This Week’s Theme: Around the World in 30 Songs
Almost every Faux Show includes one of my favorite mini-themes, Let’s Take a Trip Around the World. My fondest memories of my time as a deejay 30+ years ago include discovering music from other countries. From a purely musical perspective, the different instrumentation, rhythms, melodies, and song structures have always fascinated me. In fact, the easiest way to add variety to your musical life is to simply add in music from other countries. This is no different than eating a variety of ethnic foods or watching foreign television and films. The cliché is true – variety is the spice of life.
However, now that I have been listening to such a wide variety of music for so long I think I have a deeper understanding of why this topic is so important to me. I have spent half of my life with a partner, Ms. Faux, who believes strongly in the importance of acceptance, inclusion, and understanding of all people. I share this belief and she has only strengthened this in me, not just musically but in all aspects of life. However, the amazing thing about having an open mind about people who are different than oneself is that you discover they really aren’t that different. Ignoring the obvious differences, such as physical appearance, gender and sexual orientation, political and religious viewpoints, and socio-economic status, most people throughout the world deal with the same issues everyday. Simply put, we all share the human condition by way of the emotions that define our lives as human beings.
In the context of this commonality, it is no secret that one of the most common connections across humankind is music. I know this is not a new realization – you can devote your life to the academic study of music’s connectedness across people, places, and time. However, it is also common for humans to lose perspective of the world around us and focus solely on our personal struggles. It is difficult to focus externally, especially in times like we are living in today. So for me, music is a way to break back out into the larger world around me and remember that we are all people living in the world together. We are not much different than people from around the world who lived their lives fifty, one hundred, or even one thousand years ago. Through it all, people have turned to music in moments of strength and weakness, joy and sorrow, happiness and anger, rest and work, while alone or with community, and all times in between.
Most of the songs selected for this week’s show are sung in languages I do not speak. Although many of them contain a western influence in the instrumentation and song structure, all of these artists incorporate the sounds of their own cultures into the music. Whether or not one understands the language, is familiar with the instrumentation, or knows about the artist’s culture, all of these songs speak to the listener as only music can. These 30 songs, representing artists from the 30 most populous countries in the world, present joy, love, lust, anger, fear, heartbreak, longing, loss, beauty, pain, sorrow, life, and death as only music can.
Welcome to Radio Faux Show number twenty-five.
First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.
Countries (2020 UN population estimates), Artists, and Songs (year)
China (1,439,323,776): Cui Jian “Nothing to My Name” (1989)
India (1,380,004,385): Ashla Bhosle, Udit Nayaran, Vaishali Samant, and Chorus, “Radha Kaise Na Jale” (2001)
United States (331,002,651): Duke Ellington and John Coltrane “In a Sentimental Mood” (1963)
Indonesia (273,523,615): Sol Ara “Bad New Day” (2021)
Pakistan (220,892,340): Junoon “Sayonee” (1997)
Brazil (212,559,417): Jorge Ben “Xica da Silva” (1976)
Nigeria (206,139,589): BANTU “How Real (Can Real, Real Be?)” (2005)
Bangladesh (164,689,383): Prithwi and Ritu Raj “Amar Shonar Bangla” (2014)
Russia (145,934,462): Manizha (featuring Fardi): “Nedoslavyanka (live)” (2021)
Mexico (128,932,753): Paulina Rubio “Y Yo Sigo Aqui” (2000)
Japan (126,476,461): Shonen Knife “BBQ Party” (2008)
Ethiopia (114,963,588): Mulatu Astatke “Yegelle Tezeta (My Own Memory)” (early 1970s)
Philippines (109,581,078): Freddie Aguilar “Anak (Version 1)” (1978)
Egypt (102,334,404): Magdy Al Hussainy “Music de Carnaval” (1970s)
Vietnam (97,338,579): Hung Cuong “Song Cho Nhau” (late 1960s)
Democratic Republic of the Congo (89,561,403): Kanda Bongo Man “Bili” (1993)
Turkey (84,339,067): Ajda Pekkan “Je T’apperandrai L’amour” (1976)
Iran (83,992,949): Farhad Mehrad “Mard-e Tanha” (1969)
Germany (83,783,942): Scorpions “Robot Man” (1975)
Thailand (69,799,978): The Impossibles “Hot Pepper” (1975)
United Kingdom (67,886,011): The Jam “Town Called Malice” (1982)
France (65,273,511): Barbara Pravi “l’homme et l’oiseau” (2021)
Italy (60,461,826): Maneskin “Zitti e Buoni” (2021)
Tanzania (59,734,218): Hamisa Mobetto “EX wangu (remix)” (2021)
South Africa (59,308,690): Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds “Mbube (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” (1939)
Myanmar (54,409,800): Sai Htee Saing “Myintta Yay” (1980s?)
