This is the second in a two-part series about songs which UW Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) fellows have learned in their various locations around the world this summer. Listen to the full set in a playlist here, or click on the purple flags in the map.
Slaven Svetinovic (PhD Comparative Literature, FLAS: Russia, East Europe & Central Asia, Russian) spent a lot of time this summer at Middlebury College listening to the 80’s Russian rock band Kino. In honor of the recent solar eclipse, he recommends “Звезда по имени сонце (The Star Called the Sun)“ by Kino.
He also listened to a lot of newer Russian electronic music, and he recommends Kedr Livanskiy’s “Razrushitelniy Krug (Destructive Cycle)“.
Rachel Rothenberg (PhD International Studies, FLAS: South Asia, Hindi) and Maya Martin (Major: Business, FLAS: South Asia, Hindi) agree that “Radha,” a song from the film Jab Harry Met Sejal has been India’s song of the summer.
Rachel Rothenberg writes:
“In India, Bollywood still rules popular culture, and in Bollywood the veteran actor Shahrukh Khan is king. Since the 1980s he’s been charming Indian audiences with his signature mixture of wit and romance. The new film Jab Harry Met Sejal, which signals his return to the rom-com formula that made him famous, has produced a lot of the songs of the summer in Jaipur, where I’ve been living for the last two months. By far the most popular song from the movie is “Radha,” sung between Khan and the film’s heroine Anushka Sharma as their characters, both from different parts of India, attempt to demonstrate regional superiority through their singing styles. The song’s chorus Main bani teri Radha/Main ne sakhiyon se aankhiyon mein/Rakhna hai tujhko piya thoda zyaada (“I’ve become your Radha/In these loving eyes of mine/I want to keep you, darling, just a little longer”) references the love between the Hindu deity Krishna and his divine lover Radha—hinting, of course, at the blossoming love between Khan and Sharma’s characters.
The popularity of “Radha” this summer is a testament both to the importance of film music in the rhythms of people’s daily lives and the ways that songs can come to be even bigger than the films and the actors that star in them. Although I’ve been hearing “Radha” on the radio, on street corners, in taxis, and just about anywhere where teenage Indians are gathered, the film itself has been a complete flop. Seeing it on a Friday night soon after its release, out of the fifteen people in the theater six left during the intermission. It seems even Shahrukh can’t save the film from a bad plot and a public that knows their films, especially their rom-coms, and has found it lacking.
When I tell people I’ve been to see the film, the question I usually get it “Why did you waste two hours of your time like that?” But yet everyone knows and loves “Radha.” It just goes to show how “songs of the summer” can exist outside the circumstances of their creation!”
-Rachel Rothenberg, Ph.D Student, JSIS
Maya Martin adds to the list of popular songs in India this summer “Naach Meri Jaan”, from the film Tubelight.
Elizabeth Purdy (Major: Social Welfare, FLAS: South Asia, Nepali) shares the popular new song “Kutu Ma Kutu,” which celebrates Nepali culture. The song will be featured in the upcoming movie Dui Rupaiyan.
In Arab countries, new TV mini-series are released during the month of Ramadan, which fell during the summer this year. Henry Milander (Majors: Business, International Studies, FLAS: Global Studies, Arabic) enjoyed watching the Moroccan Ramadan TV series with his host family. He particularly enjoyed the “catchy” theme song to the series “Al-Khawa (Siblings),” sung by Ibtisam Tiskat.
Menosh Zalmai-Appl (MSW Social Work, FLAS: Middle East, Arabic) is studying Arabic at the University of Washington. She writes that Fairuz is one of the most beloved singers of the Middle East (and has been for more than fifty years). She shares the song “3alimuni Hubbak” (They Taught Me Your Love) from the 1967 film ‘Safar Barlek.’
Tasha Duberstein (MA Middle East Studies, FLAS: West Europe, Turkish) doesn’t actually like “Cevapsiz Çınlama,” but she is in the minority in Istanbul, where the song is very popular this summer!
Sara Molaie (MA Comparative Religion, FLAS: Middle East, Hebrew) learned many songs this summer at the Middlebury College School of Hebrew. One of them was “We Don’t Need More than This,” a 2006 release by Israeli rapper Subliminal.
Geordie MacLearnsberry (Major: Linguistics, FLAS: Middle East, Hebrew) writes from Tel Aviv, where he is studying Hebrew at Tel Aviv University. One of his favorite Israeli songs and a top hit in Israeli in 2016 is ‘Miami’ by Eliad.
Nathan Loggins (PhD, Linguistics, FLAS: East Asia, Japanese) writes, “I’m a long-time fan of Japanese music, especially artists like Togawa Jun, Otomo Yoshihide and the Boredoms. But a recent artist that I’ve enjoyed a lot is the “kawaii ambassador” to the world, Tokyo’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. She combines psychedelic, often bizarre imagery with Japanese fashion and kawaii culture, and has been popular outside of Japan since her single “Pon Pon Pon“. Her most recent track “Harajuku Iyahoi” is great, but my all-time favorite is “Ninjari Bang Bang.'”
Nathan has also been listening to a more recent release, “フルコトブミ (Furukotobumi)” by hip-hop artist Tamaki Roy.
Nathan Loggins, who studies language contact and change in East Asia, also writes that Wang Feng‘s 2009 song “春天里 (In Spring)” might be the most popular Chinese rock song of the 21st century. He writes, “I used to hear it all the time when I lived in Beijing. He certainly follows in the footsteps of China’s rock legend, Cui Jian, who is a must-listen for anyone interested in the history of Chinese popular music. Cui’s anthem, “Nothing to My Name,” was a rallying cry among disaffected youth in the late 80’s.”
Wang Feng: 春天里 (In Spring)
Cui Jian: 一无所有(Nothing to My Name)
Tiana Neuerburg (Majors: Chinese and French, FLAS: East Asia, Chinese) writes from Kunming, China that “一笑倾城 (A Beautiful Smile),” along with the drama it’s associated with, 微微一笑很倾城 (adaptively titled Love o2o in English), are currently very popular in China. Many popular Chinese songs are based on dramas, and Love o2o, based on a novel by Gu Yan, is the most-watched Chinese drama to date.
Lillian Ferraz (MPA Public Affairs, FLAS: Global Studies, Chinese) sends her very own rendition of “給我一個吻 (Give Me a Kiss),” which she performed on her last day of class at the Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. She writes, “Sorry the first part is not in key, I was nervous!”
FLAS Fellowships are funded by the International and Foreign Language Education Office of the U.S. Department of Education. FLAS fellowships support undergraduate, graduate and professional students in acquiring modern foreign languages and area or international studies competencies. Students from all UW departments and professional schools are encouraged to apply. Find out more about the FLAS Fellowship here.