Reloaded: By Trains, Planes or Automobiles… And Boats!

This time, I take you on a journey around the world, to places that are near and dear to my heart. But instead of talking you through it, I let my most favorite musicians take you on that voyage. No need to pack, this is a musical feast you can enjoy right here, right now! Oh, and if you feel like you have seen this already, it’s not another case of Deja Vu, it’s true. But the piece went unnoticed on that other site, so here it is reloaded for all my fabulous Ajnabee friends!

Montego Bay, Jamaica courtesy of Third World

Most people giggle when I say I grew up in Jamaica I mean, I hardly look like the ragamuffin dancehall chick you probably envision when you read those very words… But truth is, I spent all my teenage summers there, got to hang with the greatest artists the reggae scene ever produced, learned to drive — albeit on the left side of the street — and ate barracuda on the beach. In Jamaica, I also found what my friends there called my inner “lil’ gangster”, a quality which still helps me in rough situations today and one I encourage all women to indulge in once in a while…

The Cape Flats Township, South Africa courtesy of Lucky Dube

Lucky Dube’s music will forever bring tears to my eyes. Gunned down in his own country by a carjacker, while his son looked on, his life and death represent all the best and worst that South Africa still is today. A true heaven-on-earth geographically, with such an unfortunate difference in lifestyles between the haves and the have-nots, it’s a country that has conquered its political freedom but still has a long way to go to abolish its slavery. While Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities on earth, it’s impossible to feel completely safe anywhere in South Africa.

Napoli, Italy courtesy of John Turturro’s Passione featuring Raiz, Pietra Montercorvino and M’Barka Ben Taleb

When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t say Italian, rather “Neapolitan”. I am so proud of my Mother’s heritage and the ability to feel at home everywhere, which my background comes genetically implanted with. One listen to this song from Turturro’s beautiful film Passione and you’ll understand why. If you have not watched his film already, check out my recent review on the Huff Po, which has been featured on the site for the film along with that of NY Times’ critic A.O. Scott. Yes, that was the sound of me tooting my own horn!

Cairo, Egypt of our dreams courtesy of Amr Diab

I actually discovered Amr Diab in Beirut, Lebanon, when a slightly drunk taxi driver picked me up at a local shopping mall and drove me back to my hotel. When I got into his car, he was playing some non-descript American pop song, which he quickly turned off, perhaps reading my disappointment. He turned on “Tamally Maak” by Diab and I was hooked. I even forgot to pray for my safety while he drove super-fast, slightly intoxicated, weaving in and out of speeding cars. I now own the complete works of Amr Diab, and he’s particularly poignant in light of the recent Arab Spring uprisings.

Madrid, Spain courtesy of Pedro Almodovar, featuring Caetano Veloso singing Cucurrucucu Paloma

It was a toss up between this song from Talk to Her and the Estrella Morente title song from Volver. But this song, with its rhythm and languid scene, feels like the Spain I’ve visited… Think of a side square cafe in Barcelona, or the local Gypsy bar in Jerez and you’ve discovered another beautiful country just by listening to one short song! Oh, and Veloso is indeed Brazilian so perhaps we’ve stumbled upon two fabulous countries with just one song. See how music works?!

Rajastan, India courtesy of Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se, featuring the music of A. R. Rahman and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan

Finally, there is no Nina song collection without a bit of India in the mix. Rajastan is magical, like a different world, not quite here on earth. “Chaiyya Chaiyya” is probably THE most famous of Rahman’s songs, along with his Oscar winning “Jai Ho”, from Slumdog Millionaire. If you think the video above is a fantastical cinematic interpretation of what Rajastan is really like, think again! While I have not ridden on top of trains, the journey inside one in India will feel exactly as colorful as that!

And now your turn. Do share your own personal, musical journey, a favorite song that takes you back to the smells, sights and sounds of a place…

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