As a South African an important part of any travel journey is the music. There are nights when I want to throw caution to the wind and dance the night away in reckless abandon.
Many of us are blessed with an innate sense of rhythm that somehow seems to put fellow travellers from other countries to shame. Music serves as a beautiful bookmark in the memory long after one returns from an overseas jaunt. It also gives you a snapshot of the time.
The mood, fashion, memories always seem to flood back with music. During my early days of travelling there was nothing I loved better than to go into the local CD shop and buy the most popular music in the country I was in. It gave me an inkling of what they were into and broadened my musical tastes vastly. It was also a great souvenir.
The fact that most of these places had their own versions of MTV made it even more fun. There was nothing better than getting a view of bizarre trends or cultural nuances because of music videos. Today it’s very different. Thanks to the internet, the top 40 songs on the US or UK charts can be heard at clubs and bars around the world.
Some songs have come to define certain journeys and upon hearing them will always awaken latent memories. One such song is Mambo no 5. I remember having a good jam to it in Germany.
When I was in Italy, the sound of Daft Punk’s anthemic Around the World permeated every place I went to. In Brazil I got my first exposure to Linkin Park and learned that there was more to Brazilian music than the Bossa Nova melodies most of us normally associate with the country.
Sometimes music can overpower your whole journey in a place. I had the fortunate, or unfortunate, privilege of moving to South Korea for a year just as the Gangnam Style wave was gripping the world.
I can’t even begin to describe what it was like to hear that song ad nauseam and be asked by every local Korean if I knew the song and if I could perform the dance. I even had to perform it at a school. What tomfoolery as a teacher? Seriously?
The popular songs tend to become part of the memories of whole chunks of life because they refuse to go away. But then there also moments with songs that creep deep into your soul and last briefly. Those for me are the best parts of travelling.
Hearing a hauntingly beautiful Bollywood song as your taxi weaves through the explosion of colours outside in Myanmar. Singing Wonderwall with total foreigners in the deserts of India and performing Billie Jean with your school principal (essentially your boss) in a karaoke bar.
It’s also somewhat amusing to listen to local cover bands in the country you visit. There’s nothing more heart-warming than an artist trying to sing the words to Single Ladies but totally making up their own English words as they go along.
These are the moments that define your travel and in time come to mean so much more than even your photos.