I find I often listen to songs in languages I don’t understand.
I don’t understand any of the lyrics, but I enjoy the song. I wonder why this is. Perhaps it makes me focus on the tune and the music only. It’s great fun. So here is a list of some songs I like very much, in languages I don’t speak. Maybe you’d like them, especially if you do happen to know the language.
- ‘O Priya Priya’, Telugu, from the film Geethanjali (1989).
The song is pictured rather foolishly, but is a moving melody, I think. I just found out the same tune was stolen for the Hindi film Dil, but listen to the original Telugu.
- ‘Lotayla’. Sung by Sally Edwards.
This song we discovered on a CD called ‘Hot & Spicy Chutney’ – it had a collection of Indian and Caribbean songs, which demonstrated the similarities in languages and culture. Anyone who knows Hindi will recognise words in ‘Lotayla’ like bhaiyya aur bauji, samjhay, phool, etc., but will be hard-pressed to actually make sense of a single line. I’m not sure exactly which language the song is in; it may be Guyanese or another creole tongue. At any rate, we so rarely hear words ending in the short ‘a’ sound (like the ‘a’ in flat) that the word lotayla is intriguing enough to give the song a listen.
- ‘Jallantha’, Telugu, also from Geethanjali.
- ‘Oho Megam Vanthatho’, Tamil, from the film Mouna Ragam (1986).
I have a weakness for rain songs (see here), and this one strikes me as particularly ‘modern’: I mean, I think it could be passed off as a song from a recent film, as opposed to being thirty years old!
- ‘Malargal Kaettaen’, Tamil, from the film O Kadhal Kanmani (2015).
‘Malargal Kaettaen’ is love song that doubles up as a bhajan. While it is a song I loved from the first few times I heard it, I like it even more now that I’ve found out what it means (cheating? Perhaps). You can, too, here.
- ‘Bawshonto Eshe Geche’, Bengali, from the film Chotushkone (2014).
- ‘Bhaavayaami Gopaalabaalam’, Sanskrit, from the album Sri Thallapaka Annamacharya Samkirtanas.
A devotional song, this is a hymn to Krishna that features M.S. Subbulakshmi’s unusual vocals.
- ‘La Bamba’, Spanish, from the album Ritchie Valens.
The version of this fantastic song I give you here is possibly its most famous adaptation, by Ritchie Valens.
- ‘Ekla Cholo Re’, Bengali, from the film Kahaani (2012).
This is an old Tagore song, about walking your own path; it was sung by Amitabh Bachchan, with additional Hindi and English lyrics, for Kahaani. I know the theme, of course, of the song, but little else. And yet, it gives me goosebumps.
- ‘Ikk Kudi’, Punjabi, from the film Udta Punjab (2016).
Since it’s Punjabi, I do follow brief lines; but largely, the lyrics are beyond me. The film produced three versions of the song, I give you the duet (which is the ‘club mix’); but do listen to the other two, they are as moving.
And that’s a small list of some of my favourite songs whose lyrics I don’t understand. That doesn’t stop me from singing along, though.