ELECTRA STREET PLAYLISTS
“I Danmark er jeg født,” written by H.C. Andersen, performed by Isam Bachiri
Many Danes will cite H.C. Andersen’s 1850 song as the quintessentially Danish song, but when Danish-Palestinian singer Isam Bachiri sang a cover of “I Danmark er jeg født” (I Was Born in Denmark) for a 2007 tourism campaign, the song took on another dimension: It became a statement about what it means to belong and an anthem of pluralism: It is possible to be Danish at heart whether or not you were born somewhere else, have foreign roots, or in my case live abroad.
“Jeg ved en lærkerede,” written by Carl Nielsen, performed by Kim Larsen
The soundtrack to my childhood, “Jeg ved en lærkerede” (I Know Where There is a Lark’s Nest) brings back memories from morning assembly at my primary and middle schools. Morgensang (morning song) is a tradition still practiced in many Danish schools, where the pupils assemble before the start of the their classes to sing in the day. I loathed it when I was younger, as did my peers (it was ‘uncool’ to sing along), but now, I realize how many of my primary and middle school memories are tied to those morning songs.
“Om Lidt,” written and performed by Kim Larsen
If ”Jeg ved en lærkerede” was the soundtrack to my middle school years, “Om Lidt” (In a Moment) was the anthem to the end of my middle school years. Appearing on Larsen’s aptly named albumForklædt som voksen (Disguised as an Adult), “Om Lidt” captures the angst of realising that an era is coming to an end. I remember listening to this song on my brick of a computer, tears in my eyes, when I got home after the last day of middle school and felt as if my world had ended that morning when I said goodbye to my friends, to my world as I knew it back then. I still listen to it at the end of every semester.
“Ik Neem Je Mee,” written and performed by Gers Pardoel
I arrived at a boarding school in Maastricht at the height of this song’s popularity; the local radio played “Ik Neem Je Mee” (I’ll Take You With Me) at least twice per day. I did not speak a word of Dutch, but like my peers, I could at least mouth along to the chorus. “Ik Neem Je Mee” is hardly a musical masterpiece, but the memories I associate with it – screaming “ik neem je me-e-e-e-eee!” as we rushed through breakfast at 7:30 AM before pedalling to school on a bicycle with two flat tires to take our mock exams – make it the soundtrack to two of the happiest years of my life.
“Barbie Girl,” written and performed by Aqua
I loathe “Barbie Girl” as strongly as I imagine Spanish people loathe the Macarena and Brazilians loathe “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”, but “Barbie Girl” is so closely associated with Danish music I have come to associate it with home, much to my chagrin. When I hear it now, I keep my feelings to myself and nod along when someone tells me with subdued laughter that I should be proud of this late-90s Technicolor kitsch masterpiece.
Danmark, nu blunder den lyse nat,” written by Oluf Ring, performed by Kammerkoret Musica
Since leaving Denmark for Maastricht four years ago, I have only been home over the winter and summer breaks. Therefore, the Sankt Hansaften (St. John’s Eve) celebration on summer solstice has taken on extra significance for me, to the point where I refuse to leave the country in late June. When my family and I sing “Danmark, nu blunder den lyse nat” (Denmark, the Light Night is Fading Now) around the Sankt Hansaften pyre, we may not sound as melodious as the choir in this recording, but the occasion is just as solemn and beautiful as this song.
“Under stjernerne på himlen,” written by Tommy Seebach, performed by Rasmus Seebach
You can find higher-quality recordings of “Under stjernerne på himlen” (Under the Stars in the Sky) on YouTube, but this live version was filmed in my hometown in 2012, when Seebach, then the biggest name on the Danish music scene, came to Kolding. “Under stjernerne på himlen” was the last song he sang that night and arguably the most moving one. A cover of his father’s original, Rasmus Seebach dedicated this song to his father’s memory – a beautiful gesture, since his Tommy Seebach’s original recording of the song never charted well, while his son’s cover peaked at number one on the Danish charts.
“En lærke letted,” written and performed by Mads Nielsen
Like “Jeg ved en lærkerede,” “En lærke letted” is a song about a lark, but Nielsen’s lark is a metaphorical one: Written after the Danish liberation on May 4th 1945, the song marked the end of five long years of German occupation. Beyond its political significance, “En lærke letted” is a beautiful song about communities and the moments and feelings that bind us together – aptly, because Nielsen intended for the song to be sung out loud. While nationalist groups have abused “En lærke letted” by claiming it as a statement on racial purity and radical difference, “En lærke letted” is about love of one’s community and peers more than it is about love of country. Most of all, it is a song of and about beauty.
“Bibo No Aozora/04,” written and performed by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Jaques Morelenbaum
Not a song about my home, but a song from a movie that makes me feel at home. “Bibo No Aozora/04” accompanies the final scene of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Babel, and whenever I hear the song, I see the Tokyo skyline and the beautiful scene that ends Iñárritu’s film. Beyond its function in the movie, I have embraced “Bibo No Aozora/04” and given it a function in my own life: Whenever I arrive in a new city or country for the first time, I listen to this song as I land and feel a unique sense of calm that prepares me for the experiences to come.
“Green Eyes,” written and performed by Coldplay
Though I now recognise it as the best song Coldplay has written, “Green Eyes” was not my favourite song when I first heard it. When I listened to A Rush of Blood to the Head, on which album “Green Eyes” appears, I would skip the song. It took falling in love with someone who considered “Green Eyes” not just the best song on that album, but also the best song of the millennium, before I gave it a second chance. As I listened closer to the lyrics, I heard how wrong I had been to skip the song and put it on repeat instead. We called it ‘our song’, and to this day, it retains that special place in my life.