Sunny songs from 30 countries for your summer trips and to relax on the beach – or to help you survive extreme heat.
If you live in the South going through winter right now, this collection might be even more helpful!
PUERTO RICO: Elvis Crespo – “Suavemente” (1998)
A few years before reggaeton truly came to dominance and overpowered every single music genre blasted from boom boxes at the beach, merengue artists were enjoying a bit of a “tropical music” boom on terrestrial radio. Olga Tañón, Manny Manuel, and Giselle became household names in Puerto Rico during the 90s, filling up CD wallets with catchy, danceable hits worthy of any “pari de marquesina”. But one song from this period seems to loom larger than any other to this day – and that song is “Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo.
Released 25 years ago, shortly after his exit from the mighty merengue institution known as Grupo Manía, “Suavemente” was Elvis Crespo’s first and biggest hit. Crespo must have sensed “Suavemente” – a song about making out, again and again – was a smash, and as such, would require a memorable introduction. So he made the bold choice to deliver the song’s ridiculously catchy chorus acapella before the horns and rhythm kick in. 15 seconds. That’s all it took for Crespo to sell you on his star power and his song.
“Suavemente” was playing everywhere you went in the summer of ’98, and like the biggest hits, it got played out. A string of similar sounding singles (and an unfortunate plane-related incident) turned Crespo into a bit of a punching bag. And yet, “Suavemente” kept turning up in the unlikeliest of places, from the Jennifer Lopez rom-com “Maid In Manhattan”, to Netflix’s House of Cards, and the most recent Magic Mike movie, to Pitchfork’s list of 250 best songs from the 1990s and even NASA’s International Space Station. Bad Bunny recently paid homage to the song on his video to “Neverita”. And Elvis Crespo is still making records, having just put out a live album recorded in Orlando, Florida, this year.
So what makes “Suavemente” an enduring, and yes – great summer song? It’s sunny, it’s sticky, it’s sweaty, and it’s about swapping spit. What better way to pass the time this or any summer?
LEBANON: Taxi 404 – “Soleil” (2021)
Consisting of childhood friends Aminn and Andy Rustom, Lebanese duo Taxi 404 produces a complementary blend of indie pop and French rap-inspired vocals. Aminn and Andy formed the band when they left Abidjan (Ivory Coast) to return to their hometown of Beirut in 2017.
Weaving Andy’s falsetto vocals with Aminn’s baritone flow in crowd-pleasing, laidback singalongs, the band has built a loving fanbase since its emergence on the Lebanese music scene in 2017. Feel-good music with poetry, heart and soul.
AUSTRALIA: GIMMY – “Sweat (An Australian Summer)” (2023)
Ironically released in the dead of Australia’s winter, GIMMY’s psychedelic single is a wry ode to a classic Aussie summer.
GIMMY doesn’t say much in the song – she deliriously bellows the word “sweat” a lot – over an uptempo groove, which allows a whole collection of gleeful instruments to carry the song cherrily forth, including bass and bongos.
BELGIUM: Lio – “Le Banana Split” (1980)
Finding the best Belgian summer song ever can burn your memory worse than any summer sun could ever burn your skin. Luckily, we can now focus on a song in French, as a few years ago, we chose a song in Dutch for this summer feature.
To choose is to lose, of course, but “Banana Split” by Lio will definitely come very close. The title and the melody exude summer vibes like few songs can.
It’s a pity for the likes of Stromae, Sandra Kim, Muriel Dacq, Philippe Swan, Sttellla, and some others. But hey, that’s good news, isn’t it, if there are so many great summer songs from a country that’s widely known for its rainy summers?
TÜRKIYE: Bodrum – “MFÖ” (1984)
MFÖ is one of the long-lasting and legendary Turkish trios. Mazhar, Fuat, and Özkan have been playing together under the name of MFÖ since 1979, but actually, Mazhar and Fuat met in 1965 and started to play in different projects. Then in 1971, they made an album as a duo. As Mazhar-Fuat-Özkan, they are still actively performing and keep creating.
In “Bodrum” (a very beautiful Agean cost town of Türkiye), they are giving one of the softest and most naive examples of their music. Because “Bodrum” is a summer vacation place, they are talking with friends about their memories of the previous summers spent there. It also has a simple and sincere arrangement and gives you nostalgia and fairy-tale vibes. Especially melodies of the mandoline not only simply enrich the sound, but also give you a breeze of the Aegean Sea, which lies between Türkiye and Greece.
Hope this song gives you all the feelings a good summer will bring to you: laziness, friends, memories, the smell of sea salt, and more time to do nothing.
