Music in happy times is a drug but music in tough times is a balm. Here is a playlist of the songs keeping me in good spirits as we battle COVID-19, the biggest crisis of our times on this planet.
Always good to start with Geeta Dutt's powder-coated voice bridging Kanu Roy's minimal composition and early Gulzar's complex-poetry. This entire album is a landmark in the history of Hindi Film Music and this song especially is a nerve-calmer for all seasons.
My plan for self-isolation period is to memorize at least 4 new Bangla songs and this one is first on the list because of its ethereal melody and beautiful, deep words. Moushumi Bhowmik is a legend and if you want a gateway drug to Bengali music, this is the place to start.
Punjabi is my mother-tongue and early Gurdas Maan is an aesthetic that will forever remind me of home. This is a happy, nostalgia-inducing song about endless summer afternoons of small towns.
And now for some classic, familiar RD Burman in the mix – this gentle love number, written by Gulzar and sung by Amit Kumar & Asha Bhonsle melts like a mishri in the heart.
If the mood and energy are a bit low, this one always brings it up with its beautiful rhythm & composition (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy), and of course Gulzar saab's fun poetry. And who would have thought the queen of indi-pop Alisha Chinai would render a folksy, shuddh-desi item number with such ease!
Nobody will contest that ARR has made more than 200 songs that deserve to be sent as space-signals to aliens as a proof of the superiority of our species so really difficult to pick one or two for any list. And still, Kun Faaya Kun is among the very few where the lyrics (Irshad Kamil), composition, singing (Mohit Chauhan), and the on-screen visualisation have aligned so seamlessly that the song manages to give an out of body experience (the Sufi state of rising 'haal') in just 7 minutes.
What's a list without Kishore Kumar and Dev Anand songs? Written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and composed by SD Burman, this breezy song brings cheer to my heart.
Jaidev's divine composition of Makhdoom's shaayari, delivered to perfection by Chhaya Ganguly's masterful voice. A song for long, endless nights of FOMO.
Discovered this song recently almost by accident and now I'm constantly playing it in loop for its meditative words and instrumentation. Mari Boine's dreamy rendition of the existential poetry seems to be tailor-made for these tough times.
Coke Studio is my happy place and it's really difficult to choose two or three tracks from it but I'll try. Fariha Parvez and Muazzam Ali Khan's jugalbandi on Sufi poetry, deliciously produced by Rohail Hyatt is always on my playlist, no matter which app.
Rohail Hyatt gives a beautiful peppy treatment to this almost-fatalistic, sad-giving poetry with Abrar Ul Haq's cheeriness and a dhol-rhythm. Always uplifting.
Abida Parveen with Ali Sethi. Enough said.
This one, Salil da and Shailendra at their sublime best, asking us to be compassionate and self-aware.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has a body of work that can last us 10 lifetimes and still, this 1996 album (Night Song) he made with Michael Brook is an experience unlike anything else.
Surinder Kaur's sweet melancholy counters my anxiety quickest.
Another Bangla song I'm learning nowadays. So old-world, melodious, and gently happy.
An Indo-Pak collaboration, Swanand Kirkire and Shantanu Moitra with Zeb Bangash. Another beautiful collab of Swanand and Zeb is 'Hone do batiyaan' from Fitoor.
The song I used to wait the most for during 'Chitrahaar' on DD in the 90s. Nothing purer than early-Lata and Mukesh, nothing more soul satisfying.