To celebrate our 5th birthday, we asked beehype contributors to pick one song from 1960s-1990s that everyone in their country knows. Here’s 35 songs we received.
However, we strongly recommend reading about each song/artist as the context is often as fascinating as the music itself!
ARGENTINA: Charly García – “Buscando un símbolo de paz” (1987)
Charly García is the biggest Argentinian rock star. We can’t say he founded Argentinian rock, but with no doubt we can say he took it to another level of poetry, production and popularity.
He founded seminal bands like Sui Generis and Serú Girán during the 70s, as well as other projects. His solo career started in 1982, when he published “Yendo de la cama al living”. Many more albums followed – the latest is “Random”, from 2017. He experimented with every music genre and is often tied to the hippie movement: he was young in the 70s, while the cruelest dictatorship killed thousand of innocent people.
His fourth solo album, “Parte de la religión” (1987), arrived few years after the return of democracy to Argentina, and one of the highlights is “Buscando un símbolo de paz” (Spanish for “Looking for a peace symbol”). This song is pure joy: a dance to exorcise old demons because we deserve better. He’s 67 years old now and his music still heals Argentinian people. This song just didn’t get old. (Rodrigo Piedra)
BELARUS: Pesniary – “Kosil Yas’ konyushinu” (1971)
Pesniary (Песняры) is truly a household name in Belarus – you won’t find a single person who doesn’t know them. The band became popular in 1970s, by cleverly smuggling prog rock behind the iron curtain under the disguise of traditional folk. Back at the time, any music like that seemed impossible in the USSR, as both ideologically unsound and, frankly speaking, technically unachievable.
As a professionally trained folklore ensemble, Pesniary managed to circumvent these limitations. The impact was so severe that the approach they created (folk cross-overs with modern genres) still dominates Belarusian music – for good or ill. And of course this rendition of a cheeky folk song about matrimonial adventures of the young peasant is so iconic that people of three generations instantly recognize it. (Konrad Erofeev)
BELGIUM: TC Matic – “Oh La La La” (1981)
Even though their fame is probably limited to Belgium, the Netherlands and parts of France and Germany, T.C. Matic, named after the Yugoslav surrealist poet Dušan Matić, are giants in Belgium. “Oh la la la” is arguably their greatest hit and it’s a massive success every time it is played at a party over here.
The song is very representative for the band’s style, that’s sometimes referred to as eurorock. It can be described as a mixture of post-punk, new-wave and (synth) pop, with the typical yelling of singer Arno and the characteristic guitars driving this very catchy tune.
In the mid-80s T.C. Matic joined Simple Minds as a suport act for their European tour, but that did not result in the international success the band was hoping for. A year and an album later the T.C. Matic members all went their own way, and until now many Belgians are still hoping for a reunion. (Brett Summers)
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: Indexi – “Sve ove godine” (1972)
Among quite a number of bands from Bosnia & Herzegovina that made huge careers and had big impact on the pop music scene in former Yugoslavia, Indexi is one of the oldest, and probably most respected, especially among their successors.
They released only two LPs during the period of four decades (1962-2001). But they also had about 30 singles, played many live shows, and were always a very strong group of musicians among which one will find some of the most respected instrumentalists and authors of their time.
Indexi are one of the pioneers of ex-Yugoslavian rock, one of the first bands that started playing music the way it was played in the West, bringing also their own influences. And signing some everlasting hits, including “Sve ove godine”, which means “All these years”. (Samir Čulić)
BRAZIL: Elis Regina – “Como Nossos Pais” (1976)
Originally written and recorded by Belchior, “Como Nossos Pais” (“Like Our Parents”) is a staple for Brazilian music. It was released in 1976, twelve years into Brazil’s military regime, and with its lyrics Belchior portrayed the grim state of government censorship – especially for young people – while still maintaining a glimmer of hope for the future.
He reminisces about the dangers of expressing his own opinion and actions and the dangers he and his friends are facing everyday. At the end, he’s saddened by the fact that “even after everything we did, we’re still the same, and we live just like our parents”.