SLOVENIA: MRFY – “Tobogan” (2022)
MRFY are one of the most important bands of the new generation in Slovenia. Their relaxed approach, fun-loving attitude and unique aesthetic are the building blocks of this rock quartet’s uniqueness. We already featured them on beehype with their summer banger “Zonzei” (2020) in collaboration with the Slovene trap sensation Matter.
Last year, they delivered another summer hit on their second album “Use”. “Tobogan” is spiced with a hint of Beatles vibes and even better with a video clip appropriately shot on the Slovenian coast – specifically in the San Simon resort, where many Slovenians spent their teenage summers.
FRANCE: Alizée – “Gourmandises” (2000)
Alizée became the most famous French pop singer during the summer of 2000 with the international hit “Moi… Lolita”. Released on her first album “Gourmandises”, it has been followed by other hits, like “L’Alizé” (the French for “trade wind”) and this title track – the music video was revealed in July 2001.
Entire album has a refreshing summer vibe, but the lyrics and video of “Gourmandises” specifically deal with summertime loves. Composed and written, like all the LP’s other songs, by the well-known duo Laurent Boutonnat / Mylène Farmer, the single has the same kind of surrealistic and subversive feel as Farmer’s own 1990s-2000s hits.
Only 16 years old when the song came out, Alizée sings about her kisses in an erotic way, comparing it to “delicacies” – “gourmandises”, meaning also “gluttony” in French. The video, which shows Alizée picnicking with other teenagers, is also full of double meanings, the food being filmed in a very suggestive way.
Like these very coloured dishes, the music is rich and intoxicating, oscillating between sunny chamber pop and hypnotic eurodance. Listening to it today is definitely a nostalgic gourmandise.
ARGENTINA: Los Auténticos Decadentes – “Corazón” (1995)
“Corazón” by Los Auténticos Decadentes was a smash hit in the mid 1990s – like any of other songs this band published in those years. You could hear it just everywhere – and you still can.
It’s a playful and optimistic love song about the early stages of a romantic crush, with the typical humour rate the band applies to all of their compositions. The years gave it the status of classic and a superb example of how to build a perfect hit.
Although it can suit any season of the year, it definitely sounds better if you’re next to a pool or on the beach with friends waiting your turn to play Uno.
BRAZIL: Banda do Mar – “Mais Ninguém” (2014)
Banda do Mar was a trio formed by talented young singer-songwriter Mallu Magalhães with Marcelo Camelo, formerly of Los Hermanos, and the Portugese musician Fred Pinto Ferreira, a member of Orelha Negra and Buraka Som Sistema.
“Mais Ninguém” was their first video, a song full of beachy vibrations with romantic lyrics sung by Mallu in unpretentious way. The video features the dancer Fezinho Patatyy doing the choreography called “Passinho do Romano”, a form of dance funk that has gained visibility in various parts of Brazil.
GERMANY: Alphaville – “Summer in Berlin” (1984)
We in Berlin especially love our summers, if only because Berlin winters are so particularly cruel to us, so long and gray and almost endless.
One song on West German band Alphaville’s debut album that’s easily overlooked is called “Summer in Berlin.” Maybe because you like to skip to “Forever Young” or “Big in Japan”, just one track later. These world hits. But it’s worth listening to “Summer in Berlin”, and it’s only superficially a picnic song: as always with Alphaville, the Cold War is present, and this is about the workers’ uprising in the GDR on June 17 in particular.
It wouldn’t be an Alphaville song though if all of this wasn’t combined with great synthesizer melancholy as well. Political Summertime Sadness.
JAPAN: Eiichi Ohtaki (大滝詠一) – “Kimiwa Tennenshoku” (1981)
You can feel the summer breeze while listening to Eiichi Ohtaki’s 1981 album “A Long Vacation”, which was influenced by early Beach Boys’ surf rock and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. The video single “Kimiwa Tennenshoku” (Natural Color Girl) is full of summery atmosphere, but the lyrics are about a lost girl who only lives in the singer’s memory.
Eiichi Ohtaki, a singer and producer, released works of Tatsuro Yamashita’s legendary group Sugar Babe via his own label Niagara, and he once teamed up with Haruomi Hosono (Yellow Magic Orchestra) as a singer-songwriter of the early indie rock band Happy End. So we could say that Eiichi is one of the pioneers of City Pop and Indie Rock in Japan.
“A Long Vacation” is very popular album in Japan. Young people might enjoy this album to feel summer love. Elderly people might listen to vinyl or sing in karaoke to remember their adolescence.
