Awesome Music from Around The World, Part 2

February 1, 2010

Here’s my second entry in my “Awesome music from around the world” series, featuring great music from India, Zimbabwe, Finland, Iran, and six other countries. Enjoy!

11. France: Carla Bruni — Quelqu’un m’a dit

I asked  a friend about music from France, and she said “everyone loves Carla Bruni.” After hearing this song, it’s easy to see why. Carla Bruni, now Bruni-Sarkosy, is the wife of France’s president Nicolas Sarkosy.

12. Nicaragua: Revuelta Sonora — Tululu (Revuelta remix)

This is another video that works nicely as a short story, this time following a cute but mischevious scamp who steals a camera from a tourist couple and uses it to take photos of his friends, family and neighborhood. Come for the chance to see a glimpse of Nicaragua’s Afro-Carribbean city life; stay for the great music.

13. Japan: X Japan — Okkusenman

The punk-metal band Japan X takes a song from the 1988 nintendo game Mega Man 2 and turns it into a rocking yet wistful rumination on the loss of childhood innocence. The melody holds up well after more than 20 years, and the simple yet effective animation helps to tell the story.

14. Zimbabwe: Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi — What Shall We Do?

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, Zimbabwe’s most popular musical artist, has been singing and touring for more than 30 years. His song “What shall we do?” manages to be both poignant and hopeful (which is impressive if you know anything about Zimbabwe’s political and economic situation).

15. Finland: Lordi — Hard Rock Hallelujah

Straddling the line between “awesome” and “awesomely retarded,” the Finnish band Lordi is like the drawings come to life out of the notebook of a creepy 15-year-old’s notebook. The band dresses up in full demonic costume for videos, concerts, and interviews and has it’s own elaborate origin story and mythology.

16. Moldova: Nelly Ciobanu — Hora Din Moldova

Featuring traditional costumes, circle dancing, and wide, expansive shots of….fields of sheep, Hora Din Moldova (“Dance of Moldova”), Moldova’s entry for the 2009 Eurovision contest. It’s a little quaint, but everyone–the singer, dancers, and camera crew seem both earnest and proud of their country, and the song is a good one in its own right. I’d choose this underdog over a more slick, polished video that could have come out of anywhere in a heartbeat.

17. Democratic Republic of the Congo: Baloji: Congo

Hip-hop artist Bajoli breaks up his video about his home country into three parts. He starts rapping alone over a spare beat of African drums. He then picks up the pace and breaks out the guitars and backup singers. In the third section he slows down again, bringing out traditional African dancers and a gospel chorus. Great stuff.

18. Chile: Los Prisioneros — El Muro

Corte el muro (“take down the wall”) sing Los Prisioneros, a Chilean rock band who crafted this song protesting the proposed wall between Mexico and the United States. Statistics accompanying the video help to illustrate the harsh conditions immigrants often have to face as well as the benefits workers from Mexico bring to the U.S.

19. Iran: Abjeez –Eddeaa

Melodie and Safoura Safavi lead the Abjeez, a Persian pop band. I have no idea about their video is about (anyone speak Farsi?) but the song is very catchy and the video was good enough to win at New York City’s Tribeca film festival.

20. Northern Ireland: Panama Kings — Golden Recruit

The Traveling Wilburys of Northern Ireland, this group is made up of a number of musicians from other Northern Irish bands, two of whom left the group called The Queer Giraffes. If they join eight more bands with silly names this year, they’ll get their 11th one free.


Awesome Music from Around The World, Part 1

August 25, 2009

I hope to one day make a playlist featuring great music (and great music videos) from every country in the world.  Here are my first ten entries.

1. Canada: The Arcade Fire — Rebellion (Lies)

This band single-handedly reaffirmed my faith in and appreciation of music that’s actually being played on the radio these days. If Bruce Springsteen was from Montreal, was 25 years younger, and added a few additional instruments to the E Street Band, he could have easily formed this group.

2. Colombia: Juanes — La Camisa Negra

Colombian artist Juanes is a Latin American superstar, whose music can be heard from Uruguay to Mexico to the U.S. My favorite song, “La Camisa Negra,” (the black shirt), showcases the song and functions as a great short film in its own right.

3. England: The Beatles — It’s All Too Much

Who doesn’t love the Beatles? George kicks ass (and melts the Blue Meanies’ hearts) in this song from The Yellow Submarine.

4. India: Abhijeet and Anuradha Sriram — Chunari Chunari

Abhijeet and Anuradha Sriram strut their way from India to San Francisco in this song from the Monsoon Wedding soundtrack. My wife has observed that the male shoulder wave, followed by the female hip shake, interspersed with lots of “come hither” looks, appear to be a universal part of dance. They’re certainly in the vocabulary here.

5. Mexico: Julieta Venegas — Me Voy

Me voy, que lastima, pero adios (“I’m leaving, it’s a shame but goodbye”), sings Mexican pop superstar Julieta Venegas in one of her most popular singles. Fun facts: Julieta Venegas is an identical twin, and she thinks her eyebrows are her most beautiful body part.

6. New Zealand: Flight of the Conchords — Hiphopopotomas vs Rhymenoceros

New Zealand’s fourth-most popular folk parody duo sing one of their classics in an attempt to intimidate some thugs.

7. Puerto Rico*: Calle 13 — Nadie como tu

Calle 13 is one of the world’s most popular reggaeton (actually a blend of hip-hop, dance music, and several Latin genres, with very little reggae) bands.  “Nadie como tu (no one like you) is a great song to learn (or relearn Spanish by), especially with this charming fan-made video that illustrates the lyrics, sometimes literally, sometimes comically.

8. Spain: El Koala — Opa, yo viace un corra

Self-named artist El Koala (just what it sounds like) set out to create an album of “rustic rock music”, which combines rock and punk music with lyrics about farm life in Spain. “Opá, yo viazé un corrá” (Dad, I’m going to build a farm, with some slang and contractions), is incredibly fun to watch and catchy (this video has had more than 20 million hits already). Other songs from the album include a farmer singing about a hog and a rooster’s lament.

9. Ukraine: Ruslana — Wild Dances

This Ukrainian artist won the 2004 Eurovision song contest, and five years later received the honor of being included in the soundtrack for Grand Theft Auto 4.

10. U.S.A.: Johnny Cash — Hurt

American IV was Johnny Cash’s last album released while he was still alive (two more have since come out), and it remains one of his best. For Hurt, Cash takes a song from Nine Inch Nails and makes it much more powerful and profound. Age and illness ravaged Johnny Cash’s body and voice for years, but he continued to sing and record albums until his death. The Man in Black will be missed.

A few notes:

  • These are all songs I genuinely like, so future entries may take a while.
  • That said, constructive suggestions for future entries are welcome.
  • I’m focusing on contemporary, “fun” pop music, with the exception of the Beatles, because they’re the Beatles.
  • Of course I’m not trying to sum all of any country’s musical influence into one song. What song could ever do that?
  • *I reserve the right to include Puerto Rico even though it’s not  a country. I like Calle 13.