In the same year, Elis Regina – a much more accomplished artist at the time – re-recorded “Como Nossos Pais” and brought it a lot of attention to the general public. Regina was a very vocal critic of the military at a time when artists were persecuted and exiled, but due to her popularity, she managed to stay away from prison while still fighting for the rights of exiled Brazilians.
it’s been a while since I saw you on the street
with your hair to the wind, young people gathered
in the back of my mind, this memory is what pains me the most
my pain is to realize that even after everything we did
we’re still the same and we live just like our parents
Elis has an iconic voice. Her delivery of “Como Nossos Pais” packs a punch the original never had, becoming the definitive version of the track. (Matheus Anderle)
BULGARIA: Maria Mitzeva – “Iskam da stana muzh” (1966)
Maria Mitzeva (Мария Мицева) is a popular Bulgarian crooner from socialist times, mostly associated with the 1960s, when the regime was still at its bloodiest phase. She defected to the USA in 1969 and never looked back.
Here’s a song from 1966 called “Iskam da stana muzh” (“Искам да стана мъж”), or “I Want To Become a Man”, which I find surprisingly timely – given that the topics of feminism, power dynamics and gender balance are such a big part of today’s conversations.
The lyrics, actually written by a man (Bogomil Gudev), include lines like: “I want to become a man and I want to turn you into a woman, a sad woman / And then you’ll wait for me late in the night / And when you come home / I’ll be moody and always, always so cruel / And you’ll stay silent”. (Svetoslav Todorov)
CHINA: Cui Jian (崔健) – Nothing to My Name” (1986)
“Nothing to My Name” (一无所有), also known as “I Have Nothing”, is a 1986 rock song by Cui Jian, who is often labeled “The Father of Chinese Rock.”
This seven-minute-long song is widely recognized as the most influential rock piece in China as it portrayed the perplexity and disillusion of a lost generation under the rapid economic changes in China. (William Griffith)
CROATIA: Vice Vukov – “Dobro mi došel prijatel” (1970)
If we are looking for evergreens from the northern part of Croatia, most people would put “Dobro mi došel prijatel” (“Welcome my friend”) high on the list. This is a song both about friendship and the beauty of the region Hrvatsko Zagorje. It was first performed during Festival Kajkavske Popevke in Krapina in 1970. Instantly, it became a hit and after sometimes an unofficial hymn of the region.
The singer Vice Vukov (1936-2008) was born in Šibenik, in the southern part of Croatia. He had a lot of problems with the politics during that time, so he moved to Paris for some time. Because of that, ex-Yugoslavian media boycotted his work. Regardless of all that, the combination Vilibald-Vili Čaklec (music), Viktor Glovacki (text), Stjepan Mihaljinec (arrangement) and Vice Vukov (singer) showed that “Dobro mi došel prijatel” is a song without any boundaries.
It is not a surprise that two years ago Andre Rieu performed this song when he was in Zagreb for the first time. (Siniša Miklaužić)
DENMARK: C.V. Jørgensen – “Indian Summer” (1988)
In the end, it came down to three bands/artist: Gasolin’, TV-2 and C.V. Jørgensen. All three have been part of the national identity of Denmark for the last 40 years – and the last two are still going strong, touring the country from time to time. The song “Langebro” by Gasolin’ was the one that most people have suggested that I’d pick (and it may have been my pick if not for the controversy about its origin). If I were to present two songs, that would be my second choice.
Instead I’ll go with C.V. Jørgensen and his song “Indian Summer” from 1988. I could have went with a ton of other of his songs, “Entertaineren” (The entertainer) comes to mind, but “Indian Summer” is just such a lyrically perfect piece. He wrote the song to his dying mother, and it’s basically a song about life. About loss, about love, about the meaning of life.
