Music

Articles pertaining to music.

romantic couple with guitar

Love Songs from Across the World

Reading Time: 3 minutes
romantic couple with guitar
Photo by Andres Ayrton
Arabic

Fairuz, the most celebrated singer in Lebanese history and arguably one of the most iconic singers in the entire Arab world, offers such a plethora of haunting love songs that it’s hard to pick one, but we’d like to recommend one of the happier ones: “قمرة يا قمرة” (‘amara ya ‘amara), “Moon O Moon.” The lyrics and translation are in the video, or you can read them here.

Armenian

Յարը մարդուն յարա կուտա” (yareh mardu yara kuta), which means “The Lover Gives the Person Pain.” A classic Armenian love song that’s been remade a number of times. Click on the title for the version by Alla Levonyan, or try the version by Haig Yazdjian. Click here for the lyrics and a translation into English.

French

Congolese singer-songwriter Lokua Kanza is something of a polyglot, singing in six different languages. A beautiful and uplifting early example of his work is “C’est ma terre,” “It’s My Land.” Lyrics and translation are available here.

Kurdish

“Dil Kuştiyê” or “Broken Heart” was originally written by Mihemed Şêxo, and you can hear his classic version of it here. Like any classic hit, it’s been made and remade, such as this version by Diljen Ronî. See the text accompanying that second video for the lyrics, and let us know if you come across the English translation anywhere! (In the meantime, check with your Kurdish Language Partner for anything you don’t understand.)

Persian

Googoosh, a Persian diva who’s been singing since the 1970s, offers a live performance of “غریب آشنا” (gharibe ashena), meaning “Familiar Stranger.” You can view the lyrics here, and scroll to the very bottom for the English translation.

Russian

Kazakh rapper Jah Khalib sings in Russian and is one of the most popular singers across the former Soviet Union; he has made his home in Kyiv since 2019. “Лейла” or “Leila” is a relatively recent hit, and you can read the lyrics here.

Spanish

Everyone knows Colombian singer Shakira, but how many of her songs can you sing in their original language? “Whenever, Wherever,” the English version of her hit “Suerte,” is far from an exact translation. Check out the lyrics to see what changed.

Ukrainian

Rock band Okean Elzy formed in 1994 in Lviv and has been playing ever since. In their heartbreaking hit Obijmy, the singer turns to his lover for comfort in the midst of war. Lyrics and translation are here.

Got a favorite love song in a NaTakallam language? Comment and let us know? And if you prefer Spotify, we’ve collected most of these songs on a playlist there too. Pop on those headphones, prop up your feet, and put your cares behind you for a few minutes.

Love Songs from Across the World Read More »

dancers performing Armenian folk dances

The Rich Tradition of Armenian Folk Dance

Reading Time: 5 minutes

With around three thousand years of history, Armenia is steeped in culture and tradition, and Armenian folk dance (պար; bar) is a prime example of the country’s diversity. Each region has its own style and each of them has a special meaning, associated with rituals, traditions and faith. They are also a way to express emotions. Traditionally, many dances are performed in traditional Armenian dress (the տարազ or taraz) and involve props such as masks or knives.

Music is, of course, an important part of a dance. Armenian folk dance music is performed on folk instruments: the դուդուկ or ծիրանափող (duduk or tsiranapogh, a wind instrument made out of apricot wood, similar to a flute); the զուռնա (zurna, another wind instrument made out of wood, but closer to a clarinet); and the Դհոլ (dhol, a type of drum common not just in eastern Europe but also across Asia).

Armenian musicians

Originally gender mattered when dancing; women and men performed different dances. Nowadays, however, everyone can participate regardless of their gender. The dances serve as a vibrant expression of people’s entire lives, encapsulating their history, values and prayers, as well as moments of joy and sorrow. They are passed down through generations and remain an integral part of social gatherings like weddings and festivals. Even within the Armenian diaspora, there is a concerted effort to preserve and perpetuate these dance traditions, ensuring their continuation beyond the country’s borders.

Let’s have a closer look at the most famous Armenian folk dances:

Kochari

The Քոչարի or kochari is a lively, energetic dance that is believed to be one of the oldest traditional dances of Armenia.There are different versions depending on where you live, but it was inspired by the movement of rams fighting against each other. Initially the kochari symbolized a military victory and was performed by men, but nowadays it is performed during different celebrations by people of any age, gender and social status. The dancers hold each other’s hands in a line, shoulder to shoulder, and dance in a circle. The first person in the line holds a handkerchief and spins it. (The discerning reader may notice similarities to the Levantine دبكة, debka.) Kochari dancers often wear traditional costumes, which can vary depending on the region of Armenia they come from. In 2017, the kochari was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List as a dance that “provides a sense of shared identity and solidarity, contributes to the continuity of historical, cultural and ethnic memory, and fosters mutual respect among community members of all ages.”

