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.