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Drops of the Week

Every newsletter I write comes from two directions: either a thought stream that I began early that week or a mad dash on a Wednesday night to consume as much content as possible in hopes of igniting a spark of inspiration. Tonight is one of the latter. Fortunately, I came across a really interesting music podcast called Popcast run by the New York Times and decided to think back to my short-lived dream of writing for Pitchfork. The only historical proof of this period was an extremely academic Medium post about a Sufjan Stevens song. Since then, I’ve become a more casual writer and a more casual music listener. Instead of getting obsessed with a new album every month as I did in high school, I’m more likely to find a song I love and listen to it on loop for hours on end, returning to it every day or two until I get sick of it. Sometimes, I’ll re-discover one of my old loops, spinning it around more and getting transported to a hyper-specific time and place. 

I thought I’d highlight some of my favorite songs lately, and why I find them interesting. Maybe this will be a recurring segment for when I inevitably run out of heartwarming childhood stories to turn into uplifting essays. Maybe I’ll call it my “Drops of the Week” (IFYKYK). There have been three songs in rotation lately:

1. “Los Angeles” by Golda
I found this song in March when I re-discovered Hype Machine, a music blog compilation service that used to be the source of all of my new music in high school. I played through the “Popular” list on the site while I worked, but as soon as this song began, everything stopped. Over soft guitar, Golda’s haunting voice fills the track, evoking a feeling of grief over something lost. Despite the fact that the lyrics are completely unrelatable to me (I’ve been to LA once and did not feel slighted), the sense of loss felt relevant for the new world we live in. Even outside of the pure emotion, it’s easy to appreciate the sheer power of Golda’s voice. I listen to this song a lot when getting ready to sleep or taking showers since it makes me feel like I’m floating.

2. “Palaver” by Ebo Taylor
I have no idea where I found this song, but it comes from a long-lost album that was discovered in 2019 after nearly 40 years! Ebo Taylor is known as the King of Ghana Funky-Highlife, which may be the most powerful honorific I’ve ever heard. I confirmed this by showing it to my Ghanian-Canadian friend Kobe, who called it “SUCH a Ghanian track 😂.” The song never fails to put me in a good mood and inevitably has me dancing around with a big grin on my face. Imagine the carefree joyfulness of a popular Beach Boys song with the warmth of a beautiful jazz record and the grooviness of swing music and you have a sense of what this song feels like. I’ve been listening to this a lot while doing household chores and folding laundry has never been more fun.

3. “Aaqa” by Abida Parveen and Ali Sethi
This work of art comes from the TV show Coke Studio Pakistan, which focuses on studio performances by some of the greatest musicians in the country. I don’t just love this song because one of the singers shares my last name (but #RepresentationMatters). “Aaqa” features a gorgeous arrangement of instruments and incredible voices that come together perfectly for 8.5 minutes straight. In my eyes, this song makes a great case for my theory that Urdu is the most beautiful sounding language on the planet. The lyrics feature immensely powerful pleas of devotion and surrender, which the singers carry through their voices. More than anything else, “Aaqa” makes me proud to be brown. It makes me think how arbitrary the partition is, how India and Pakistan share a beautiful culture that is unlike any other.

Ruth in the YouTube comments said it best when she said “i love this music greetings from VENEZUELA.” Wow.

Music has this incredible ability to work with your emotions. At the time I didn’t notice it, but each of these songs has accompanied me through the whirlwind of emotions lately. I’ve experienced sorrow and listlessness, danced and grooved joyfully and looked to the divine for guidance. Writing this, I wonder how much I could glean from looking at my older playlists or the playlists of my friends. How do our relationships with music shape our experiences?

Shout out to Divya who partially inspired this!
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Invariably indoors,

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Nikhil · 325327 Georgia Tech Station · Atlanta, GA 30332 · USA

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