Making a polyglot mixtape for a sweetheart
August 2, 2010 3:22 AM   Subscribe

Mixtape filter: I'm making a mixtape with songs in as many languages as possible. I think I've got English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Yiddish, French, and Hebrew covered, so now I'm looking for some less-easy stuff. The mixtape is for a sweetheart.

What are some songs or bands that you love, recorded in less-easy-to-find languages? I'm open to all non-English suggestions, but I'd especially love to include some curveballs like, I dunno, Urdu.

Important general mixtape criterion: I still have to like the music and find it personally meaningful somehow. So I guess it's best to limit your suggestions to things you'd put on a mixtape. And if you could explain what the song is about, that would also be great. I speak English, Spanish, and German...after that, not so much.

The mixtape is for someone I'm in love with, if that helps filter your suggestions a bit. So lovey music is encouraged, but it's not exclusively what I'm looking for.

As another possible starting point: I love any kind of brass band, old-time American music, French love songs from the 30s, klezmer and other similarly-modal music, Erik Satie... That's just to give you an idea of my personal taste; any genre is ok.

Bonus if you can direct me to a free (legal, of COURSE!) online source for said music.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Rue St. Vincent
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:28 AM on August 2, 2010

DaiQing Tana (Mongolian?)
posted by querty at 3:34 AM on August 2, 2010

"I love any kind of brass band... klezmer and other similarly-modal music..."

Then you need:
the Golec Orkiestra - Ściernisko
Bregovic & Kayah - Prawy Do Lewego

They are good because they are Polish, and they've got soul.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:39 AM on August 2, 2010

Jaan Pehechan Ho is in Hindi. It's from an old Indian film but also turned up in Ghost World.
posted by permafrost at 3:40 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

better link - first one had shitty sound: Prawy do Lewego
posted by Meatbomb at 3:44 AM on August 2, 2010

swahili: malaika

Naku-penda malaika

i do you-love angel

this video has subtitles to explain
posted by compound eye at 3:53 AM on August 2, 2010

Yolanda Be Cool - No Speak Americano is in the Napolitan dialect (Italian).
posted by ellieBOA at 3:55 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pink Martini's album Hang on Little Tomato includes a song in Croatian.
posted by vacapinta at 3:56 AM on August 2, 2010

Fun Boy Three did a version of Our Lips Are Sealed in Urdu - it was a B-side but I think is now available on various best-ofs. It's one of my favourite songs in English (both versions) and the string instruments on it are rather lovely.

The Ukranians were a band who did Ukranian covers of Smiths songs (one member was in The Wedding Present, who did an English language mini-album of songs from Ukraine).

What about made-up languages? Sigur Ros sing in Hopelandish, a fusion of English, Icelandic and gibberish. Magma also use a made-up tongue. They#re more about mood than meaning, in that case, but Sigur Ros are beautiful.

There will be tons of reggae/lover's rock records in Creole and patois, so you can take your pick there.
posted by mippy at 3:56 AM on August 2, 2010

If you want to fit some funky disco in there, try Poi E by the Patea Maori Club.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 4:03 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I believe Tarkan sings in Turkish. I don't see any Japanese on here so far -- I'm no expert, but I expect there's a boatload of Japanese-language songs in any musical style you can think of.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:07 AM on August 2, 2010

Doe Maar - 32 Jaar (Sinds 1 Dag of 2) (Dutch and very '80s)
posted by neushoorn at 4:16 AM on August 2, 2010

For Chinese, I'm a big far of Jay Chou generally, so I'm going to throw out "Love Before AD" (Translation here).

Alternatively, little closer to your theme:
S.H.E. - "Chinese" - an upbeat song with bits of rap made up of Chinese tongue twisters, about the world learning to speak Chinese in wake of China's rising importance on the global stage. A little bit nationalistic if you listen closely, but mostly just a lot of fun.