SUDAN: Alsarah & The Nubatones – “Habibi Taal” (2014)
“I will wait for you by the sea, where the birds have migrated and traveled to,” sings Alsarah in this memorable hit from a decade ago, based on an old Sudanese folk song which you could typically hear during public parties and weddings.
While it’s clearly a dance song with some demanding tempo towards the end, “Habibi Taal”, meaning “Come here my love”, is also a sentimental song of those longing for their home, and that’s dramatically true about millions of Sudanese people at the moment.
CHILE: Alex Anwandter – “Siempre es viernes en mi corazón” (2016)
This song by Alex Anwandter was released during Chilean summer and reflects a constant state that Fridays bring, where one ends the workday and begins the weekend party – but there’s a subtext of social criticism in some phrases.
While it’s a danceable pop single, it also talks about the alienation produced by endless work and an oppressive system.
SWITZERLAND: Jeans for Jesus – “Estavayeah” (2013)
Who would have thought that this laconic and slightly annoyed observation of Swiss summer life would be a hit? Jeans For Jesus from Bern cynically celebrate the hot days and we all dance along.
Life is best on a camping site by the lake. The electronic music, the colourful video and the catchy chorus to sing along to – “Estavayeah” is great.
UKRAINE: Svyatoslav Vakarchuk – “Там, де літо” (2008)
A solo project of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk back in 2008 gave us quite a few gems and “Tam de leeto” is definitely one of them. That year Okean Elzy frontman decided to play with music genres and create something individually.
Up to this day the song remains a noticeable piece associated with summer. Tender, soft and romantic, it nourishes you into warm August nights when the stars are shining bright and time goes by so slowly.
TAIWAN: TOLAKU (脫拉庫) – I Love Summer (我愛夏天) (1999)
Released back in 1999, this song comes from TOLAKU’s debut album titled “Welcome TOLAKU” (歡迎脫拉庫).
The songs included on this record have become rock ballad classics and they remain as such till now, offering anything from guitar-hero style to a cappella Beach Boys harmony. Though temporarily disbanded for some years, they have now reunited and create more great songs for happy hours.
“I Love Summer” (我愛夏天) is a song about chasing a girl. It is divided into different parts of music arrangements, which made it a popular hit. It has been covered by many different artists and surely is a legendary rock ballad classic in Taiwan.
HUNGARY: Péterfy Bori & Love Band – “Hajolj bele a hajamba (Labamba)” (2007)
Péterfy Bori has been one of the iconic figures of the Hungarian alternative music scenes for almost 30 years now. She is also known as an actress and as such her energies during her concerts are legendary. She has songs about instinctive and raw love relations, but also about the human trafficking of Eastern-European girls who are tricked to do sex work in the West.
Her most well-known song is still “Hajolj bele a hajamba”, about easy summer love, with the singer having her feet on the windshield with a glass of chardonnay in her hands. It became a classic that many generations know by heart and it is being played in many garden parties, beach bars or just on the radio when you are on your way to the lake Balaton.
PERU: Alejandro y Maria Laura – “Aparato” (2020)
“Disconnect the device, and connect with me for a while”. There is no phrase that invites you to summer better than that. And perhaps that was the idea of Alejandro and María Laura when they released this song at the end of 2020, close to the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere.
The couple confessed that the song was written long before the pandemic (despite its release in the middle of 2020) and the promotional video clip was recorded in Santa Eulalia, an area on the outskirts of Lima where people go to vacation outdoors.
The intimate song has remained with the listeners of their public and is part of Alejandro y Maria Laura’s most recent album “Madre Padre Marte”, released in April this year.
(José Luis Mercado)
POLAND: The Car Is On Fire – Can’t Cook (Who Cares) (2006)
Released in 2006, The Car Is on Fire’s sophomore album “Lake & Flames” became an instant alternative classic. Here was a local indie rock band that did not rely on noisy wall-of-sound approach, but instead crafted pleasing, buoyant melodies, without ever sounding too mainstream, and could even rival more renown international acts in terms of songwriting and production.
From today’s vantage point, however, their spell as indie darlings turned out to be rather short-lived. The band’s next album didn’t meet inflated expectations, and they disbanded a couple of years later. Still, they gifted us with one of the best collections of catchy, guitar-based songs made in Poland.
The lead single, “Can’t Cook (Who Cares?)”, is an excellent example: with its radiant sound, energetic groove, and summery vibe, it provides a perfect soundtrack for the season.
