10 songs you love (even though you have no idea what the lyrics mean!)

Sunday, 21 December 2014 16:37

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Following on from Adelle Onyango's article in which she confesses to loving kwaito music despite not understanding a word of it, we've dug out ten songs that you may also know and love without necessarily knowing what they're even about. Here they are:

1) 'Khona' by Mafikizolo

Mafikizolo made their fans wait for six whole years for new material, but they were forgiven the second they came back with a new sound and a new song. 'Khona', an irrestibile afrohouse banger, won MTV Africa's song of the year accolade in 2014 and has graced many a nightclub from Soweto to Seattle, London to Lagos. Of course, the only word of the song most of us know is the title, which means 'there' in Zulu, but who are we to let that get in the way of a jolly good boogie?


2) 'La Lambada' by Kaoma

This feel-good rhythm can't help but make you feel all rosy and summery. Incredibly, it's been doing the rounds for 25 years now! Despite the upbeat nature of the song, it's actually about memories of a lost love.


3) 'Aïcha' by Khaled

A beautiful love song about a suitor's attempts to woo a lady called Aicha. On promising her the world, she responds that she wants neither jewellery nor money. All she wants is love and respect. 

The song was later covered in English by Outlandish, but we'll leave you with the original version in French and Arabic:


4) 'Pata Pata' by Miriam Makeba

Instantly recognisable, Mama Africa's signature anthem has pleased crowds the world over for nearly 50 years. 'Pata Pata', which means 'touch, touch' in Xhosa, peaked at #12 in the US Billboard Chart in 1967 and has been covered by Osibisa, Chayanne, and Angélique Kidjo amongst a plethora of others since.


5) 'Ai, Se Eu Te Pego' by Michel Teló

How this song has generated over 600 million views on YouTube, we'll never quite know. It's fun, it's singalongable, and it's got an damn catchy hook, but... 600 million views?! C'mon! The lyrics are a tad creepy too. He sees a hot girl in the club and tells her 'Wow, when I get you, oh, oh, when I get you...' but then never goes on to say what he'll do when oh, oh, he gets her. Maybe it's for the best that we never find out...

It's not the original version of the song, but Michel's version from 2011, was the sixth best selling song in the whole world in 2012. Yes, really. 


6) 'Gangnam Style' by PSY

Considering there are seven billion people on Earth, to have a video that's been watched three billion times on YouTube is nothing short of astonishing. The fact that it's in Korean, spoken natively by only 80 million people, makes this feat all the more incredible. Whether it's the pulsating dance beat, the wonderfully ridiculous dance routine, or the comedic but affably charasmatic PSY who's unlike any pop star the west has ever seen, it's certainly not the lyrics that kept most of us engaged. As you might have guessed (and, as is becoming a theme of this list!) the song is about a 'sexy lady'. 


7) 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien' by Édith Piaf

'No, I don't regret anything!' 55 years after it topped the French charts, the defiant nature of this song has defied time to still retain relevance today - it recently inspired the soundtrack to blockbuster movie 'Inception'. 


8) 'Mundian To Bach Ke' by Panjabi MC

If there's one bhangra song you recognise, chances are this will be it. Its bassline is straight out of 'Knight Rider', via Busta Rhymes' 'Fire It Up' and has been the staple of any Indian celebration for the last fifteen years. Coventry-based Panjabi MC put himself on the world map and topped charts across Europe with this track, which is also known as 'Beware of the Boys'. The song was later remixed by none other than Jay-Z himself. 


9) 'Besame Mucho' by Cesária Évora

Although countless versions of this ballad have been recorded over the decades, the legendary Cape Verdian performs our favourite version (maybe we're biased because she's African?) Much like the lyric 'Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?' in French, 'Bésame, bésame mucho, come si fuera esta noche la última vez' is one of those lines that you understand, even if you understand nothing else in Spanish.


10) '1er Gaou' by Magic System

You may not have ever heard of Ivorian group Magic System (if you are Anglophone), but you surely would have heard of 'Premier Gaou'. It's about a girl who dumps her wannabe musician boyfriend, only to try to get back with him once he becomes famous. Needless to say (and boy did we need a different narrative to the mushfest above!) he refuses to be a fool ('gaou') again and declines her advances. Although she didn't score, football fans might recognise the track as it featured on the soundtrack of popular 'Pro Evolution Soccer' videogame. 


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Last modified on Tuesday, 23 December 2014 10:06

David Osei

Ghana United-Kingdom

Onliris guy | Audere est facere, ergo don't ask 'can I?'; ask 'I can!' | Mediaphile | Onliner | Sportaholic | Theatre > Cinema | GUBA | Ol' SOASian & Alleynian | Scorpio | Bachata-lovin' British Ghanaian


Website: www.dkosei.co.uk/blog