Recommendations for music with non-English lyrics
February 8, 2016 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my semi-annual quest for new music. Looking for relatively fast-paced music sung in languages other than English. Bonus if I can purchase via Bandcamp (or any other site that does a (relatively) good job of getting money to musicians.

For example, I just bought Daora- Underground Sounds of Urban Brasil. I'm open to all non-English languages and pretty much all genres. No need to stick to new releases either. (The language stipulation is so I can listen to music while dissertating - I find I lose track of sentences when I can follow the lyrics too easily... This actually might disqualify Korean language musicians but I'd be excited to get recommendations anyway!)
posted by spamandkimchi to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
They are hardly new but if you don't listen to Mano Negra you may want to listen to Mano Negra, or any of Manu Chao's solo stuff.
posted by phunniemee at 12:52 PM on February 8, 2016

I've been listening to a lot of old French music recently. Tony Murena, Gus Viseur, and the like. I get a kick out of it, but it's probably an acquired taste for most people.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:01 PM on February 8, 2016

You should look up Dengue Fever (the band, not the horrible mosquito borne virus). The band is from the west coast but the lead singer is Cambodian. Not only do they do original material in Khmer, but a lot of covers of classic Cambodian rock.
So I don't know a lot about Bandcamp, but they are definitely on spotify. You can at least preview them there if necessary.
posted by grazer at 1:53 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also: Angelique Kidjo.
posted by phunniemee at 1:56 PM on February 8, 2016

Peter fox -
Seeed -
German reggae/hip hop/Rock

Amadou and Mariam -
Duo out of Mali

Stromae -
Belgian hip hop/electronic
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 2:01 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, I forgot: Cornershop!
posted by kevinbelt at 2:11 PM on February 8, 2016

Ringa Ringa by A.R. Rahman
posted by soelo at 3:20 PM on February 8, 2016

Hmm, fast-paced music.

Try some Russian:

Винтаж (Vintazh)
Ева - Винтаж
Когда рядом ты - Винтаж
Вселенная - Винтаж
Инфанта - Винтаж
Роман - Винтаж

Some Uzbek:
Qo'llar tepaga - Shahzoda
Biz Yagona - Shahzoda
Kechalar - Shahzoda

Some Tajik:
Sabza ba Naz - Shabnam Surayyo, Jonibek Murodov, Khaled Kayhan (this might be in Dari, not in Tajik. But 2 of the singers are Tajik and Khaled Kayhan is Afghan.)
Niginam - Jonibek Murodov
Dar Intizori - Noziyai Karomatullo

Some Turkmen:
Ayterek Gunterek - Myahri Pirgulyyewa
Ynananok - MaRo

Some Nigerian:
Mama Africa - Bracket but you might end up singing because there are some English lyrics

And finally, some Ghanaian:
Pooley - Guru
posted by rozaine at 3:33 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

SVPER - La Melodía del Afilador

The whole album is on Soundcloud, surprisingly. But if you'd like to give them money, here it is on Bandcamp.
posted by O9scar at 4:05 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about some Estonian a cappella?

Vihma Loits by Greip is pretty awesome. Downloadable here (the top link priced €9.49 is for the full album, you can buy the track alone a little further down the page where it says Hind: €0.95)
posted by penguin pie at 4:18 PM on February 8, 2016

Tokyo Karankoron is my favorite band at the moment. Japanese power-pop but very unpredictable and veers into rock and other territory without ever losing their sense of fun. Most of it isn't available on US iTunes/Amazon but you can listen to the excellent Go Nin No Entertainers on Bandcamp (the first track starts with a weird doo-wop a capella intro but keep listening). They are also an awesome live band judging by some DVDs I got recently. Here's a sample video on I wouldn't call them J-Pop though - much more interesting than that. So many hooks ...
posted by freecellwizard at 5:13 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sabza Ba Naz is indeed in Dari/Persian, my preferred version is this one by Niyaz.