And that’s what he has been doing since his first album back in 1974: He’s been observing life and explaining it to all Danes through his quirky lyrics and sometimes brutally honest stereotypes. He’s in many ways the Danish Bob Dylan. (Peter Storgaard)
ESTONIA: Apelsin – “Igatsus” (1979)
You can listen to Apelsin’s instrumental ballad “Igatsus” (“Longing”) out of sheer boredom until you discover that you have lost track of time and hearing something unexpectedly beautiful. Drift off, let yourself float in a deep endless afternoon slumber. Surrender to the glorious Soviet-era hauntology, its entrancing numbness, the great snooza-palooza.
Sure, one can only imagine how upon the same time in the West, or perhaps somewhere over the rainbow, did something similar, measuring a suitable blend of blues, country and soft-rock… yet this arrestingly beautiful track will always stay product of a time that was seriously out of joint. (Ingrid Kohtla)
FRANCE: Les Rita Mitsouko – “C’est Comme Ça” (1986)
Taken from their 1986’s classic album “The No Comprendo” and produced by the legendary Tony Visconti, who worked on the best David Bowie and T. Rex glam rock albums, “C’est comme ça” is one of the biggest hits of the duo Les Rita Mitsouko. On an infectious post-punk bassline and a frenetic guitar played by Fred Chichin, Catherine Ringer sings an impressive earworm that would be stuck in all French minds.
With that album, the band proposed their own vision of British glam rock, pushing forward Sparks’ excentricity to a maximum level of energy, and mixing it with ‘80s new wave. The result makes it an opulent and baroque work which isn’t afraid to be kitsch. This single and “Andy” propulsed The No Comprendo to the 9th place in the French charts that year. More than 30 years later, “C’est comme ça” remains as fresh and jubilant as ever. (Gil Colinmaire)
GEORGIA: Jansug Kakhidze – “Mukhambazi” (1977)
Jansug Kakhidze stands as one of the most iconic figures in 20th century Georgian music. Internationally, he is most famed for his work as a conductor, having led Georgian State Symphony Orchestra and Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra for more than total of three decades. Another facet of his immense talent was his songwriting – compositionally, he touched classical music minimally, but his playful combination of folklore and jazz had a signature that remains unique in Georgian music to this day.
But still, many of his most classic moments came when he went for more straightforward, mellower pop and “Mukhambazi” is one of those. Used originally as an OST to 1977 film “Racha My Love”, this song is a lush, sweeping ballad, with the sound based on warm organ and helped out by soaring orchestration. It is sung by Jansug Kakhidze himself, with back vocals contributed by Vakhtang Kakhidze (his son) and Gogi Dolidze.
Covered multiple times by various performers, this song still receives a lot of radio airplay even after 40 years of its original release. (Sandro Tskitishvili)
INDONESIA: Dara Puspita – “Surabaya” (1966)
This was the first girls’ band in Indonesia as famous as male rock stars. Initlally named Nirma Puspita and later Irama Puspita, in 1964 it finally became Dara Puspita with Titiek AR on guitar, Lies AR on bass, Susy Nander on drums and Ani Kusuma on guitar.
On their journey, Dara Puspita became famous not only in Indonesia, but also abroad, especially in Europe. At that time, rock music was considered to be owned by men (what is more, it was often banned in some countries, including Indonesia). But they were able to keep going. Dara Puspita proved that no style of music is limited to specific cultural background or gender.
Their career in Europe had a boost after they met former The Beatles manager, Collin Johnson. He later became one of their managers during Dara Puspita’s tour of 250 cities in Europe, in 1968.
IRAN: Kourosh Yaghmaei – “Gol-e Yakh” (1973)
It’s always hard to choose “the best song” or “the timeless hit” simply because there are too many of those songs and lots of different point of views. But my choice would be “Gol-e Yakh” by famous singer/songwriter and pioneer of what’s been called later “Persian rock”.
Also called “the godfather of Iranian psychedelic rock”, Kourosh Yaghmaei became a star in 1970s by releasing this song. In those times with his long hair, impressive eyes, famous mustache, colorful shirts, bell-bottoms and his white stratocaster he was loved by teenagers and youngsters. “Gol-e Yakh” (meaning “Wintersweet Flower”) was published in 1973 as a single and then in 1974 in his debut album under the same name.