Japanese: a whacked out J-rock cover of "Locomotion". Not too related to your theme, but I thought it was fun.
posted by Phire at 4:18 AM on August 2, 2010

I dunno if this will be to your taste, but Te Vaka rock.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:21 AM on August 2, 2010

I'm very fond of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, a 90s band who sang in a mixture of Welsh and English. I think a good one for your mix would be Merched Yn Neud Gwallt Eu Gilydd (Girls Doing Each Other's Hair) with its "We ain't got school in the morning, baby" refrain (in English), there's a translation of the lyrics here. The Super Furry Animals are a better known Welsh group, who released a whole album (Mewn) in Welsh, which has a sort of psychedelic feel.

I've also recently been listening to Dengue Fever, a Los Angeles band, also with a 60s psychedelia feel, who sing in English and Khmer. Their best song (Tiger Phone Card) is in English, but it's worth visiting their Myspace and listening to the other songs.
posted by featherboa at 4:24 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Persone are one of the best bands in the Esperanto language scene (you can check it out here or download some of their earlier work on free torrents on their site). Legit for-sale mp3s here.
posted by graymouser at 4:49 AM on August 2, 2010

There are a million international genre compilations--the World Psychedelic Classics and Love, Peace & Poetry series, a bunch of African comps (e.g. the Ethiopiques and Nigeria Special series), etc.

From how you describe your tastes, I think the Mississippi Records I Don't Feel at Home in this World Any More compilation, and the Honest Jon's Delta Dandies: Dance Bands in Nigeria compilation, would be rewarding places to start listening.
posted by box at 4:50 AM on August 2, 2010

Perhaps something from Angelique Kidjo? Youssou N'Dour? Or (an old favorite) Youssou N'Dour performing "In Your Eyes" with Peter Gabriel? Maybe you'd rather try The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices?
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:55 AM on August 2, 2010

Warszawa jest smutny bez ciebie - Warsaw is sad without you - is a song about two lovers separated, so maybe a little sad, but still love-y.
posted by mdonley at 5:07 AM on August 2, 2010

Benyamin is the bees-knees in Iran. (He sings in Persian.)

Chris Chameleon is a folk singer who sings in Afrikaans and is just pretty much awesome. I use pretty much any excuse I can to get "Klein Klein Jakkalsies" onto a mixtape.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:28 AM on August 2, 2010

Sondre Lerche has a track in Norwegian on Duper Sessions---#14. It is a Jazzy number.
posted by chiefthe at 5:34 AM on August 2, 2010

Oh man, how could I forget Hjálmar?! Icelandic reggae. Way better than it has any right to be.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:46 AM on August 2, 2010

The song from here is Swedish, and you can find the MP3 I believe through a link on the bottom to their myspace page. Chorus is (roughly): "I can't dance, I can't dance as nice as you", and I'm 75% sure the rest is a cutesy love song.
posted by Grither at 5:54 AM on August 2, 2010

If you're looking for an infectious pop-y song in Esperanto, you could do worse than "Li Kantu," by Les Sans Culottes.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:52 AM on August 2, 2010

Panda Swedish psych rock from Dungen
Det Snurrar I Min Skalle Swedish electro pop from Familjen
Pelina bouncy Kenyan guitars. from Oriango & Kipchamba. The second side of that album with Charles A. Chepkwony is pretty rad, too.
posted by clockwork at 7:03 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I Love You For What You Are" from the movie Aap Ki Khatir is pretty rad. The hook is sung in English, does that disqualify it? (The soundtrack also has a dance remix, which I don't like as much as the movie version.)

How about "Choose Me Or Die" by Tommy February6? It's lovey in its way...
posted by mintcake! at 7:09 AM on August 2, 2010

Anything from the Sublime Frequencies catalogue. My fifteen year-old music snob inner self is hating my present day self for giving away such a juicy tidbit, but it's all about the copying and the sharing now, innit? Anyway, I can personally vouch for Siamese Soul: Thai Pop Spectacular Vol. 2 and Omar Souleyman: Highway to Hassake (Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria).