ITALY: Gino Paoli – “Sapore Di Sale” (1963)
This is the quintessential Italian summer song. Yes, it was released 60 years ago, but even now, when summer comes, the first song that Italians think of is this one. It’s a simple song, like almost all successful summer ones, and it’s incredibly evocative. It physically brings you to a quiet and sunny beach, with nothing to do, a situation that allows people to relax, but can also easily lead to thoughts that have, as a consequence, melancholy and doubts.
Overthinking is very frequent when there’s nothing to do, and this song is the perfect example. You are on the beach with your partner, and when he/she goes to take a swim, you are on your own and start overthinking. Then, he/she comes back and just like that, in the blink of an eye, you stop overthinking and enjoy the company of your loved one. Everybody had this kind of experience in their life, and this song makes it very, very real.
LATVIA: Carnival Youth – “Never Have Enough” (2014)
There is no recipe for the perfect summer song. At least I think so. However, when I was asked to send a summer song from Latvia, I didn’t hesitate for long, because Carnival Youth’s song “Never Have Enough” has a perfect summer vibe.
Although the song is almost ten years old, it still sounds youthful, carefree, easy and cool. No matter on what device you play it (on earphones, in the car, through the portable speakers in the nature), the moment you listen to it, warmth takes over you and it feels like you’ve been kissed by the sun.
This is a catchy song and I dare say that noone, yes, noone can resist it.
BELARUS: Addis Abeba – “Leto” (Summer) (2009)
Music from Belarus is not always positive, and there are various explanations for this. However, there are exceptions. I would like to recommend listening to the song “Leto” (Summer) by the renowned Belarusian reggae band Addis Abeba.
It is a straightforward yet exceptionally beautiful composition that evokes nostalgia for peaceful and carefree times in our region.
SOUTH KOREA: Byul.org (모임 별) – “The Bats We Are” (박쥐들 우리는) (2018)
Although they have released several recordings since 2001, it is somewhat difficult to introduce Byul.org as ‘a band.’ Perhaps it’s because they started as a band but also expanded their creative capabilities to design and branding. (You can browse their portfolio on the website Byul.org) Or it’s because they didn’t follow the typical trajectory of other indie bands: recording, going on tour, getting fame, etc. Or because, at the origin, they were drinking friends. One day, fellows who regularly met at a bar showed each other their talents and somehow decided to form a group.
It was a humble beginning, but the music wasn’t. Put it this way: an amalgamation of the Cure and Depeche Mode, then add some musique concrète and dark ambient, and wrap them with cult imagery, black magic, and city nightscape. Byul.org’s music strides from eerie atmosphere to offbeat synth pop, and it mesmerizes people who seek otherworldly experiences. (If you need a proper introduction for their music, “MIXTAPE 22”, a mix set that integrates their two decades of work, would be a good choice)
And somehow… I associate their music with South Korean summer. I can’t explain this obscure connection, but it seems that the severe heat of this superurbanized, hypercapitalized nation is explained better with Byul.org’s spooky ambience than glossy mainstream summer pop. Hot wind blowing between buildings, the smell of concrete dancing in the air of the rainy season, smudges of puke splashed along the food alley… It’s not about realism, but rather about some kind of surrealism based upon the unmasked appearance of summer city. Byul.org captures that, like no one else.
I have had a love-hate relationship with this South Korean summer surrealism for a long time. Sometimes it’s romantic, but other times it’s just pure gross to bear. Yet, there are friends who help me endure this period with some wholesome memories. Whenever I listen to “The Bats We Are,” I assume that Byul.org also have that kind of friendship and dear moments.
GREECE: Xylina Spathia – “Liomeno Pagoto” (1995)
I am not sure if “Λιωμένο Παγωτό” (it means “Melted Ice Cream”) is the ultimate summer song in sunny Greece, as I can recall many pop and folk songs, mostly from the ‘70s and ‘80s, the decades that the mass tourism started to flourish in the country’s modern history.
But this song from Xylina Spathia (Wooden Swords), surely was the one which has followed me – and many others – since 1995, the year it was first released by the band that Pavlos Pavlidis used to sing in.
The song is an electric rock anthem, taken from the quartet’s second album, and its catchy tune took an underground rock group into the Greek charts. From then on – and at least for one decade – every bar or club that gathered the Greeks during their holiday season, was playing the song enormously loud from their speakers.
“Liomeno Pagoto” was covered on many live stages by other performers as well, usually awful, but ok, sometimes that’s the price when extensive publicity comes. Enjoy it without any guilt… this summer as well.