After the 1979 revolution he was a victim of cencorship, although he didn’t leave Iran for L.A. like most of the other pop musicians. He was banned from singing on the stage but he published several albums and still he doesn’t have the right to sing on the stage. But during these four decades of being banned, this hit song – which sold 5 million copies for a population of 25 millions back then – has been always alive in the collective memory of Iranians.
In 2011, his music was remastered and republished in the West as an anthology of singles called “Back From The Brink: Pre-Revolution Psychedelic Rock From Iran (1973-79)”. And in 2018, the song we mentioned was sampled on Nas’s “Adam and Eve”, produced by Kanye West. It’s been rediscovered in West but never forgotten at home. (Alireza Eshqi)
ITALY: Alan Sorrenti – “Figli Delle Stelle” (1977)
A lot of people around the world think that Italian music is an endless reiteration of the ultra-popular “Volare”. But this country had much more over the decades: the prominent prog scene in the 1970s and the wave one in the 1980s, the italo disco, and a lot of artists who thought outside the box, looking for new ways of making songs, or to dress the traditional Italian style with more modern and fresh sounds.
“Figli Delle Stelle” (“Sons of the Stars”) by Alan Sorrenti belongs to the last category: the tone of voice and the melodic style is typically Italian, but the catchy guitar riff and the hint of tropicalism coupled with the sprinkling strings showcase a deep musical research going well beyond the Italian tradition.
That musical research was always in Alan Sorrenti’s DNA. He started as a prog artist, and his first album, “Aria” (1972), is widely considered a milestone in the worldwide relevant Italian prog movement. A trip to Africa and a 5 year stay in Los Angeles brought Sorrenti to different musical paths, and this new road culminated with the release of the album “Figli Delle Stelle” (1977), led by the title track.
The album sold one million copies and the lead single was very high in the charts. The critical reception was not so good, and some fans didn’t like this new style too. But this song is a true masterpiece, for a lot of reasons: the irresistible funky disco groove, the peculiar vocal range and expressivity, the on point interaction of the above-mentioned elements (guitar riff, strings, hint of tropicalism, dancey groove), the simple but strong message delivered by the lyrics.
42 years later, “Figli Delle Stelle” is a real Italian music classic and every single Italian person knows it and sings it (actually or mentally) every time they hear it on the radio or wherever. (Stefano Bartolotta)
JAPAN: Spitz – “Cherry” (1996)
Spitz is a Japanese alternative rock band that started in 1987, and until now they remain one of the musicians that are recognized nation-wide. All my friends and colleagues know their songs.
Released in 1996, “Cheery” is one of their most popular songs, and I love this song so much personally – I also selected their album for No. 24 in the beehype list of the best Japanese albums of all time.
This song is about the time when winter ends and spring comes, and also about meeting new friends and leaving the old ones. So, it seems appropriate for the start of spring, and for a new start of beehype. (Toyokazu Mori)
LATVIA: Nora Bumbiere – “Ķiršu lietus” (1974)
In the mid 1970s, Latvian composer and pianist Zigmars Liepiņš started to write a song “Ķiršu lietus” (“Cherry Rain”) in blues style but it turned out to be a waltz.
Performed by soloist Nora Bumbiere – one of the grandest pop and jazz singers in Latvian music history, also considered as the Latvian Ella Fitzgerald – the simple and contemplative song about longing for summer gained popularity very fast and still remains as one the most beautiful Latvian songs.
Even after 45 years, “Cherry Rain” sounds modern just because of the honesty and purity the song represents. (Raivis Spalvēns)
LITHUANIA: FOJE – “Laužo šviesa” (1986)
“Laužo šviesa” or “The Light of the Bonfire” was written in 1985 by the singer Andrius Mamontovas while he was strolling down the Lithuanian seaside. No one could tell that it’ll become one of the anthems of the Reform Movement of Lithuania a few years later.
His song and his band FOJE became famous in the year 1987 when the movie „Kažkas atsitiko“ (“Something happened“) featuring this tune has been released. At about the same time people started talking about freedom, struggle for Lithuanian independence and wave the tri-color Lithuanian flags for the first time after almost 50 years of Soviet occupation. All these actions were accompanied by the song.
