A Traveler’s 10 Best Musical Discoveries
Tom Swick: Contemplating and celebrating the world of travel
03.02.09 | 10:35 AM ET
1. Sezen Aksu
The young owner of my budget hotel in Selcuk was giving me a lift to Ephesus one morning and playing the most beguiling music. “Who’s singing?” I asked. “Sezen Aksu,” he said. After two weeks in Turkey I recognized the name, and immediately fell in love with the music, which, even at its most exuberant, carried a faint, seductive sadness.
2. Khánh Ly
In Saigon in 1994 I met the great songwriter Trinh Cong Son (described by the woman who had given me his number as “the Bob Dylan of Vietnam”). A few days later in Hue, sitting at a café on the Perfume River, I heard a captivating female voice—filled with a kind of brash melancholy—drift from speakers. This was Khánh Ly, I was told, interpreting the songs of Trinh Cong Son. The next week, at a street market in Hanoi, I came across one of her CDs. Music that had accompanied me the length of the country now followed me home.
3. Bulat Okudzhava
Discovered not in Moscow but in Philadelphia (thanks to my friend Agnieszka). The lyrics of the singer-songwriter-poet are lost on me, but not the sage, unadorned, resolute voice, which now runs through my head every time I set foot in Russia.
4. Márta Sebestyén
At a summer concert in Szeged—piercing Hungarian folk songs under the stars—I instantly recognized the voice from “The English Patient.”
5. Ewa Demarczyk
I taught English in Poland in the early ‘80s and whenever I want to relive that time I listen to her proud, defiant, occasionally wistful songs.