Music Recommendations From Four Different Cultures
Updated: Apr 25, 2021
By Saadia Peerzada, UG 22
Music, with its lyrics, emotions, and melody, is often a personal experience for each listener. It is a worthy experiment to delve into music in foreign languages that arrest an emotion that may not be expressed in the languages you speak. Captured in the Charlemagne quote “To possess another language is to possess a second soul”, certain languages have words for emotions that others don’t and the way a certain language deals with memory, love and politics is different from the next. The specific history of each language creates space for varied expression which can help us diversify our playlists. In an attempt to do so, I talked to some Ashokans about music recommendations from various cultures. While some recommended music from their native languages, others gave us a peek into their eclectic playlists. Here’s what we came up with:
Biplob from UG21 recommends Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Bishnu Prasad Rabha and Jayanta Hazarika from Assam. “Bhupen Hazarika is one of the most influential artists Assam has ever had. A humanist, and a staunch proponent of modernism in Assamese society, his ideals reflect in the thousands of songs he wrote and sang across various languages and dialects. Hazarika’s perpetual mission has been to connect the deeply diverse Assamese society through the poetry of his songs, and connect Assamese society with the rest of the country and the world with his presence on the national stage. Some songs I’d recommend everyone to listen to and look up the lyrics to are; Ganga Behti Ho Kyu, Xitore Xemeka Rati, Bimurto Mur Nixati Jen, Gupute Gupute, Snehe Amar and Dil Hoom Hoom Kare.
Bishnu Prasad Rabha, widely known as kalaguru (master of the arts) in Assam, was a revolutionary poet, lyricist, as well as a political activist. He was heavily involved in the Communist uprising that had gripped India post-independence. Deeply affected by the immense poverty of the country at the time and the plight of farmers and labourers, his songs broadly covered the themes of social justice, and humanism but also touched upon themes of human relationships and nature. Song recommendations include Bol Bol Bol Krishok Hokti Dol, Logon Ukoli Gol, Mor Kobitar Sondo Lagi.
Jayanta Hazarika wrote, composed, as well as sang numerous Assamese songs in his short life span. These have remained widely popular till now. Often referred to as the Bob Dylan or John Lenon of Assam by the urban youth, he brought in elements of rock and roll, jazz in his songs yet emerged and remained an icon of Assamese music. Some recommendations would be Mor Minati, Xurot Mogon, Mor Mon Chatokor Kontho, Ketiaba Bejarote.”
Abdulsalam, UG22, defines his taste in music as “Hip hop- from Mob Deep to Pac, Immortal Technique to Akala, Cole to JoeyBadass— and Oromo music. I mostly bounce between those two types of songs. Between them though, Beyonce, 6lack, Khalid, Marley and Nina.” He recommends Never Change, an Oromo rap track by Elmo Ali and Ibsa. The music video shows the father, Elmo Ali, singing in Oromo and his children singing in English. He lived in exile and wrote songs to inspire his people, a population of 50 million people facing erasure at the hands of the Ethiopian government. The song shows that his children inherited his struggle like most Oromo singers. Give me Liberty or Death is another recommendation written by the same artist.
Muskaan, UG22, recommends artists like Strings, Asas Ahmed, and Karavan from the Karachi scene of Pakistani rock. The genre took a lot of inspiration from British rock and had Sindhi-Punjabi influences. The artists work within the classic, old-fashioned format of rock but with the addition of local instruments and folk tunes. These songs, mostly sung in local languages, make this genre very innovative. Some contemporary artists have begun drawing inspiration from this cultural melting pot and have started to experiment more with rock.
Kshitija’s (UG21) first recommendation from the Marathi vernacular is Ye Re Ghana by Asha Bhosle. She defines it as “a sweet melody, whose lyrics call out for the rain, and the mischief it brings with it.” It stands out in Asha Bhosale’s album Aawaz Chandnyache because of its delicate imagery. Kshitija adds, “I remember listening to this during the monsoons for the first time, when a close friend shared it. It has stayed with me since even though I don’t indulge in the genre and comes to mind often when I am sitting idle.”
Man Udhan Varyache by Shankar Mahadevan: The lyrics describe the nature of the human mind, its contradictions and its incomprehensible depth. “The reason it is memorable to me is because of the film that it is in; the song comes at a time when the male protagonist starts understanding his family and realising his love for them. It is absolutely beautiful, and a definite tear-jerker on days when I miss the people I love.”
Zingaat by Ajay & Atul Gogavale: The song title describes a word that captures the moment when you feel your mind losing all constraints, especially social ones. The lyrics are sung in rural Marathi, an earthy dialect. “This song brings me so much joy because it is of the people, the lyrics describe things that are often said, heard, and thought in circles where I come from. The video is also a depiction of the culture of Maharashtrian villages and their ways of celebration. It is perhaps the one that feels the most like home. It was capitalised off a lot later, but that doesn’t change where it comes from for me– especially the anti-caste and anti-class messages conveyed in the original film by Nagraj Manjule.”
Manasa from UG20 listens to everything from Western Classical to Jazz (20s-50s) to 70s-80s rock to German rap to Persian and Carnatic music. She has suggested Comment te dire adieu, Cet air la and Le Pacha as some recommendations from 50s-60s French Pop, Duerme Negrito, a Spanish acoustic track from 2014, Dokhtare Shab, a Persian funk number and Nutooo, Nullkommaneun from German Rap.
Yasmine, UG22, listens to music from all across the board, saying “I have the most random taste in music, I’m amazed by what all artists create.” She suggests Lost Frequencies, Selah Sue, Oscar and the Wolf, Hooverphonic, Hamza, Romeo Elvis and Kid Noize for Belgian artists you should listen to.
We hope you give some of these a go, dip your toes in foreign cultures, and discover new artists in the process. You’ll be able to locate the interesting ways in which some of these songs handle a particular emotion or message by comparing them to the songs that are already beloved to you.
Thank you to Biplob Kumar Das and Kshitija Chavan for their contribution to this piece.