For the next freedom generation the song about solitude and waiting became a perfect tune to sing by the fire. Everybody who did camping once, sang it too. (Giedre Nalivaikaitė)
LUXEMBOURG: Marion Welter & Kontinent – “Sou Fräi” (1992)
The song “Sou fräi” (“So free”) was sung by Marion Welter, a Luxembourgish singer, representing Luxembourg at the Eurovision song contest in 1992.
I chose this track because it’s arguably one of the first pop songs to come out of Luxembourg that’s sung in the native language. It’s quite rare to find these! (Ben Lowe)
MACEDONIA: Leb i Sol – “Čuvam noć od budnih” (1987)
“Čuvam noć od budnih” is an incredible, moving smooth ballad with slightly jazzy overtones. It’s one of the timeless hit singles from “Kao Kakao”, the ninth studio album of the Macedonian jazz/rock band Leb i Sol. The album was released in 1987 through Jugoton, which at that time was the biggest record label and chain record store in the former Yugoslavia.
“Kao Kakao” was Leb I Sol’s most successful album from the 1980s. A notable work from one of the ultimate Yugoslavian bands, which consisted of Vlatko Stefanovski, Bodan Arsovski, Garabet Tavitjan, and Kokan Dimuševski. One of the guests on this album is Kiril Dzajkovski as a keyboardist, who nowadays is one of the most exported Macedonian artists.
During their 20-year career, Leb i Sol released 10 studio albums, 4 live albums, and a double compilation with their biggest hits. They were also creating music for film and theater performances as well as local TV shows. The group often performed abroad, including most European countries and also USA and Canada. (Elena Peljhan)
MALAYSIA: OAG – “60s TV” (1996)
It can be argued that when “60s TV” was released in 1996, it changed the face of music in this country. It was a track that broke many stereotypes. Like a local band can have mainstream success by singing in English for one, since most popular and successful bands and artists prior to them sang in Malay. Or that a band could actually produce a successful music video that had a good concept, modern visuals (for its time) and be quirky in a way that was relevant to the youth. But more importantly, that a band could actually produce a pretty massive hit single sounding like it did.
The track was neither a ballad, nor was it rock in a classic sense, two anchor genres that most successful singles at the time anchor on. Instead it was fuzzy and jangly ditty that sounded like a yummy amalgamation between The La’s and mod culture. It was young and fresh and it completely re-orientated the way Malaysians viewed local music. Suddenly it was cool to hit local indie gigs, the papers started featuring more local bands and the industry in general started looking beyond their usual check points to discover acts.
Their debut record went on to sell a reported 75,000 copies, and unheard-of phenomenon for indie bands then. Even the most casual music listeners of that time can remember this track today. It was a staple. (Adrian Yap)
NETHERLANDS: Anouk – “Michel” (1999)
This is a song by Anouk, one of the most well known Dutch artists. She is famous for her ensouled performances and outspoken personality. Impressively, she has been releasing music non stop since the nineties. And this year she put out a record completely sang in Dutch for the first time.
The single “Michel” is probably one of her most famous and best songs. It appeared on her 1999 album “Urban Solitude”, and it’s breathtakingly simple, but still evokes a huge nostalgic feeling. In the song, Anouk describes her very first love affair, which was as impactful as naive. (Jort Laagland)
NEW ZEALAND: Patea Māori Club – “Poi E” (1983)
When it hit #1 on the Aotearoa New Zealand music charts in 1984, Patea Māori Club’s “Poi E” seemed to represent a whole new landscape of opportunity for not just indigenous Māori musicians, but the wider country as a whole.
By combining a traditional waiata (song) written by Māori linguist Ngoi Pēwhairangi with an electro-boogie instrumental overseen by Patea Māori Club leader Dalvanius Prime, they paid homage to the past, while connecting that cultural history and its strength with the international landscape through the idioms of hip-hop. The new era had arrived, and it would end up taking the Patea Māori Club around the world in the years to come.
