High Notes 2018

Song for the New Year: 2018 may not bring much cheer, but ‘Shine’ gives us a reason to dance

Scroll staffers pick their favourite tunes.


Blitz The Ambassador


I began following Ghanian-American rapper and filmmaker Blitz the Ambassador (aka Samuel Bazawule) after chancing upon the video of Running, which is part of his 2016 video series, Diasporadical Trilogia. Beautifully shot, it spoke about something interesting – African spirituality and the lives of Africans brought to the Americas as slaves. In Running, a woman acknowledges her ancestors who save her from trouble.

Shine is another song in the same series. Here, put very simply, an ancestor’s spirit accompanies a girl while she makes her way home. The bit about African spirituality extending into the Americas is fascinating. But what stamps the song as special for me is the joy hardwired into it. The girl dances in a subway station. The spirit matches her, step for step.

That joy makes me choose this song over old favourites I have heard for much, much longer.

When I look back at my years of reporting and indeed find it is signposted not just by my news articles but by songs. Bruce Springsteen’s Youngstown is one such instance. Go to India’s rusting industrial towns and his song about the steel town’s rise and fall, the accompanying breakdown of the social contract between the working class and rest of America comes to mind. But most of the time, songs enter the playlist because they correspond – through a process I understand poorly – with the mood triggered by these places and times. Like that time in Odisha when I heard Mark Knopfler’s Tracker on a loop. Or a dispirited time in Bihar when I heard nothing but You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen’s look back at his life. Another time and place, a different, defiant mood, and Mark Knopfler’s Yon Two Crows comes to mind. “If you can do it, so can I.”

As we head into 2018 amid the gloom and ugliness that has surrounded us, while anger and defiance are admittedly a part of this journey, perhaps joy should be in the driving seat? We must do what we need to do. But without forgetting to live well, laugh often. And dance.

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