Monday, January 02, 2017

The Soundtrack to My 2016

There are, of course, a million expressions, phrases and clichés about the power of music to trigger memories and take you back to certain places you’d either forgotten or perhaps hoped to have forgetten. For any number of reasons 2016 was a strange year for the world and for me personally. As much as I agree with Russell Kane’s ‘Kaneing’ on how one day’s difference in the calendar won’t change the world, I am glad to be hitting the metaphorical reset button.

That said, there are a group of songs that have spent a substantial time getting played on my Apple Music account over the previous 12 months – some of them are from 2016, some older, but I have only discovered them in 2016.

Aicha by Cheb Khaled

When I arrived in Essaouira, Morocco and had found my way to the Atlantic Hostel, I was looking forward to heading to the beach, eating seafood and continuing to slowly burn my skin. What I didn’t account for in Morocco’s ‘windy city’ (as the older of two Khalids at the hostel called it) was the weather; rain and thick Londonesque fog.

On the second night, with the mood on the roof terrace a little sedate thanks to the cold fog, the chef, Couscous, declared he was preparing food for everyone. Great news. I’d had a day of eating next to nothing thanks to a fault with the all the ATM in the medina.

Around twenty minutes into a meal of couscous, vegetables and lamb, with everyone still being a bit low-key, Couscous played a song I’d never heard before that was greeted with a rousing singalong from a group of French, Algerian and Moroccan travellers.

I later found out it was Algerian singer Cheb Khaled’s 1996 song Aicha and I’ve pretty much been unable to get the song out of my head ever since, however appalling my students say my French pronunciation may be.



Up&Up by Coldplay

Since Viva La Vida I had paid little or no attention to Coldplay. One day on the Underground I saw a colourful poster for their album A Head Full of Dreams. Visually and lyrically the first couple of singles seemed a bit too ‘Gap Year’ for a 32 year old, but were catchy enough and the album played a part in keeping me upbeat about my impending travels to Morocco alone.

The highlights of the album appear at the end in the form of Army of One and Up&Up. A few days after first listening to the album, a student said, “the new Coldplay video just dropped. Can we watch it?” With crazy visuals, its chorus singalong that includes Beyoncé and a guitar solo from Noel Gallagher and a message of positivity, I found it hard not to overplay it. 





Consequence of Love by Gregory Porter

Although I had heard of Gregory Porter and even watched an interview with him on Sunday Brunch one weekend, I’d not listened to any of his music. One Sunday, driving somewhere in Essex, Jonesy put on the album Take Me to the Alley. I was struck by the warmth of Porter’s vocals and the excellent musicianship of his band.

In reality, I could have picked any song from the album to be on this list, but I went for the sentimentality of Consequence of Love. The strength of the songwriting and the slow soulful , but safe dissonance of his brand of jazz lends the music a nocturnal feel, like a late show at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho. This is perfect music for the very end of a long day, regardless of your mood or temperament.



If I had a Gun… by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

After the break-up of Oasis, I hadn’t really given either Gallagher brother much attention. I had bought Beady Eye’s first album, but had only heard a couple of the High Flying Birds' songs.

As 2016 rolled on, the fallout of the EU Referendum had swept the UK, there was a lack of clarity over the next steps, Donald Trump’s election campaign seemed to have all the momentum, life was rubbish and the world seemed a mess.

I noticed a song on Noel Gallagher’s 2011 album that had, as its title at least, a sentiment I shared: If I had a Gun…

Of course, after listening to it, you realise that it is a love song (of sorts) and seems to carry with it a message of hope for a heartbreak to end, set against a typically Noel Gallagher musical backdrop. This is why we should always look out for an ellipsis. 




The rest… 
There were of course plenty of songs that played a part in 2016 for me. A more complete playlist can be found on Apple Music here. It includes: OneRepublic, who I'd seen in concert at the Apple Music Festival, Coldplay at their most poetic (Midnight), a song that will forever haunt Yusuf (Escape aka The Pina Colada Song), a song that will forever remind me of the comedy of late night motorcycle taxi rides in Kigali (Drake – Hotline Bling) and the happy return of Empire of the Sun (High and Low).

2 comments:

Tukamushaba Phionah said...

That's great. When music speaks to us in our current circumstances and it brings a connection beyond a song to life experiences, leaving a remarkable mark and good memories!!! Music has a voice!!!

T.S. Ó Ceallaigh said...

Thanks Phionnah!

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