The accompanying music video sealed the deal by juxtaposing our natural landscape, milk tankers and sheep trucks, the local marae (a communal, sacred space), and poi dancers in traditional Māori garments, with urban streets and 80s style hip-hop breakdancing. Where “Poi E” really got me though was through the arcade game noises that emerge on the bridge. If you grew up in Aotearoa New Zealand in the 80s and 90s, those noises were as inescapable as the rest of our local culture.
Somehow the Patea Māori Club tied everything together, in the process giving us one of the biggest songs in our country’s short-but-tangled history. It really is our unofficial national anthem. If you know, you know. (Martyn Pepperell)
NORWAY: Lillebjørn Nilsen – “Barn av regnbuen” (1973)
“Barn av regnbuen” is the Norwegian version of Pete Seeger’s “My Rainbow Race” from 1972, translated by all-time folk singer favorite Lillebjørn Nilsen and released in 1973. Although the composition is of American origin, most people in Norway don’t know the English lyrics (and wouldn’t even be aware that there are any).
I consider its importance for two reasons. First, it stayed as #1 on the Norwegian charts for 11 weeks in 1973-1974 and has been extremely popular ever since. And second, during the trial after the terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011, Anders Behring Breivik mentioned the song as an example of brainwashing and cultural Marxist indoctrination on Norwegian school children. As a reaction to his statement, 40,000 people joined Lillebjørn Nilsen to perform the song in a city center square during the trials. (Johannes Amble)
POLAND: Czesław Niemen – “Dziwny jest ten świat” (1967)
Yes, it was a letdown to discover that Poland’s most adored hymn of all time sounds strangely similar to James Brown’s 1966 hit “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”. But after a while you realise that half a century ago, it was common among jazz- and bluesmen to believe that “good artists copy, great artists steal”. And after another while you realise that at least this one time, Niemen was better.
If Brown fixated on the domination of men, Niemen lamented the hatred among us. “Strange is this World”, goes the title and the first verse, and you don’t need to look to distant New Zealand to see how up-to-date his disbelief still is. When the mayor of the city of Gdańsk was knifed earlier in 2019, actually during the final of Poland’s biggest charity event, people just played Niemen and stared.
I’m afraid another half century won’t make Niemen’s words outdated, but the good thing is that will probably be also true about music. Or at least Niemen’s vocals, which remain as impressive as they were back in 1967, when he shocked the audience of Poland’s biggest music contest, terrified the communists, and delighted their kids. (Mariusz Herma)
PUERTO RICO: Ivy Queen – “Pongan Atención” (1997)
“Pongan Atención” (Pay Attention) is the second single off Puerto Rican rapper Ivy Queen’s debut album, “En Mi Imperio” (In My Empire). The track is a trip down memory lane, back to times when “urban” latinx artists exploded from the underground and into superstardom at an impressive clip, leaving traditional record industry types (and parents) scratching their heads while the masses begged for more. The sound was raw and often unpolished, lyrics could be rawer still –but the energy proved undeniable to most Puerto Ricans, and would soon threaten to conquer the world.
In “Pongan Atención”, the rapper’s rapid-fire flow and social conscience are on full display, demanding our attention still, 20+ years later. Since then, Ivy’s enjoyed continued success through a career now 10 records deep, including the recent The Queen Is Here (2018). Her recognition as a living legend from artists as diverse as superstar rapper Residente and indie pop band Balún, comes at an important time for both the genre and the industry Ivy Queen helped cement.
Now that issues of representation and equality are being publicly discussed and reconsidered, its important to remember that for many of us Ivy was the first to make us pay attention. (Alfredo Richner)
ROMANIA: Phoenix – “Mica Tiganiada” (1974)
Phoenix is the mighty legendary band of Romanian 1970s rock. They started in the 1960s, being a kind of local the Beatles, but the leader of the communist party (and president of Romania at the time), Nicolae Ceaușescu, forbid the western-influenced bands, even banned them.