More from Niyaz, who are also on Bandcamp:
The Hunt (Persian)

By Kiosk, who also have a bunch of other relatively fast-paced songs (they're on emusic, don't know about any other services): Yarom Bia (Persian)

Tinariwen are on Bandcamp and emusic, and sing in Tamashek:

There are a lot of songs from Bollywood movies that would fit your criteria, though not sure about where best to acquire/stream them. Just off the top of my head:
Nagada Sang Dhol
Dola Re Dola
posted by yasaman at 5:32 PM on February 8, 2016

Prins Polo sings in Icelandic:

Hamstra sjarma

París Norðursins

Icelandic Downloads (also available at Amazon digital and iTunes, I think)
posted by baseballpajamas at 5:37 PM on February 8, 2016

Hah, I did the same thing when I was writing my dis. Here are some artists I listened to at the time, though they may not be upbeat enough for you. No idea if they're on bandcamp.

Bulgarian women's choir
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:07 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I definitely second Stromae and Amadou et Mariam. Dengue Fever and Manu Chao are great but they are not exclusively non-English.

Most of my recs are South American or African.
Also adding: Bombino, Rokia Traore, Astro, Che Sudaka, Cafe Tacuba, Chancho en Piedra, Bomba Estereo, Issa Bagayoyo, Mexican Institute of Sound, Zoe, Hello Seahorse, Ali Farka Toure, Carsick Cars
posted by arachnidette at 8:51 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some bouncy Bollywood songs might work for this. I recommend the soundtracks of Dil Chahta Hai, Main Hoon Na, some songs from Aaja Nachle (especially Soniye Mil Ja, Show Me Your Jalwa and O Re Piya) and Dil Se.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:17 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

The previous link I posted was in Russian. The one below is Japanese. It's Babymetal:
posted by I-baLL at 3:53 AM on February 9, 2016

Swedish: Kent (some stuff is in English but not much). Håkan Hellström (sometimes unbearably precious but ymmv).

Turkish: Mor ve Otesi (plenty of albums all of which are pretty good. I don't speak Turkish but I think they are awesome).

Danish: I love Love Shop (song title NSFW) but they may not be fast-paced enough for you. Sys Bjerre makes fun pop with attitude and a queer flavour.
posted by kariebookish at 6:19 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Omar Souleyman - Wenu Wenu album. He's Syrian but I think his Keyboard player is Kurdish so this is some sort of cross-cultural Dabke. I think this is available to buy everywhere. Dabke can be quite fast.
Here is another one by Fares Karam. Don't ask me what he's doing in the video other than looking hairy and manly, watching a woman milking a cow. It might be a comment on Lebanese farming and agriculture.

Mezdeke - Ya El Yelil is I think Turkish judging by the comments underneath.

The new Tricky song Beijing to Berlin features a rapper called Ivy who raps in both Chinese and jibberish which was apparently a cultural fad in China at some point. Not fast but upbeat.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 6:34 AM on February 9, 2016

Here's are some songs that made the US charts that were not sung in English:

'Gangnam Style' | Psy | Korean | 2012
'Macarena' | Los Del Rio | Spanish | 1994
'99 Luftballons' | Nena | German | 1984
'Da Da Da' | Trio | German | 1982
'Dominique' | The Singing Nun (Sister Luc Gabriel) | French | 1963 (US#1)
'La Bamba' | Los Lobos | Spanish | 1987 (US#1)
'Eres tu' | Mocedades | Spanish | 1974
'Autobahn' | Kraftwerk | German | 1973
'Oye Como Va' | Santana | Spanish | 1970
'Je T'aime (Moi Non Plus)' | Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg | French | 1969
'Guantanamera' | The Sandpipers | Spanish | 1966
'Mas Que Nada' | Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 | Portuguese | 1966
'Ue O Muite Aruku (Sukiyaki)' | Kyu Sakamoto | Japanese | 1963 (US#1)
'Dominique’ | The Singing Nun | French | 1963
'Marina' | Rocco Granata | Italian | 1959
'Tequila' | The Champs | Spanish (nominally) | 1958
'Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)' | Domenico Modugno | Italian | 1958 (US#1)
'La Bamba' | Ritchie Valens | Spanish | 1958

Check out Tsushi | mamire, all-female post-punk trio singing in Japanese.

Bonus: All songs by French progressive rock band Magma are sung in a made-up language called 'Kobaïan'.

posted by Herodios at 11:41 AM on February 9, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for a bunch of fantastic sounding recs! I'm excited to sample all this music. (Hopefully that won't become another procrastination method...)
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:36 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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