February 8, 2008

Zambia: Music From the Official CIDA Intern Soundtrack

With an MP3 player, decent bandwidth, satellite radio and city full of people that are perpetually (sometimes annoyingly) listening to music, there's been a certain soundtrack to the intern experience. Below are the ones I know for sure; most Zambian songs blend together into one Nyanja/Bemba pop blob and I can’t be bothered to find out the track names of office gospel anthems.

1. M.I.A. - "Paper Planes"
Given my distaste for Zambian immigration, the "If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name" line and multiple gunshot sounds fuelled a dark fantasy of murderous omnipotence at customs.

2. Akon - "Don't Matter"
Sung along to poorly in at least three different countries. Is this song as stupidly popular in Canada? Belt it out and people will join in, guaranteed.

3. Sean Kingston - "Beautiful Girls"

This song had me feeling suicidal at times. Catchy, though.

4. Kanye West - "Stronger"
The song that made me so desperate to download music that I found the Russian $.15/track dealy (www.mp3sale.ru).

5. J Dilla (ft. Pharoahe Monch) - "Love"

Asthmatic solidarity and admiration for Monch's singy-rap over one of Dilla's best beats. Props to SC for the heads-up.

6. Lucky Dube - "Slave"
First real African (Akon doesn't count) on the list. A sentimental choice as the poorly-named Lucky was murdered in October just as I was getting into his music. Pour one out for a Lusaka taxi legend.

7. Saul Williams - "Tr(n)igger"
Politically incorrect for Caucasians to like, but a stellar hype track for running or general stress relief.

8. Foo Fighters - "Next Year (live)"
Besides the lyrics applying to my temporal situation, I liked the accordion they threw in on the Skin & Bones live version.

9. Danny - "Kaya"
The song most likely to drift over the wall from Kalingalinga (the upscale slum close to my place) when I'm trying to sleep. Crazy Zambians all hopped up on shake shake.

10. Lupe Fiasco - "Paris, Tokyo"
Globalization, a mention of Africa and the challenges of maintaining long-distance relationships. Relevant much?

11. Jay-Z - "Party Life"
"When you're used to fillet mignon it's hard to go back to Hamburger Helper." Indeed. But what about the other way around?

12. Timbaland (ft. Justin Timberlake) – “Apologize”

After initially despising this song, I found myself singing it in the bathroom after hearing it about five times during a recent night out. Embarrassing perhaps, but worthy of inclusion.

13. Amy Winehouse – “He Can Only Hold Her”
There’s something about this whole album that’s just meal-makin’ music. We tried it at the Scottage in the summer before I left and it caught on.

14. 9th Wonder – “Sun is in the Sky (Instrumental)”

With three months of straight-up sunshine in Lusaka, this soulful instrumental from a favourite hip-hop producer became an early anthem.

15. Pharoahe Monch – “Desire”

The title track from my favourite rap album of 2007. “Who am I? The poetical pastor/Slave to a label but I own my masters”

16. Seu Jorge - "Team Zissou"
Not one of his more famous David Bowie covers, but full of Latiny goodness. Hard to believe this guy is Knockout Ned from City of God. Going to South America next.

17. Dangerdoom (ft. Talib Kweli) – “Old School”
“I draw on anything for inspiration/A fond memory, a piece of paper, walls in a train station/It’s just that I’m Old School like that/Roll that rap over soul loops like that”

18. Tom Petty - "You Don't Know How it Feels"
An odd list-ender, perhaps, but it's what reminds me most of the 'Classic Rock' station on satellite radio, the usual setting for barbecues and house parties. This classic sing-a-long TP track seemed to be in rotation every time, bring a spirit of togetherness to housemates and bewilderment to neighbours.


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