Kenya (53,771,296): Orchestra Super Mazembe “Nanga” (1980)
South Korea (51,269,185): The Solutions “Sounds of the Universe” (2012)
Colombia (50,882,891): Lucho Bermudez “Tolu” (1950s?)
Spain (46,754,778): Concha Velasco “Chica Ye Ye” (1965)
To be honest, every song in this week’s show is a highlight. I always like each week’s show, but this one has really grabbed me from beginning to end and I am proud of the final product. But, there are always artists and songs that deserve some extra attention, so I’ll pull out a few that aren’t discussed anywhere else.
One of the most famous songs on this week’s show is definitely “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Solomon Linda. Linda’s original 1939 version was titled “Mbube,” which is Zulu for “Lion.” It was a huge hit in South Africa throughout the 1940s before the English version became a popular folk song in the US in the ’50s and ’60s. This culminated in the version everyone knows, a #1 hit for The Tokens in 1961.
The song “Mbube” was so popular that it became the name for a form of music called Mbube. This style of vocal music can be traced back to the 1920s, and is most commonly associated in modern times with the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. If you aren’t up on them, they are all over Paul Simon’s Graceland album and have been performing for over 50 years.
There is a lot more to South Korean music than BTS and Black Pink (and I’m not talking about Gangnam Style!). Ms. Faux is a K-Drama fan, we eat a lot of Korean food at the Faux household, and we listen to Korean music that isn’t K-Pop. Ms. Faux’s favorite South Korean band is The Solutions. They started in 2012, and “Sounds of the Universe” is the first track on their self-titled debut. They sound more like an 80s new wave band than K-Pop, and this song is a great opener for any playlist, especially one featuring music from around the world.
Freddie Aguilar’s song “Anak” is the most successful Philippine record of all time. It has been released in 56 countries, sung in 27 different languages, covered over 100 times, sold over 30 million copies, and was the second biggest hit worldwide for the entire decade of the ’80s. When I first heard it while researching this show it immediately pulled me in to its beauty and sorrow even though I do not speak Tagalog. Having now read an English translation it is even more powerful. This is truly one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking songs ever written.
In addition to “Anak” and many other songs, Aguilar is known for his rendition of “Bayan Ko,” the unofficial national anthem of The Philippines written in the late 19th century. His version was the anthem for the People Power Revolution against the Marcos regime in 1986.
“Amar Sonar Bangla” is the national anthem of Bangladesh. It was written by Rabindranath Tagore in 1905 and became the national anthem in 1971. Tagore was a poet, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer, and painter. Among his many accomplishments are the composition of over 2,000 songs known collectively as the Rabindra Sangeet and receipt of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 (he was the first non-westerner to win the award).
The version of “Amar Sonar Bangla” featured in this week’s show is a 2014 rendition by brothers Prithwi and Ritu Raj. Their version is improvised and is absolutely beautiful. Prithwi Raj died tragically in 2019 at the age of 34.
Asha Bhosle is an Indian legend. She is the greatest “playback” singer in Indian film history with over 1,000 film credits spanning a 70+ year career. A playback singer is the person who actually records the music that the actors lip sync to in the film. It’s like Milli Vanilli but totally legit and the backbone of Bollywood musicals. She is currently recognized as the most recorded artist in music history.
Artist of the Week: Jorge Ben
Jorge Ben is a Brazilian music legend. During his over 50 year career he recorded music in a variety of styles including bossa nova, samba, tropicalia, Jovem Guarda, rock, funk, and more. His discography is a collection of classic Brazilian albums, including my personal favorite, Africa Brasil, from 1976. The song “Ponta de Lanca Africano (Umbabarauma)” is on my short list of greatest album openers and the entire album is a masterclass in samba funk.
