Most people tend to have, if not the UK Top 40 or dubstep, at least English songs on their playlists. I’ve long left the world of mainstream media to embrace songs from all over the world – although I seem to have a special inclination towards Asian music, Afropop and French jazz. Some of the songs listed below also have incredible music videos that enhance the listening experience.
Yui – ‘Again’ (2009): Many an anime fan’s eyes will well up with emotion when they hear the iconic opening to the “Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood” series. Yui’s voice is both childlike and poignant, capturing the joy and pain we shared with our beloved characters onscreen.
This is the shortened opening song as we first fell in love with it – and if you haven’t already, you will.
Ikimonogakari – ‘Hanabi’ (2006): Another song featured in a popular anime, “Bleach“, this song starts off gently and proceeds to envelop you in an explosion of awesomeness – which is only fitting, as “Hanabi” means Fireworks. The delicate voice accompanied by superb instrumentals blow your mind a little more with every verse.
Wagakki Band – ‘Senbonzakura’ (2014): A phenomenal band that fuses modern and traditional Japanese instruments to create a fusion sound like no other. They’re most well-known for their covers of popular Vocaloid songs (check out another of their masterpieces). Senbonzakura (Thousands of Cherry Trees) contains powerful melodies and intense instrumental solos that will make you want to pull out your samurai sword and dance with it.
Freshlyground – ‘Fire Is Low’ (2010): An under-appreciated gem (and the one English exception on this list). Freshlyground made headlines back in 2010 when they teamed up with Shakira for “Waka Waka“, but their other pieces were never paid even half as much attention – which is a damn shame, considering how talented they are. Their unique blend of traditional and modern elements, coupled with Zolani’s beautiful voice, is reminiscent of Mango Groove in its ethnic ingenuity. There is poetry in their lyrics that speak of closeness despite distance with loved ones; and the easy atmosphere with which the band has recorded this song is cheery and heart-warming.
“Remember home as a loving tree. I’ve found silence is best enjoyed with an open heart beating next to you! But for now, be my darling, And whisper your words to the rolling moon.”
Chantal Chamberland – ‘La Mer’ (2008): This is undoubtedly my favourite cover of Charles Trenet’s famous ‘La Mer’, or ‘The Sea’ (which some of you might recognise as the last song to play in the film ‘Mr Bean’s Holiday’). The piano accompaniment lends a jovial quality to Chamberland’s sensuous voice, providing the perfect balance between sultry and playful. The swinging ambience brings to mind little corner cafes, and street painters, and lazy Sundays. All in all, the perfect aid to relaxation.
EXO – ‘Growl’ (2013): Even though they were relatively new at the time, EXO shot almost to K-pop legend status after releasing this track. The song itself is addictively catchy – but the music video is the icing on this cake of unbelievable talent. The choreography and camerawork is eye-poppingly fantastic; not to mention the members’ flawless dance moves. Prepare to loosen your jaw screws.
Sona Mohapatra –’Ambarsariya’ (2013): From “Fukrey“, this song is one that is not simply heard, but felt. The instant those first strains of music touch your ears, you can feel your entire body relaxing and your fingers snapping a rhythm without being told. Everything about this song says laidback and comfortable and happy times with friends. Bliss in its most undiluted form.
Naresh Iyer, Anna Katharina Valayil – ‘Mel Mel Mel’ (2012): From the highly acclaimed Malayalam film “Ustad Hotel“, this is a delicate masterpiece. With climbing crescendos and intense finishes, this song has most people lip-syncing dramatically along to it. The gentle guitar motif is a soothing counterpoint throughout the song; and Iyer’s and Valayil’s voices combined seem to form a sort of heaven all on their own.