebastián Teysera’s voice and acoustic guitar to a crescendo of electric guitar and horns. The video isn’t as coherent or original as I would like but the music to “Va a Escampar” manages to balance a touch of melancholy and hopefulness while still working as a rock song.
This entry comes from 12, a Russian remake of 12 Angry Men. 12 takes a while to get started, and it’s not as tight as the 1957 classic, but it makes up for it with some inspired twists and a brilliant ending. In this scene, (approximately the first two minutes of this clip), a boy impresses a group of soldiers in his village some traditional Chechen dancing, which may be the most macho form of dance in existence.
What do you think? Do you have suggestions for more awesome music from other countries? I know Chechnya isn’t technically a country, but I’m invoking my “Puerto Rico rule” to include it anyway.
Thanks to the denizens of the Cracked Forums for the great suggestions, especially Yurksemesh and EFHRK for entries 37 and 38 respectively.
I created an interactive map world map listing every country that I’ve gathered awesome music from. Check it out here, or via the image below:
I hope to have a new entry featuring music from Russia, Uruguay, Mali and other locations coming soon, as well as an update on some non-blog related work. Stick around!
My goal is to get an entry for all 180-something countries in the world, so if you have a suggestion, pass it along!
Greeting cards are expensive. They’re also usually either obnoxious, sentimental, or excessive. I like the idea of marking birthdays and other special occasions with a personal note, but I don’t need cards that play “happy birthday” when you open them or bad jokes about the turning 30, 40 or 50.
Now I give people postcards instead. Postcards have many advantages over greeting cards:
- They’re cheap. I can pick up two to three postcards for the same prices as a single greeting card. You can also buy collections of postcards from $10 to $20; this often comes out to three to 10 postcards for a dollar.
- They’re efficient. Every part of a postcard does something. One side has the picture/photograph, while the written message goes on the other. A greeting card uses twice as much space to do the same amount of work (outside picture/photo, inside page one, superflous inside page two, wasted empty back). Also, with a postcard you don’t have to worry about writing enough to fill up two empty pages.
- They’re earth-friendly. Giving someone a postcard uses half the paper that a giving a person a greeting card of the same size does. If you send a postcard, you’re using one-fourth of the paper since you don’t need an envelope.
- They’re personal. The sheer variety of postcard subjects allows me to easily buy cards that show a connection with my friends, family and other people in my life that I can’t quite do with a greeting card. Here are a few subjects of the cards I’ve been able to give recently:
- A vintage map of Paris for the birthday of a co-worker from France
- A reproduction of Klimt’s mother and child painting for my Mom on Mother’s Day
- A vintage poster from the sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet for my movie-buff father’s birthday
- A photograph of a roaring polar bear for my brother for Christmas
- They’re fun. A postcard stands out in the mailbox or even among a stack of greeting cards. And I’ve come to enjoy hunting for postcards or thinking about how I can use a new postcard.
Two collections of postcards I bought a few years back (“Movie Posters Postcards” from the Museum of Modern Art and illustrations from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel series, both discontinued) have formed the basis for my postcard collection. You can find many collections on Amazon in the $10-$20 range. I’ve also come across great postcards for sale at bookshops, art supply stores, comic book stores, museums and art galleries, and, yes, even greeting card stores.