Seconding box's suggestion above, especially the Peace & Poetry comps. Turkey is wild!
posted by Chichibio at 7:16 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

European languages don't come any obscurer than faroese. Teitur is a singer-songwriter who usually sings in english, but his album Káta hornið is well worth it.
posted by Sourisnoire at 7:20 AM on August 2, 2010

If you consider Cajun French its own language, then you might consider a Cajun song, especially something from BeauSoleil.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:53 AM on August 2, 2010

Japanese: The Neutral - Chibi to Futoccho no Koi no Hanashi (ちびとふとっちょの恋の話)

Chibi to Futoccho no Koi no Hanashi (Shortie and Pudgie's Love Story)

You and me, me and you, shortie and pudgie's love story.

I'm a little bit pudgie and a bit worried about my the future. I tired quickly of the mail order exercise equipment I bought and now can't even find it. As for my diet, I eat yogurt and take well-balanced supplements. So why, why oh why does cellulite appear on my upper arms?

You and me, me and you, shortie and pudgie's love story.

I'm a little on the short side. For example, I have to stand on my tiptoes to kiss. When I was a kid I always yearned to but never could mae-narae[1]. As for my diet I eat yogurt, niboshi[2], milk and hijiki[3] and tofu. I have no likes or dislikes I just love my healthy calcium!

You and me, me and you, shortie and pudgie's love story.

We fell in love on a very sunny day in April. If we ever have a child they will be short AND pudgie!

You and me, me and you, shortie and pudgie's love story.

What I love about you is not your large, swaying breasts, but your delicate heart which is fragile and more sensitive than anyone else's. What I love about you is not how adorable you are but how when I feel weak you envelop me in such a great, big love.

You and me, me and you, shortie and pudgie's love story. (x2)

Shortie and pudgie's love story. (x4)

Translation Notes
[1]Mae-narae - For gym class and other events Japanese school children line up by class and then according to height, shortest in the front, tallest in the back. The put their arms out to to judge how far away they should be from the person in front of them. He is lamenting that is was always in the very front and never got to stick is arms out lol.
[2]Niboshi - Little dried sardines. Full of calcium.
[3]Hijiki - A type of seaweed, also full of calcium.

(Translation cribbed from my friend's locked lj post about the song)
posted by emmling at 8:10 AM on August 2, 2010

Michel Macias has several tracks sung in Occitan.

Movits sing in Swedish.

Sultana sings Delerium's Forever After in Turkish.
posted by jet_silver at 8:20 AM on August 2, 2010

I believe Tarkan sings in Turkish.

Yeah, I was coming in here to say Tarkan for Turkish. His most famous song is "Kiss Kiss", as translated for and covered by Holly Valance:
posted by benzo8 at 8:24 AM on August 2, 2010

From West Africa, I'd suggest:
Youssou N'dour - Couple's Choice (Wolof)
Baaba Mal - Yoolelle (sample) or Njilou (Pulaar)
Juldeh Camara and Justin Adams - Ya Ta Kaaya or Fulani Coochie Man (Fulani)
posted by itstheclamsname at 9:01 AM on August 2, 2010

Lisa Ekdahl's "Vem Vet"

(video contains Swedish + English lyrics)
posted by ymendel at 9:35 AM on August 2, 2010

On the hip hop tip there's that track by Karmacy, which according to the YT writeup "is probably the first rap song to seamlessly blend 5 different languages together: English, Spanish, Hindi, Gujarati and Punjabi." Hip hop is amazingly global.
posted by Chichibio at 10:47 AM on August 2, 2010

Aik Larki Ko Dekha from 1942 A Love Story, in Urdu/Hindi.
posted by bardophile at 10:57 AM on August 2, 2010

Esau Mwamwaya made a great mixtape (wiki page with a direct download link) in which he sings covers in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi.

Huun Huur Tu and Carmen Rizzo teamed up for an album blending singing in Tuvan and throat singing with "electro-acoustic" music with beautiful results.

