Playlist - Silence is My Mother Tongue
Read on for a playlist curated by Sulaiman Addonia, inspired by the intimate and epic writing of his new novel, Silence is My Mother Tongue, over the past 10 years.
Off the Wall by Michael Jackson
On days I felt I couldn’t write Silence is My Mother Tongue anymore, I put this song on, because it felt as if it was sung by my characters who would tell me:
When the world is on your shoulder
Gotta straighten up your act and boogie down
If you can't hang with the feeling
Then there ain't no room for you this part of town
Cause we're the party people night and day
Living crazy that's the only way
Love 2 the 9's by Prince
I’ve been a fan of Michael Jackson since my Saudi Arabia years. So I hardly ever listened to Prince, as if one’s heart doesn’t have a space for such two talented giants. But as I grew older, I came to appreciate just how incredible Prince is. This song I listened to as I proofread Silence is My Mother Tongue in a car journey to the South of France in August. I get carsick quite easily, and this song helped distract me.
So What by Miles Davis and John Coltrane
Jazz is my passion. This beautiful and affirming collaboration between these two greats gives me life every time I listen to it.
Sodade and Rotcha ‘Scribida by Cesaria Evora
I love listening to songs in languages I don’t understand. There’s a power of not being distracted by the lyrics and instead totally immersing myself in the voice and melody. But having said that, I always dreamt writing a song for Evora. I’d have had to learn Portuguese to do that, but I’m sure I’d have done it for Cesaria. Such is the magnitude of my love for this Legend that I’ll choose two songs by her.
Tezeta (Nostalgia) - Mulatu Astatke
Mulatu Astatke is known as the man who created Ethio jazz. His story inspired the artist in Silence is My Mother Tongue. Like Mulatu, my character came to Europe to study engineering but then he fell in love with art. It was music in Mulatu’s case. I loved listening to this track when I would wake up in the middle of the night to read poetry. I recently met Mulatu in London. He’s a friend of a friend. Such a humble man. A true Legend.
Ethiopian Urban Modern Music Vol. 5 by Gétatchèw Mèkurya
While I’m here with Ethio Jazz, let me drop this album by the magnificent Ethiopian saxophonist, Getatchew Mekurya
Moussolou by Oumou Sangare
I would love to live in Mali one day. There’s something so sensuous about Malian culture, history and music that appeals to my being. Mali is the spiritual home to my soul. Oumou Sangare moves me deeply.
Cucurrucucu Paloma (Hable Con Ella) by Caetano Veloso
Almodovar is one of my favorite directors. I study his films. They teach me a lot about images and colours; and imagery in prose is important to me. I also adore the fact that music is almost always a character in his movies. This song is from his beautiful, stylish film Talk to Her.
Shape of You by Ed Sheeran
“Your book,” my 9 year old son would often say, “is as old as me and it still is not finished.” So I asked him to choose a song for my playlist. He came up with one
In my book, I write about the Eritrean dance: “Our dance was conceived in response to our history, marred as it was by repetition of the same bloody story over and over again." Helen Meles - someone told me she is an ex freedom fighter - is one of my favourite Eritrean singers.
Mar eske Tuwaf (Fikir Eske Meqabir) by Teddy Afro
Having grown up with my Eritrean mother’s family, I hardly know my Ethiopian side. But I’m increasingly discovering my father’s country which I have never visited, except through music. This video was sent to me by Fekadu Yigezu, an Ethiopian friend and my son’s godfather. It’s just astonishingly beautiful by one of the great Ethiopian singers.