CROATIA: The Animatori – “Komarci (Ljeto nam se vratilo)” (1983)
The Animatori were founded in 1980 and broke up in 1999. During these years, they recorded six studio albums, and some live and compilation albums.
1980s in Yugoslavia were famous for “Novi val”, but with their pop-rock The Animatori sounded completely different than all other bands.
Over the years, they’ve had a lot of great songs, but “Komarci (Ljeto nam se vratilo)”, meaning “Mosquitoes (Summer is back)”, is their biggest hit. Perfect nostalgic hymn to summer time.
NEW ZEALAND: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Nadja” (2023)
Originally released on Feb 21 2023, “Nadja” is the fifth single from the Hawaiian-New Zealand artist Ruban Nielson aka Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s fifth album, simply titled “V”.
Driven by a simple breakbeat, Hawaiian slack key influenced guitar work and Ruban’s bittersweet vocal, “Nadja” captures that midsummer feeling, when you realise that as beautiful and golden the days are, it won’t be long until they start fading away into the dark depths of winter. It’s a reminder to make the most of the moment while you can.
Over on Youtube, “Nadja” comes packaged up with a gorgeous narrative music video by Giordano Maestrelli and Duran Sodré, aka Vira-Lata, a Brazilian directing duo. Starring Mia Bueno and Fernanda Peyerl, the clip follows on from the music video for “V’s” fourth single, “Layla.” Anyway, I won’t go on any further about it. Instead, I’ll leave it for you to watch yourself.
SLOVAKIA: Le Payaco – “Dobrý večer priatelia” (2011)
The song has been a classic for so long, it’s one of the things you just find so natural you don’t even think about.
It’s been there for most of your life and it’s part of a local scene and our pop music heritage. It’s so universal you can enjoy it with a couple of your friends on your trip as well as with thousands of people at a music festival.
And actually it is about spending your free time with your friends enjoying that one night when everything’s perfect and kind of magical.
MALAYSIA: Nice Stupid Playground – “Stereo Girl” (2000)
It’s somewhat perplexing to pick a summer song for Malaysia because well, it’s basically summer all year round here. That said, if we’re talking about a track that embodies the feel-good optimism that comes from basking in the sun then it would be hard to look pass this track by Borneo band Nice Stupid Playground.
Released way back in 2000, time has done little to age this gorgeous pop nugget. Built around pretty jangly chords and big, big melodies, the song makes you want to put on your swim shorts when the intro hits but by the time the horns enter at the bridge, you are probably already knee-deep in the exciting heady romance that summer tends to bring.
FAROE ISLANDS: Lena Anderssen – Can’t Erase It (2018)
If you’re looking for another summer anthem to add to your playlist, don’t miss Lena Anderssen’s hit track “Can’t Erase It”. This smooth, catchy and beautiful tune is perfect for any summer vibe, as it will wrap you up in a warm and cozy carpet of good vibes.
Rarely do we find a track where all parts of the song are great, but this is definitely one of them! With an irresistible guitar riff and a chorus that will stay with you for days, “Can’t Erase It” is sure to be a favorite. It’s even been featured on the classic TV series Scrubs! So, get ready to hit repeat and enjoy the summer days with Lena Anderssen’s “Can’t Erase It”.
YEMEN: A-WA – “Habib Galbi” (2015)
Debut video of this sisters trio of Tair, Liron & Tagel Haim was a truly impressive start that made A-WA recognized internationally almost from the day one.
They picked the name A-WA, which means “yes” or “right”, because they “liked the sound of it and the fact that it’s short and positive,” as they told us back then.
“Habibi Taal” also remains one of the most positive things that come out from the region in the recent memory, a perfect soundtrack for your summer trips or the evening party.
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: Zoster – “Čovjek zvani činjenica” (2022)
If you search for information about Zoster, you will find reggae-pop as the most common description of their sound. This is true at least for the first part of the career of this band, which was born in Mostar, the heart of the sunnier, rockier and more Mediterranean part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A band with laid-back, reggae-tinged music interspersed with witty and often subtly engaged lyrics is almost an expected, natural occurrence in such environment. However, history does not remember any band (apart from traditional, folky Mostar Sevdah Reunion) more significant to what’s called regional (ex-Yugoslavian countries) scene, and that has to do also with the fact that their sound has evolved trough around 20 years since their resurrection from the head of the charismatic frontman Mario Knezović, who also achieved an interesting acting career along the way…
Whether it’s their reggae-ish hits, more rocky or even punky stuff, or some of new electronica-tingled music, Zoster is a proper treat if we’re talking about B&H’s music scene.