3 Chunks of Funk
Here are three very different artists presenting three very different styles of funk.
The Impossibles “Hot Pepper”: This is the title track to the band’s 1975 album. They performed a version of Thai pop music called String but were also a kickass funk band, as this song shows.
Magdy Al Hussainy “Music de Carnaval”: While researching this week’s show I discovered my new favorite record label. Habibi Funk is a German record label that specializes in reissues of funk music recorded in the ’70s and ’80s throughout Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, and other Arab countries. They have released over 15 records of Arab funk and jazz with more to come. What more do you need to know? Search “habibi funk” in your streaming service and listen to them…now!
Hung Cuong “Song Cho Nhau”: Hung Cuong had a decades long career that began in the 1950s. In the late ’60s he changed his style and was a leader in a form of Vietnamese pop music called Exciting Music. This song is from that period and features vocals by Mai Le Huyan.
Paulina Rubio “Y Yo Sigo Aqui”: Paulina Rubio is one of the best selling Latin artists of all time and is known as the “Queen of Latin Pop.” This song is from her fifth album Paulina. It was released in 2000 and was her breakthrough record. Since the release of this album, Rubio has become an international star, is one of the most influential Mexican artists, and is one of the greatest Latin music artists of all time.
BANTU “How Real (Can a Real, Real Be?)”: BANTU (Brotherhood Alliance Navigating Towards Unity) take their name from Steve Bantu Biko’s middle name. They have been putting out their version of Afrobeat music since 1999. This song is from their third album, Fuji Satisfaction, which further advanced their fusion of Afrobeat with Afrofunk and Hip Hop. It was a massive success throughout Europe and Africa and won numerous year end awards.
Hamisa Mobetto “EX Wangu (Remix)”: This is new music from Tanzanian pop star Hamisa Mobetto.
Facing My Waterloo
These three artists were all finalists in the 2021 Eurovision song contest. Turkey’s Ajda Pekkan was also a Eurovision finalist, in 1980.
Maneskin “Zitti e Buoni”: Maneskin brought their neo-punk sound into the 2021 Eurovision song contest and the fans over-rode the judges’ desires and pushed them to victory. They have already found massive success in less than five years, with record sales in the millions.
Barbara Pravi “l’homme et l’oiseau”: Barbara Pravi was the runner up in the 2021 Eurovision song contest, barely losing out to Maneskin. Her style could not be more different than the winner, and when Ms. Faux and I watched the contest we were both hoping she would win. This is her latest song, not the contest entry. Both are beautiful ballads. She has been recording for about six years and is already using her newfound international popularity in her fight for women’s rights.
Manizha (featuring Fardi) “Nedoslavyanka (live)”: Russian singer Manizha performed a fantastic song called “Russian Woman” at the 2021 Eurovision contest. “Nedoslavyanka” is her latest release and I think it is even better. There have always been artists who combine traditional folk music of their countries into more modern song writing, but this trend has really taken off lately with artists from all over the world. The very first song on Faux Show #1 was by a South Korean group, Leenalchi, who combine traditional Korean vocal styles and rhythms with modern music. There was a contestant from Ukraine called Go_A who do the same with Ukrainian folk music. And this latest song from Manizha does this with traditional Russian music. The results of this blending of the present and past are all fantastic.
A Little Jazz
Mulatu Astatke “Yegelle Tezeta (My Own Memory)”: Astatke is the “father of Ethio-jazz,” a form he created in the early 1970s. He is a vibraphonist and percussionist and his style is a blend of jazz, funk, and soul.
Duke Ellington and John Coltrane “In a Sentimental Mood”: Jazz is arguably the most American form of music. The foundations of 20th century jazz were laid by African Americans in New Orleans in the late 19th century. The Jazz Age of the 1920s advanced the form with artists like King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Bessie Smith leading the way. This was followed by the creation of hundreds of styles of jazz and the spread of jazz throughout the world during the 20th century. It seems fitting to select a jazz track to represent the US in this week’s show, and who better than one of the founders of modern jazz, Duke Ellington, and one of the genres most influential saxophonists, John Coltrane.
Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll: International Style
Trying to define the sound of rock and roll music is a fool’s errand. The origins of rock are based in early 20th century American rhythm and blues. Rock in the 1950s rolled down several paths depending on one’s race and place of birth. Rock in the 1960s exploded into hundreds of styles that all lead to the variety of rock we hear today. It may seem absurd, but the music of Louis Jordan and the music of Slayer are cut from the same cloth.
Whatever your definition of rock and roll, one of the foundations of the music has always been its ability to encompass the power of youth, anger, protest, and change in society. This is not only an American quality of rock and roll. This is the importance of rock throughout the world from the last half of the 20th century until now. This week’s show ends with three artists who present their own versions of rock and roll in this way. Although the sound of rock music is completely different in the work of these artists, the foundations are there, tearing at the world around them like only rock and roll can.
Junoon “Sayonee”: Junoon are a sufi rock band, combining the sufi music tradition with modern rock. Although it took them a while to achieve success, they have sold over 30 million records. Their career is marked by controversy as their songs often attack social injustice and global issues. If the Sex Pistols were Pakistani, they would be Junoon.
Farhad Mehrad “Mard-e Tanha”: Farhad Mehrad released the first English rock and roll record in Iran and is one of the most influential and successful Iranian artists. He began as a member of an Iranian band called Black Cats before going solo in the late ’60s. In 1969 he released the song “Mard-e Tanha” and began to only release songs that delivered a message he believed in. Although his output was limited, the songs he did release in the ’70s were songs of protest leading up to the 1979 Iranian Revolution. After 1979, the new government feared his influence and popularity and he was not allowed to release another album until 1993. All of his recordings after that were released in the US until his death in 2002 at the age of 58.
Cui Jian “Nothing to My Name”: Cui Jian is the “father of Chinese rock.” His early work in the group Seven-Player Band produced some of the first Chinese recordings to use electric guitar. His popularity grew throughout the ’80s and he was the voice of the student movement during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. “Nothing to My Name” was the student protest anthem and this forced him into hiding for a while after the protests. He was the first winner of MTV’s International Viewer’s Choice Award in 1991 for “Wild in the Snow.” Over the last 30 years, Jian has led the fight against the government’s attitude toward rock and roll. His never-ending struggle has slowly led to acceptance of the music to the point at which it is finally, once again, okay to rock in China.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||The Solutions||Sounds of the Universe|
|2||The Impossibles||Hot Pepper|
|3||Magdy Al Hussainy||Music de Carnaval|
|4||Hung Cuong||Song Cho Nhau|
|5||Jorge Ben||Xica da Silva|
|6||Konda Bongo Man||Bili|
|7||Manizha (featuring Fardi)||Nedoslavyanka (live)|
|8||Maneskin||Zitti e Buoni|
|9||Barbara Pravi||l’homme et l’oiseau|
|10||Freddie Aguilar||Anak (version 1)|
|11||Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds||The Lion Sleeps Tonight (aka Mbube)|
|12||Paulina Rubio||Y Yo Sigo Aqui|
|13||BANTU||How Real (Can a Real, Real Be?)|
|14||Hamisa Mobetto||EX wangu (remix)|
|15||Sol Ara||Bad New Day|
|16||Orchestra Super Mazembe||Nanga|
|18||Concha Velasco||Chica Ye Ye|
|19||Ashla Bhosle, Udit Nayaran, Vaishali Samant, and Chorus,||Radha Kaise Na Jale|
|20||Mulatu Astatke||Yegelle Tezeta (My Own Memory)|
|21||Duke Ellington and John Coltrane||In a Sentimental Mood|
|22||Prithwi and Ritu Raj||Amar Shonar Bangla|
|23||Ajda Pekkan||Je T’apperandrai L’amour|
|24||Sai Htee Saing||Myintta Yay|
|25||The Jam||Town Called Malice|
|27||Shonen Knife||BBQ Party|
|29||Farhad Mehrad||Mard-e Tanha|
|30||Cui Jian||Nothing to My Name|
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