So Phoenix had to rethink their music and adopted some ethno style instead, becoming really famous in the process. “Mica Tiganiada” (“Little Gipsy Camp”) is a song from their second album “Mugur de fluier” (1974), talking about nomad Gipsies and inspired by the first Romanian epic poem, written by Ion Budea Deleanu at the end of 18th century. (Dan Byron)
RUSSIA: Кино – “Группа крови” (1987)
Is this a song about fighting with yourself? Or is “Gruppa krovi” – or “Blood Type” – about the battle with bureaucracy and totalitarianism?
It’s even bigger when you realise that this song by the legendary Leningrad group Кино (Kino) keeps being played everywhere and by everyone around Russia even these days.
And when you realise this song belongs to one of Viktor Tsoi, the greatest Russian rock poets of all time. (Artem Shenfeld)
SLOVENIA: Bele Vrane – “Mala Terasa” (1969)
This is a Slovene classic for sure. Both the band and the song. The original title is “Na vrhu nebotičnika” (“At the top of the Skyscraper”).
It was released in 1969 and it is an ode to the highest building back then in Ljubljana. (Andraž Kajzer)
SOUTH KOREA: Kim Wan-sun – “The Pierrot Smiles at Us” (1990)
Which artist is the origin of K-Pop? Most people revere Seo Taiji and Boys as the direct ancestor of modern Korea’s worldwide phenomenon. And that is undeniable considering that Seo Taiji and his fellows had massive impact on our music, if not entire society, at that time. However, dance music was already in its full motion in South Korean pop industry between mid- to late-1980s, and several mainstream artists joined this movement.
Kim Wan-sun (김완선) was one of the most successful tour de force among them. At that time, the whole nation adored her as the Madonna of South Korea. Today, people call her The Original Dancing Queen. What’s noticeable in her live performance is the charismatic, even aggressive expression and arrogant voice harmonized with energetic choreography. Although it’s not very posh and sophisticated compared to modern K-Pop, her performances bore the retro dynamism which barely exists in systemic nowadays pop.
“The Pierrot Laughs at Us” (삐에로는 우릴 보고 웃지), the main single of Kim Wan-sun’s fifth album released in 1991, represents her prime time with funky groove (not to mention that ear-catching drum with gated reverb) and melancholic lyrics somewhat depicting her own image, or whole showbusiness. “I am Pierrot who always smiles / No one knows tear behind her blue smile (…) People are dancing and laughing / But I don’t like that kind of laugh.”
It was not a surprise when IU, one of the most expressive female artists in today’s K-Pop world, covered this song and paid respect to Kim Wan-sun. If you are interested in South Korean music, you should check this proto K-Pop single which simultanously shows joy and sorrow. (Guwon Jeong)
SPAIN: Nacha Pop – “Chica de ayer” (1980)
Written by Antonio Vega, “Chica de ayer” is one of the emblematic songs of Spanish pop rock of the 1980s.
It is not only the soundtrack of a generation. It is the second-best song in the history of Spanish pop-rock according to the “Rolling Stone” magazine – with Joan Manuel Serrat’s 1971 song “Mediterraneo” being the winner. (Jorge Martinez)
SWEDEN: Carola Häggkvist – “Främling” (1983)
Sweden loves Eurovision, even those people that hate Eurovision love Eurovision. And what we love even more is people who have won the Eurovision.
Carola Häggkvist won it in 1991 in Rome, but she won our hearts eight years earlier with this song. She’s only 16 years old here and after the Swedish final she – thank God – won. That’s a quite odd thing to do in Sweden where artists tend to have higher status than religious things.
“Främling” means “Stranger” and if you want to get familiar with a Swede just sing this melody and eveything will be fine. (Fabian Forslund)
TAIWAN: Lim Giong (林強) – “Marching Forward” (1990)
Now a pioneering experimental electronic DJ, Lim Giong was originally a pop rock icon. His debut album “Marching Forward” has been recognized as one of the most important albums of all time in the New Taiwanese Song movement.
Having released several widely acclaimed albums, Lim Giong has devoted himself into the electronic music scene. From industrial rock of “Entertainment World” (娛樂世界) to film score compositions, he has proved he is one of a kind legend in Taiwan’s music.
