True Track 11: “Kolechko” by Hans Zimmer

The Russian word Kolechko translates to ringlet in English.  In the Russian folk song, a woman grieves about her ex-lover. This folk song was remade for the 2002 movie Dr. Zhivago.

What’s not to love about this track? The Russian singer Lyudmila Zykina uses vibratos, which can be clearly heard at the beginning. Lyudmila’s dynamic range goes from soft to incredibly loud(which can be heard clearly at 1:30). Here, Lyudmila sings using her diaphragm, which is a very difficult way to sing.

Another reason why I like this track is due to the amazing orchestral score, arranged by the famous soundtrack producer Hans Zimmer. He is one of my all-time favorite composers, composing background music for famous movies like Lion King, Inception, and the Dark Knight series.

Folk songs have simple words and short stanzas, but they bring something unique to the music spectrum, a depth of emotion that has been missed by modern songs. I hope that you like this Russian folk song!

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True Track 10:”We are the World” by Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s song has been remade over and over again. The main message is that every single person has the choice to brighten up someone else’s life. It’s a great song for people of all ages, and has continued to be popular and relevant. In fact, with the recent attacks in France, this song should be more relevant than ever.

This version was made for the people of Ethiopia, who had suffered a major famine at the time.

If you loved seeing so many artists singing for a worthy cause, you’ll be glad to know that a new version was made 25 years later! This time, the song was made for the people of Haiti, who went through a taumatising earthquake.

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True Track 9: “Lama Bada Yatathana” by Lena Chamamyan

Have you ever listened to Andalusian music? And what does is have to do with Middle Eastern music? Well, you are in for a surprise!

I found an interesting response, from Quora user Cassandra Strand, to the question “What is the best Arabic music?”. She listed a piece called “Lama Bada Yathathana” at the top of her list. It’s origin was given as “(Andalusian, circa 1492CE)”.  Andalusia is a territory located at the south of Spain. So in essence, one of the best pieces of Arabic music came from Spain! It’s proximity with Africa, specifically Morocco(which is part of the Middle East), has influenced that region of Spain in a unique way. And the song “Lama Bada Yatathana” is a great testament to this influence.

This ancient love song is made in a genre of Arabic music and poetry known as a “Muwashah”. The “Muwashah” genre originated in Andalusia in the 10th century AD.  This genre is famous for its complex rhythms.  For instance, in the song “Lama Bada Yatathana”, the rhythm is in 10/8. That is 10 beats in a bar! You can think of that as counting “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10” over and over again during the song. That kind of rhythm is so rare in pop songs, that I am sure you will find the track below refreshing to listen to!

Lena Chamamyan is a Syrian singer who adds a modern twist to this ancient song. Her rendition of this piece uses a modern “takht”(chorus of instruments) of piano, strings and tabla, and bass. The  traditional “takht” for the song is made of Middle Eastern instruments like the lute, the zither, the tambourine, and the flute.

This mushawah has been redone many times in different styles. But the original tune and rhythm has remained intact throughout the ages. I encourage you to check out the different interpretations!

PS: If you found the “mushawah” genre fascinating, and want to know more about the technical aspects of the song, I’d highly recommend this awesome post. This blog here has a detailed explanation of this piece: https://ravishdears.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/rich-complex-and-beautiful-lamma-bada/

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True Track 8:”Mbube” by Miriam Makeba

Ever wondered about where the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” from the movie “Lion King” came from? Well, it turns out it’s a song from South Africa.

The “Mbube” is a particular genre of music from South Africa that is performed accappella(without the use of instuments). The singer, Miriam Makeba, was well known throughout Africa for her legendary voice. It’s a bit sad that I didn’t know about her, until I actively researched into the origins of the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

I’ve included this song in this blog, because there are so many things about this song that make it special. The singer uses clicks as lyrics for the song, the background singers are pitch perfect as seen during the vocal thirds, the music is so raw and uncut that there is a perfection to it that is hard to find nowadays.

Bonus: Curious about where the “Wimoweh” bit for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” comes from? Well, this track from the Weavers might clear that doubt.

Suffice to say, these two artists influenced the The Tokens to create “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, which became a nostalgic track for people like me who grew up watching “The Lion King”.

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True Track 7: “Take 5” by Dave Brubeck

Sometimes, the most creative songs don’t seem to make themselves known until you really listen to them. Really hard. And they continue to echo in your head afterwards. This track is definitely an example of that.

The piece starts with a drum beat that is commonly used in jazz, which is nothing extraordinary, but still very pleasant to hear. And then the piano comes in, with an accompaniment that is emphasized/accented on the weak beats of the bar! This accent on the weak beats of the piano contrast very heavily with the drums. When I heard this piece for the first time, I was bopping my head along with the piano, and could have listened to that rhythm for days.By the way, the song”Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin famously uses accents on weak beats for its famous guitar riff that starts off the song!

Once the drums and the piano have set the beat, the trumpet begins its riff, which seem to occupy another area of the rhythm spectrum. The trumpet blows away with a different rhythm compared to the drums and piano.

Here’s what makes the track incredible. If you took the three instruments, and listened to them separately, you would probably have never imagined that those unique rhythmic patterns so well!

And one more thing. The piece is in quintuple time. That’s 5 beats in a bar! Try clapping along with the music, preferably counting “1 2 3 4,1 2 3 4″ , and you will notice that you seem to lose a beat here or there. Now try clapping 5 beats, and counting ” 1 2 3 4 5, 1 2 3 4 5″ and you’ll notice that it unusually works!

Music in time signatures other than 4/4 or 3/4 seem choppy or unusual to the ears. But the combination of the different rhythmic patterns of each instrument miraculously make this 5/4 piece sound uncomplicated, and even singable! There are many more incredible jazz pieces out there, but this is one of my personal favorites because it sounds straightforward and simple, when there is so much more to it.

Enjoy!

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True Track 6 : Paddy O’Brien’s “Scatter The Mud”

“Scatter The Mud” is a folk song of Irish origin. Most Irish folk songs use fiddles/violins as a primary instruments. This track is very unique, since guitars play some of the fiddle’s parts. Although this is an Irish jig, which is a fast-paced triple-time piece, there is something that effectively relaxes me and fills me with positive energy.

There are some parts in this music that intrigued me, and might be of interest to you:

At time 1:42- The chords here are commonly used in mainstream music. But the harmonic progression, or the way this second section transitions from the first section, is definitely unheard of, at least by a person who listens to mainstream music.

At time 2:50 – Around this time, the first violin joins the music. And the violin plays a jolly melody along with the guitars.

At time 3:10- There is a sudden change in the mood of the piece here, and this part is what I think of as the jewel of the piece. This part seems a little darker, but is immediately followed by the jolly tune that was played earlier. This adds to the depth of this piece.

I am not completely sure of the original composer of this piece. This track is featured on Gerald Trimble’s album “First Flight”. Whatever the case, listen to this track and immerse yourself.

 

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True Track 5: Native American music(Shoshone tribe)

Native Americans are a very diverse group of people. Most of the Native American music that I have listened to in the past involved big drums, and chants. I have had the fortune of participating in a traditional Round Dance, and the rhythm of the drum along with the chants and repetitions from the singers made up the music for this dance.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a track from the Shoshone tribe, which had neither drums or chanting! There is definitely more to Native American music than meets the ear. This track predominantly uses flutes, and ensemble of flutes playing harmoniously along with some complex rhythms makes this worth a listen. It will make you smile.

 

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