Readers recommend playlist: songs about Commonwealth countries

A reader discovers geographical references in your suggestions from around the world – featuring Ian Dury, Kirsty MacColl, the Super Eagles and Traffic

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of your suggestions last week. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

What I was hoping for when we linked this theme to the Commonwealth Games was an inspirational set of songs and, while you did nominate many, there were also lot of political songs, some far too dark for my liking. Yes, the Commonwealth of Nations has its origins in dark places (not least of which the British Empire), and, yes, a lot of blood has been spilled along the way to make it what it is today. But I have ended up with a playlist songs that made me smile rather than anything with an underlying message or meaning.

Listen to the playlist on YouTube.

We’ll start with a whistle-stop tour of part of the Commonwealth from the Queen’s tour of the Commonwealth in 1953 as described by Roaring Lion in their song Royal Tour. I hadn’t encountered Reportage Calypso before as a genre, and I was thoroughly entertained by the examples provided. This was my favourite, though! Also namechecking a number of current or previously Commonwealth places (as well as other places: “On the road to Mandalay / From Bombay to Santa Fe”) are Ian Dury & the Blockheads, with Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

Is a song a cover if you change almost all of the lyrics? Whatever the answer, I couldn’t decide between Geoff Mack’s original, Australian, version of I’ve Been Everywhere, and Ravij Rajaram’s manic Indian version. Both namecheck a phenomenal number of places in those countries – and both make it to my final list.

I’m going to group the rest of the list geographically (as good a way as any other). In Africa, we have a wonderful welcome song written for the visit of Kenneth Kaunda from Zambia to fellow Commonwealth country Gambia from Super Eagles, called Gambia-Zambia. Next we have the Piranhas, and Zambezi – where the singer would like to go to escape his financial troubles. On a more serious note ET Mensah proposes that three countries, one of them in the Commonwealth, form the nucleus of an African union in Ghana-Guinea-Mali. Finally in this section, we have Traffic with their instrumental Mozambique.

Moving east to India we have Indian Ocean with their version of Des Mera Rangrez, a hymn of praise to all things Indian.

Continuing eastward we return to Australia, where Steeleye Span tell the tale of a convict woman transported to Van Diemen’s Land. Kirsty MacColl, meanwhile, recites the story of a more modern, and far more willing, emigre to Sydney Bay in He’s on the Beach.

Moving further east into the Pacific we encounter the Seekers, with their version of a Fijian song, Isa Lei.

Finally, we pass over the Americas into the Bahamas, where Slade are inspired by “the Grand Bahama island stories” in Far, Far Away, before moving on to the Caribbean where the Blessing are “sailing on to St Giles” in Hurricane Room, and 10cc who, in Dreadlock Holiday, don’t just like Jamaica ... but love it!

As a final note, the Commonwealth of Nations meets this week to discuss, among other things, a successor to the Queen as its head – so it is fitting that we end with (and I am no ardent monarchist!) God Save the Queen. By, of course, Queen.

New theme: how to join in

The next theme will be announced at 8pm (GMT) on Thursday 19 April. You will have until 11pm on Monday 23 April to submit nominations.

Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for Readers recommend:


Chaz Cozens

The GuardianTramp

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