Want to give it a try? Check out this kochari tutorial!

Shalakho

The շալախո or shalakho is a dynamic, acrobatic dance known throughout the Caucasus region. There are different versions depending on the region, and the dancers also differ: in some areas it is only danced by women, only by men, or by women and men together. The most common variation is with two or more men “competing” to attract a woman’s attention. The male dancers use swords or sticks as props and perform fast-paced, energetic movements that involve jumping, kicking and spinning, while the women move in a more soft and delicate manner, with shorter steps. The shalakho is typically accompanied by the zurna.

Tamzara

The Թամզարա or tamzara is a traditional dance that originated in the Western region of Armenia, which is now part of Turkey. It is typically performed at weddings by men and women, who hold hands and move in a circular motion while crossing steps and swinging their arms. The music for the tamzara is usually provided by a dhol, and the dance is often accompanied by singing.

Yarkhushta  

The Յարխուշտա or yarkhushta is a war dance typically performed by men. The name probably comes from the union of the Farsi Persian words یار (yar), meaning “companion” or “lover,” and khusht, a small dagger. It involves quick, fast-paced movements, including high jumps and kicks performed to the sound of a dhol and zurna, and originally it was likely accompanied by war cries.The key element of the dance is a forward movement, in which participants rapidly approach one another and vigorously clap the palms of the dancers in the opposite row.

Like the tamzara, the yarkhusta originates in Sasun, in Western Armenia, now Turkey. However, many inhabitants of that area were displaced due to persecution and settled in the Talin region, in today’s Armenia, bringing their culture with them. In the 1930s, a famous ethnographer named Srbuhi Lisitsian, who taught in Yerevan, visited the villages of Talin to study their dances. He was the one who made the yarkhusta known to the whole country of Armenia. Most researchers say that the dance has medieval origins, while others argue that it dates back to Armenia’s pre-Christian period, but scholars agree that the dance has gone through almost no changes during the centuries.

We couldn’t decide between these two examples — why not comment and tell us which you prefer?

Berd

Finally, the բերդ, berd, or բերդապար, berdapar, whose name means “fortress,” is another famous Armenian military dance originally performed by men. Its name comes from a move performed during the dance, in which the dancers stand on top of each other’s shoulders to create a “fortress.” Originally from the old Armenian city Vaspurakan, near the Van Lake in Western Armenia, people say that before becoming a dance it was a game named Գմբեթախաղ or gmbetakhagh, which means “dome game.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alice Zanini is a copywriting intern at NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies. Her research focus is on sociopolitical and sociolinguistic issues in modern Turkey and the Persian-speaking world.

ABOUT THE EDITOR: Mikaela Bell is a freelance editor and content writer with a background in anthropology and linguistics. An American based in France, she is also fond of reading, cooking, studying languages, fibercrafts and Irish stepdance.

The Rich Tradition of Armenian Folk Dance Read More »

Beatboxing as a Gateway Between Worlds

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Director’s Notes of the Multilingual Beatbox Video

Contributor: Daniel Te, Summer Intern – Program Support Officer at NaTakallam

Two years ago, I beatboxed on the streets of Athens, Greece, on the last day of my study abroad program. During the performance, I felt some sort of connection towards the locals, as they challenged me to beatbox battles, shimmied along, and even gave me a smoothie. That’s when I knew there was more to discover about human connection at the intersection of music, language, and different cultures.

This past summer, during my internship at NaTakallam, I wanted to use the opportunity to tie in my passion for beatboxing together with the experiences of the language partners from displaced backgrounds at NaTakallam. This is where the project idea was born.

Universality and Distinctness in Language

Languages have many sounds in common. The “voiced bilabial stop” (another way of saying the letter “B” in English) can be found in a wide range of languages worldwide, and it is also the most fundamental sound for beatboxing. Practically any language has enough hard consonants to create a strong, basic beatboxing rhythm.

However, not only do different languages have sounds that are less common (such as خ, a sound in Arabic that is like a rough “K” vibrating at the back of the mouth or the Spanish letter J, “jota”), but even languages that do share many sounds can be pronounced quite differently. As a result, beatboxers that speak different languages produce rhythms that are structurally similar but aurally distinct.