Tanya Tagaq is an Inuit throat singer who works with other musicians, including Mike Patton and Buck 65.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2010

Vesna (Spring) by 5nizza. The song is in Russian but the band was Ukrainian. It's all accoustic ska / reggae / boss nova. Pretty much everthing they did was amazing. Their biggest hit was Ja Soldat (I'm a soldier).
posted by juva at 11:26 AM on August 2, 2010

How about Clannad for Irish/Gaelic. I think my favorite album of theirs is Lore.

Douglas Spotted Eagle is a Navajo flautist and songwriter - his album Voices probably has the most vocals involved, though sometimes it's speaking or chanting, not so much lyrical singing. (Try "My Little One," "Walk In Beauty" or "I Miss You.")
posted by dnash at 12:22 PM on August 2, 2010

"Confians", a very pretty song from Weather Report's Sportin' Life. It's in a Creole dialect.
posted by ldenneau at 1:26 PM on August 2, 2010

Rachid Taha has many songs in Arabic, mixing Middle Eastern and Rock music. He does more political songs than love songs, but I'm fond of "Shuf" from the Tekitoi album, which seems to be basically about "look at this woman, she's beautiful, oh and if you honor and love her she'll honor and love you in return."

Souad Massi is another popular Arabic singer. Ghir Enta is a love song. Here is a translation.

Mina Maneira by Emma Salokoski is a peppy jazz love song in Finnish.

Kitty Hoff & Foret Noire do bossa-nova/jazz in German. I couldn't find lyrics for the songs I have, and my German is terrible, so I can't help you there.

If you like retro, and you like Japanese, then there are millions of enka love songs to choose from. Millions and millions. Big names include Misora Hibari and Sayuri Ishikawa. I have a lot of enka, but my Japanese is bad, so it would take some time to pick out particular songs - would you be interested?

And, of course, Bollywood is a rich field for love songs in Hindi and, sometimes, other Indian languages like Tamil. If you express any interest in it, I'll try to pick out particular songs.

Do you have any particular language that you're looking for? I tag all of my music with the language it's in, if I know it, so it's rather easy for me to look to see if I have anything for a particular language. I have a lot of music in languages other than English, so just trying to pick out particular recommendations is a little overwhelming... I have stuff from Ainu to Vietnamese!
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:48 PM on August 2, 2010

Important general mixtape criterion: I still have to like the music and find it personally meaningful somehow. So I guess it's best to limit your suggestions to things you'd put on a mixtape

Something tells me that the above was not meant to be contradictory.

Try vout.
posted by rhizome at 3:07 PM on August 2, 2010

There are tons of good Bollywood love songs in Hindi/Urdu (a personal favorite of mine is "Dil Cheez Kya Hai?" [English: What thing is the heart?] from the movie Umrao Jaan), but given your fondness for brass bands, you might appreciate the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band more. JKBB play the kind of music you'd find at a north-west Indian wedding, and the lyrics are in Hindi/Rajasthani.
posted by bookish at 4:20 PM on August 2, 2010

When I think about the most beautiful love songs I know, the ones that run through my head are sung in Hawaiian. Here's one that might fit your criteria and your situation: Pua Lilia. The linked version is my favorite, sung by The Sunday Manoa. Lyrics and some background on the original composer here.

A note on kaona: most traditional Hawaiian love songs have at least two meanings. There is the literal translation, which usually consists of fairly innocuous nature references, and then there's the "hidden message" - the kaona - which is the composer's true, slightly mischievous message to his muse. And that message is almost always very sexual. Some of the most beautiful Hawaiian songs have G-rated lyrics, but when you know the kaona they are in fact fantastically pornographic.
posted by krippledkonscious at 5:43 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gid du var i Skanderborg by Dorthe Kollo. It's Danish and it's great.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:53 PM on August 2, 2010

Japanese / English (and very catchy) - Pizzicato Five - Happy Sad!
posted by Terheyden at 10:58 PM on August 2, 2010

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