“This Time I Won’t Forget” by KONGOS (2014)

25 04 2015

KONGOS is a band from South Africa, all brothers with the last name “Kongos.” Their dad was a famous musician back in the day, and judging by how tight and driving their music is, I’m guessing they spent a lot of time playing music together as they grew up.

You’ve probably heard their big hit, “Come With Me Now,” with its manic, infectious groove, but their album has many sonic dimensions, often incorporating elements of traditional music from southern Africa.

I think “This Time I Won’t Forget” is my favorite on the album. It’s a haunting aria about loss. Something everyone can relate to:

“Oh, I will try
But I tell you it ain’t easy using only words
And so I’ll begin
But I’ll start at the end, the day I said so long my friend”

But it’s not just a sad song about lost loved ones. It’s also an affirmation of life:

“Cause now I’m alive
I’m taking my first breath
Oh I’m alive
And this time I won’t forget”

Sad, beautiful, and uplifting. These are the songs that last, and I think this song will and should seep into many souls.


“Radio Africa” by Latin Quarter (1985)

6 01 2010

This track is usually close at hand, as it has been since I first heard it. I adore the urgent, reggae groove and the spacious, melodic sound of it. That’s what attracted me to it initially, giving me a chance to absorb the words, which really opened my eyes. This is a perfect example of how music helped enlighten me.

I spent some time in the Middle East, and a friend there introduced me to this British band, Latin Quarter, and their album “Modern Times”. I think it’s pretty amazing, really: A curious American, while in the MidEast, first hears a British band with a latin name singing about Africa using a reggae style from Jamaica. How awesome is that?

If you have music in your heart, you have something to share with everyone on this planet.

Anyway, I didn’t really understand the lyrics when I first heard them, but I eventually looked up all the references out of curiosity (my major vice). And that little bit of effort taught me a lot about Africa, its people, and its history. And it made me realize that there’s so much more to learn.

“Mozambique and Mugabe
Still got Frelimo I hear them say
But “Exchange” means…
“Recession” means,
It all means “Harder to take”
Tanzania should be moving up a gear
Instead they’ve got to step on the brake.”


“Cap In Hand” by The Proclaimers (1988)

11 12 2009

You have a magnificent sliver of Scotland in your blood, thanks to your grandma. If you want to fill your beautiful mind with some great history, read about Scotland and its people. There are deep, complex, political and cultural issues that linger, particularly that of nationalism and independence from the UK.

You have Scottish, Irish, and English ancestors. Maybe your generation can work it all out. Sorry to lay that on you, but I have hope that you and your friends will be more enlightened than my generation has turned out to be.

Anyway, I adore The Proclaimers. They are most known in the U.S. as the band that gave us “(I Would Walk) 500 miles,” which I think appeared on at least 473 film, TV, and commercial soundtracks (NICE job, lads!). And you’ll recognize them from “Shrek” as well. But these twins make consistently good music, with very strong and human lyrics.

This song really rocks my boat. We might not get all the regional references, but the overall message is sound and profound: Why do we allow ourselves to be exploited and controlled by people who don’t care about us? Sure, they’re singing about Scotland, but the same is true for most of us, isn’t it?

Can you hear the sting of conviction and passionate resolve in the chorus? Especially as it intensifies each time? I’ll bet your college fund that you’re singing along with them in the end:

“But I can’t understand why we let someone else rule our land
Cap in hand.”

When are we going to wake up and control our own destiny? When are we going to wake up and control our own resources?

(thanks to AidanSmart for the great YouTube upload with lyrics…..)

“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash (1972)

12 08 2009

If I were forced—say, at gunpoint—to name my top ten favorite songs of all time, this might be one of them. I absolutely adore the sound, the nimble reggae beat, and the Atlantic Records-esque soul vibe. But most of all, I dig the pure, unadulterated joy of this track. If this song doesn’t make you happy—at least for a moment—it’s time to see a professional.

Every once in a while you have some good fortune. Maybe it comes after a long period of drudgery, or regret, or poor health. Sometimes you get some great news that turns everything around. Or maybe it’s more subtle: one morning, you wake up and you feel a little bit better. And you want to celebrate.

It’s time for this track by Mr. Nash. An audio vitamin.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sunshiny day!

(Thanks MicroNik95 for the YouTube upload with the great pics)

“Orinoco Flow” by Enya (1988)

2 08 2009

They say music soothes the savage breast (and it is “breast,” not “beast”). And I agree. It’s one of my few convictions. I use music to soothe my savage breast all the time. And there’s plenty of music to soothe even the most savage, Cheney-esque breast

For a brief but intense time, Enya’s music really helped me out. During the “first” Gulf “War,” and as an airman with little time to himself, Enya’s music gave me some peace. Surrounded by patriotic anthems and pounding rock/country/metal incitements to violence and mindless jingoism, I could retreat to my little compact disc player, and spin some Enya.

Enya’s Celtic and classical pop is truly beautiful. Layers and layers of vocals and strings surround terrific melodies.

If you ever need to soothe something savage, check out Enya.

“Evangeline” by Los Lobos (1984)

19 06 2009

Sometimes narrowly defined as a “Chicano rock” band, Los Lobos was amazingly diverse, merging many different styles of music into their own wonderful sound. I hope you get to hear their records in their entirety, including the record from which this track comes, “Will the Wolf Survive?” These gents are fine musicians, and obviously very passionate about their music.

We’re lucky in California to have so many vibrant cultures, and to have people who are so receptive to other ways of life and of expression. It’s a shame that some people close their minds to so-called “ethnic” things, whether it’s music or food or languages or whatever seems different.

As far as I’m concerned, Los Lobos is one kick-ass American band.

With “Evangeline” you can hear how Los Lobos can rock with the best of ’em. Now check out how well they play traditional instruments and folk tunes from Mexico, courtesy of an appearance on Sesame Street:

“Start Wearing Purple” by Gogol Bordello (1999)

29 04 2009

Gogol Bordello’s music is energizing, fun, and always a pleasure to hear. Formed in New York by folks with roots in Eastern Europe, they play a rowdy blend of gypsy rock and roll. And they play it very, very enthusiastically, which is terrific. This is the kind of band you want to see live, at least once in your life.

Listen to this a few times and see if you don’t want to “Start Wearing Purple” yourself.