I'm gonna make a list of songs that fulfill two criteria: a) they're songs I liked or even love the last time I was in Tanzania, at ages 12-13, and b) they speak to me now both musically and where I'm at in life going back to East Africa. This should all cleanly fit on a 70 minute CD-R, for that 2006 "oh geez MP3 players are still expensive as heck" feel.
1. Flaming Lips - This Here Giraffe (Clouds Taste Metallic, 1995, Warner Bros)
Laugh. Clouds Taste Metallic is this boisterously fun '90s oddity that everyone should listen to at least once and this single pretty much defines the album, with a slight touch of African wildlife to boot. Never mind that Toto song.
2. David Bowie - Changes (Hunky Dory, 1971, RCA)
As a somewhat meta thought, there is a heck of a juxtaposition between the lyric "they're well aware of what they're going through" and current NGO mission goals tilting towards a preference of asset-based development.
3. Crowded House - Weather With You (Woodface, 1991, Capitol)
Funny story - my brother still refuses to listen to a lot of the Tanzania roadtrip classics featured on the 512mb MP3 player that we aux cabled to our Toyota Land Cruiser's tape deck. This is one of the few songs that he still likes from the bunch, and I find it to be a fun jangly lil' tune. Here's to Henry for subtly nominating this one a year or so ago, when we had that conversation about what '90s tunes or albums we still think hold up.
4. Iron Maiden - Wasted Years (Somewhere in Time, 1986, Capitol/EMI)
The lyrics are a powerful rejection of ennui, not to mention a discourse on the whole idea of travel and seeing the world maybe having an opportunity cost. Those feelings are ones I've had to battle with before and this song is always the cure to my ills. Iron Maiden's a legendary band for a reason. This is simultaneously the most metal and maybe one of the most upbeat songs on here.
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Wet Sand (Stadium Arcadium, 2006, Warner Bros.)
Stadium Arcadium was one of a handful of albums I listened to way too many times in 2006-2007. It's a big weird cluttered Chilis album and only two songs off of it have really stuck with me in a big way. Make You Feel Better is the more energetic of the two, but Wet Sand is the song that proceeds to knock my socks off every time.
6. Gorillaz - O Green World (Demon Days, 2005, Parlophone/Virgin)
I think I went with this track off of the near-perfect album Demon Days because the lyrics in that opening line have always transported me to the Dodoma dry season. Song's a bit of a downer but hey, sometimes it be like that.
7. Danger Doom - Mince Meat (The Mouse and the Mask, 2005, Epitaph/Metalface)
That's right folks, this is a one-two punch of those slow, funky Danger Mouse-produced mid-'00s classics. Wordy, moody, and with that vintage Klondike Kat sample for good measure. This is probably low-key the grungiest song on here.
8. The Cure - Primary (Faith, 1981, Fiction)
OK, I'll admit I heard this one on Staring at the Sea first (but then that one is up there with R.E.M.'s Eponymous as an actually great singles collection, fight me). Moody, but with that high speed post-punk energy that defines early Cure.
9. Explosions in the Sky - Look Into the Air (How Strange, Innocence, 2000/2005, Temporary Residence Records)
This song was stuck in my head on a bush walk one day when I saw one of the most memorable things to still remain in my head from eleven and a half years back: The skyline in the bush out beyond Msalato, north of Dodoma, in the late rainy season. There's a a certain beauty to watching the last rains fall out in the distance, over the kopjes and the green earth. Bless the rains, but ditch that freakin' Toto song.
10. Allison Krauss - Down to the River to Pray (O Brother Where Art Thou?, 2000, Lost Highway/Mercury)
Another Steffensen road trip classic. This is one of the most balanced songs on the record - not too much syrup, nor too much melancholy, just a good kick of spirituality.
11. R.E.M. - [Untitled] (Green, 1989, Warner Bros.)
There are about ten to a baker's dozen worth of R.E.M. tracks that could've made the list but there's that je ne sais quois with this one being a heartfelt track about life on the road.
As a post-script, I should note that I would not hear Toto's Africa for the first time until about four years after returning to the USA. Don't even think about it.