“Marching Forward” (向前走) is the debut single from his debut of same name. Showing a youngster trying to carve a niche for his new life, it pictures the situation at the time when everyone tried to earn a living in the capital city Taipei. Great rhythm and melody, evoking the new spirits of Taiwanese soul. (Cheng-Chung Tsai)
TURKEY: Barış Manço – “Sarı Çizmeli Mehmet Ağa” (1978)
It is hard to choose a repesentative song from any week or month in the Turkish scene. But I will be bold enough to try my best to pick one not even from a year or a decade, but for a whole half-century.
Because of my age, I planned to concentrate on the 1990s at first, which was the golden era of Turkish pop. But then I realized that I need something more inclusive and I turned my ears to 1960s-1980. At that time, Turkish music created a whole new world with Anatolian rock, with progressive and psychedelic aroma in it. During that period, we had many strong artists, groups, side projects, transfers among the bands, all in a boiling atmosphere. Our music scene was creating more original and universal tunes than ever. I picked Barış Manço (1943-1999) from that rock’n roll generation, and I believe in my heart that he’s representing not just that period, but that every tune he made is still valid and could be illuminating even to today’s kids.
In his songs, you will always hear great stories with very beautiful, rich and clear use of Turkish. Sometimes there are extraordinary characters like in “Sarı Çizmeli Mehmet Ağa” (Mehmet, the landlord with yellow boots) in “Yaz Dostum” (Write My Friend). Mehmet is a landlord with a soft heart and he always pays for the debts of people in need. He helps the poor and protects anyone who needs shelter. In the lyrics, he defines how to be a good man like Mehmet Ağa in the style of old Turkish folk poets. He always tried to show people the right way via his songs. It’s been said that Barış Manço heard the story about Mehmet Ağa in Northern Cyprus one day. After this song, he also made a grave for Mehmet Ağa.
Apart from his glamourous music career, he was also a television producer and a show host. The name of his programme was “7’den 77’ye” (From 7 to 77) and he really got loved by anyone from 7 to 77. He traveled many parts of the world and became one of the most famous Turks around the globe. In his programme, he was also inviting kids on stage, asked them some questions, and wanted them to hear a song. That was the biggest dream of my era – to be on his stage. He was called Barış Abi (Barış the brother) and he is like a real brother for all my peers.
Having started in his high school days, he played with many important bands both in Turkey and abroad during his career. Kafadarlar, Harmoniler, Les Mistigris, Kaygısızlar (lately turned into a legend named MFÖ), Barış Manço Ve…, Moğollar (another legendary Turkish band), and Kurtalan Ekspres – his long-lasting and last band (they are still a legend and keep playing until now) between 1972 to his death. He composed around 200 songs and is among the best-selling and most awarded Turkish artists to date. Many of his songs were translated into a variety of languages including English, French, Japanese, Greek, Italian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Persian, Hebrew, Urdu, Arabic, German and others.
URUGUAY: Eduardo Mateo -“Principe Azul” (1971)
When Uruguayans listen to “Principe Azul” for the first time, they think they’ve heard the tune before. There is something familiar, a feeling of warmth already known about this all-time classic song written by Eduardo Mateo and Horacio Buscaglia back in 1971.
Simple guitar arpeggios are more than enough to accompany Mateo’s delightful voice throughout the song. As for the percussions, the “less is more” principle of music is on, as nothing else is needed. The most majestic moment comes with the piano arrangement during the chorus, adding up a lot of emotions, all in a delicate, lullaby mood.
And it is, indeed, a lullaby, as this dreamy song talks to a little girl about a blue prince that will come in dreams, where there is a moon made from cheese, crystal shoes, white squirrels and a charmed mysterious wood.
Time has passed, almost 50 years, and although “Principe Azul” is not the most famous song in the history of Uruguayan music, it is certainly one of the most mystical and magical of the last century, in the country of the mate tea and high-quality cow beef. (Ernesto Pasarisa)