In parallel, to a certain extent, the refugee narrative holds similar patterns. With over 80 million displaced persons worldwide (as of 2021), the journey of displacement is common among many people, but the character of their journey is shaped by their individual circumstances and the crises they flee. At NaTakallam, each language partner has their own unique story of displacement. This is what the Multilingual Beatbox video aims to portray.

The Process

The Multilingual Beatbox video combines each story of displacement into the general refugee narrative (universality), while highlighting a chosen word in their native language that represents their journey (distinctness). Each language partner introduces themselves by saying, “can you say [(word) in their native language]” to simulate a NaTakallam conversation session.

An early storyboard of the project.

After drafting a storyboard, I connected with various language partners, including translators and interpreters, on Slack (a communication channel for organizations). I aimed to gather a diverse group, reflective of NaTakallam multicultural team and language services in a wide range of languages.

Gathering a multilingual team for my beatboxing project (a “CP”, or “conversation partner”, is an internal term for language partners at NaTakallam).

It truly was a pleasure getting to know the language partners from all corners of the world. During the remote recording sessions, we had a great time and many of them got to meet some of their co-workers for the first time.

A meeting with Sayed, a Persian language tutor from Afghanistan based in Indonesia, and the fourth language partner featured in the video.

After the recording sessions, I looped the audio of each language partner saying their chosen word, editing it in the style of a beatbox rhythm. While it would have been exciting to have each of them do their own beatboxing, that would have been hard to coordinate remotely.

The video was produced in Adobe Premiere Pro, and the audio track was created in Adobe Audition.

Reflections on the Final Piece

This project hit close to home for me. My parents were refugees of the Cambodian Genocide in the 1970’s, so the journey of displacement was a recurring theme growing up. Throughout my life, I have been haunted by the question of what can we do in a world that still suffers constant refugee crises and how we can enable displaced persons to rebuild their lives. I have come to two conclusions.

One, open yourself up to the world. Embrace the universe. Beatboxing is my gateway, in that it helps me recognize what we have in common linguistically, as humans living in one world, and it only colors my vision more as I use it to engage with other cultures.

Two, enter others’ worlds and find the nuances. Engage in the issues that have persisted for displaced persons for decades and enable them in host communities. Speak their language and immerse yourself in the way they experience reality. With the Internet and services like NaTakallam or hausarbeit schreiben lassen (meaning “we speak” in Arabic and have word written in German ) , venturing into new linguistic worlds has never been easier.

To borrow the words chosen by the language tutors, it can be disheartening to hear that people around the world still face “discrimination” (“ubaguzi” – in Swahili) in their end of the “universe” (“l’univers” – in French), and experience “endless escaping” (“هروبٌ لا نهاية له“- in Arabic). The resolution of one refugee crisis doesn’t stop another from happening. Yet, seeing the Cambodian refugee community rebuild their lives in America, while still facing many struggles, gives me hope that displaced persons around the world have a genuine chance at “peace” (“صلح” – in Persian) and finding their new “earth” (“tierra” – in Spanish).

One day, I hope that “we speak” (or “we beatbox”!) as humans invested in each other’s well-being, compassionate of the struggles (universal and distinct) that people go through all around the world.

My beatboxing performance on the streets of Athens, microphone in hand.
Contributor: Daniel Te is a second-generation Cambodian-American with a zest for life. He interned as a Program Support Officer at NaTakallam and recently graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and a minor in Urban Studies.

Beatboxing as a Gateway Between Worlds Read More »

loading gif

Available Coupon

X

Spanish is one of the fastest growing foreign languages in the world. Get access to the Spanish business world with our native tutors – tailored to your needs.

Improve your proficiency in Farsi or Dari & contextualize your learning with cultural insights from our native tutors. Language & culture go hand-in-hand at NaTakallam.

Looking to do business with Kurdish businesses? Learn with NaTakallam’s native speakers & reach new language (& business) goals – tailored to your professional needs.

Gain an edge with contextualized French learning by native tutors from displaced backgrounds. Flexible, with cultural & business insights, tailored to your needs.

Choose from Eastern Armenian or Western Armenian. Get quality teaching & unique insights from native tutors. Gain an edge with Armenian language skills.

Offer your team a smoother integration or transition with our customized English lessons delivered by bilingual tutors with extensive English instruction experience.

Choose from Modern Standard Arabic or any of our 7+ dialects offered by native tutors across the region. Take your proficiency to the next level & connect with the Arab business world.