Does hearing a particular song ever twirl you around by the heels, throwing you and your world view off kilter, revealing another dimension to existence? Of course. In that way, many songs act as a form of transport, refracting not only the sounds in our ears and the light before our eyes, but our very thinking in an unexpected and unique fashion, moving us beyond our usual perspective.
I have had kaleidoscopic (or kaleidophonic?) experiences with a number of the songs in this playlist, but let me recount just one, the so-called “Sukiyaki Song,” as an example:
I was riding alone with my father in the family car, circa 1963, at about age 7 or 8, on our way to the Perry County Golf Course, when I first heard “Sukiyaki” (or “Ue o Muite” by Kyu Sakamoto). Even now, 50 years later, I recall how impressed I was by the arrangement, by the singer’s sweet voice and amazing whistling, and by his words, in a language I had never heard:
Ue o muite arukou
Namida ga kobore naiyouni
Hitoribotchi no yoru….
While I couldn’t understand the lyrics, hearing such a song, one that was both “foreign” and yet familiar at the same time, startled me — turning my world upside down, a fact that might be reflected in me eventually residing in Japan for 17 years, and in the way that the Sukiyaki melody has stayed with me (and with millions of other listeners) all these years.
Other songs in this set provide the listener with the same sort of exhilaration. Reach into the depths of Jeff Buckley’s passion as he presents the Cohen classic “Hallelujah” or imbibe the elegaic beauty of Paul Desmond’s alto sax in the “Theme from ‘Black Orpheus’,” and contemplate the impact that these songs have had on listeners since their release. Ride on the melodic waves created between Niladri Kumar’s sitar strokes and Talvin Singh’s beats in “River” or on the chanting pulse of The Congos mystical “Congoman,” and try not to be moved! Then sing along with Francis Magalona in “Kaleidoscope World,” and see if you don’t feel part of the Big Picture.
Whether by inciting an “aha” moment, initiating a series of inescapable body gyrations, or simply giving a person pause from the daily routine, many a song has such potential. That’s the bewildering power of music.
Check out this varied set, and see if you agree. And as always, enjoy!