FF Daily #253: FF Recommends | 20 songs for your holiday playlist

20 songs for this season recommended by Team FF along with their family and friends

Founding Fuel

[Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay]

Good morning,

The one big problem when you ask anyone for their single most favourite song is that they look at you as if you don't understand what music is all about. There is never a single song. It's always a list. Music, after all, is a medium that allows us to feel specific emotions. And we seek a range of emotions. What’s joy, without sorrow? What’s pleasure, without pain? What’s shade without sunshine?  

The other problem with picking a single most favourite song is that it keeps changing, and it has been changing faster thanks to algorithmic recommendations by YouTube, Prime Music and the best of them all, Spotify (not to mention the recommendations by friends). We keep discovering new songs and in them our new favourite songs.

Which is why we gave ourselves a few conditions to force ourselves to pick just one. Our choice should capture the spirit of this season. The song should speak to our soul, we should not be recommending it because it’s cool, because all our friends are listening. It should speak to us. Other than that there was no restriction—in terms of language, genre, style, age. 

We asked ourselves and our family members what that one song is. Here's that list.

The FF Playlist 

Here's why we chose what we chose. You can listen to the entire playlist here.

Gabriel's Oboe, composed by Ennio Morricone (theme from The Mission)

Sveta Basraon

Music that transcends language, reaching out and being heard, peace—the theme from The Mission represents all of this.

In the film, Jesuit priest Father Gabriel (played by Jeremy Irons) has climbed up to “above the fall” to reach a remote Indian tribe in South America. He is surrounded by suspicious and hostile natives, arrows drawn to the ready. And he pulls out his carefully wrapped oboe to play this theme to show he comes in peace. His oboe must convey his intentions, for words will not be understood. The natives lower their guard and slowly accept him in their midst.

Gabriel's Oboe has been coming back into my playlist over the years. And it was on it for two months since Morricone passed away in July. His vast body of work includes the music score for films like Cinema Paradisio, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and The Untouchables.  

Listen to the song 

Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya, from Hum Dono, sung by Mohammed Rafi

Balraj Singh Basraon

This song is among my favourites, more so in the time of Covid. It's about coping with uncertainties, urging to keep moving, go with the flow, and not worry too much. 

Listen to the song:

Alone Together, Chet Baker

Komal Basraon

It's the kind of a song I'd listen to in the rare quiet moments of my day, between wrapping up work or chores and going to bed, usually when I'm not required to do anything in particular.

I like this song because it transports me to an alternate world, a different era, where things are slower and simpler and life is more about pleasure than anything else.

Also the honesty of the title—“alone together”—for how the year has been and also for how life is I guess :)

Listen to the song: 

Geet Gata Hoon Main, Gun Gunata Hoon Main, Kishore Kumar

Baljinder Singh Basraon

I like this song because the theme is, be blessed and happy in any situation.

Listen to the song:

Ami Ek Jajabar by Bhupen Hazarika

Indrajit Gupta

While I was still in college, I visited Assam for a tea garden audit. And at age 19, I fell in love with the raw, breathtaking beauty of Assam and the North East. (Sadly, I've been able to make it back to those parts only once.) Dr Bhupen Hazarika's songs help bring alive those memories for me, especially two of his all-time classics, Bistirno Dupare, his version of Paul Robeson's Ol' Man River and Manush manush er jonnya (Humans are for humans). For this playlist, I've picked yet another favourite, Ami Ek Jajabar (I am a wanderer). (You can find the English translation of the lyrics here.) The song captures the spirit of international solidarity that defined Hazarika's music. We need to rediscover that very same humanity in these difficult times. 

(P.S. Hazarika was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna last year.)

Listen to the song:

All I Want for Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey & Last Christmas by George Michael (Wham!)

Nanda Majumdar

I love both these singers. For me, December is about Christmas, about love and what it means to me. Both songs reflect moods of this beautiful season of love, heart, passion and hope. It's also a time for emotional excess… something I love to indulge in. One can dream!

Listen to the songs:


The Climb by Miley Cyrus

Atreyi Gupta

This song that brings back memories of my childhood and keeps me going when times get tough. It is also a karaoke favourite and makes me feel warm and inspired.

Listen to the song:

Dancing Queen by Abba

Auroni Gupta

I got hooked to Dancing Queen by Abba when I was a kid. At one point, I must have watched the film Mamma Mia, starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, almost every day for months to an end. This was also the first song I recall knowing all the lyrics.

Listen to the song:

Niravana Shatakam sung by Pandit Jasraj

NS Ramnath

I heard this song live at Kalakshetra Auditorium in the early 2000s. The experience was so intense. I could see Pandit Jasraj and his team from my seat in the balcony, but it felt as if the song was coming from my heart. I have never had a similar experience since then, but listening to it takes me quite close. It's composed by Adi Sankara, and a key literature in Advaita philosophy. Jasraj breathes life into it. Of all the versions available online, I like this one.

Listen to the song:

Pani Vizhum Malar Vanam by SPB from Ninaivellam Nithya

NV Sharadha

It’s impossible to pick just one song from the 40,000 songs S.P. Balasubrahmanyam has sung. Pani vizhum malar vanam is one of my favourites. I love the way he takes us through an emotional ride. Watch out for his signature laugh at around 3:20. He does it even in sad songs. There’s always a reason to laugh.  

Listen to the song:

Keeravaani by SPB from Anveshana

Shobha Nagesh

Because it’s a beautiful melody and the music is so comforting.

Listen to the song:

Lag Ja Gale

Vinay Shrivastava

I am just 80 days away from my retirement. It’s tough to come to terms with the fact that I will soon have to bid goodbye to the chance of working closely with my colleagues, who are like my extended family. The lyrics of this song perfectly capture the unfolding scenario.

Embrace me for who knows if this beautiful night will ever come again. We may or may not meet again. Destiny has given us this opportunity today. So try knowing me from close proximity to your heart's content. Who knows if destiny may present this opportunity again.

Listen to the song:


Mridula Shrivastava

“Itni si hansi, Itni si khushi, Itna sa tukda chand ka, Khwabon ke tinkon se, Chal banayeinn aashiyaan”

Our family lost Anamika, my sister in-law, a few days before the lockdown started. Unable to travel, meet and lend a hug to each other has made the grieving process even tougher. However, this song was always on her lips and not a day goes by when I don’t watch the video of her singing it. It gives me some solace that she is still among us. May you too find harmony as you listen to it. 

Listen to the song:

Now You are Free (Live Orchestra Performance in Prague)

Anmol Shrivastava

When the world of music is asked about one living composer who is a worthy successor to Beethoven or Mozart, one name echoes—Hans Zimmer. I choose this iconic song not just because of the brilliance of his composition, but also due to the symbolic power of the story of the movie Gladiator. The piece plays at the end. 

Gladiator chronicles General Maximus’s pursuit of freedom. He was forced to become a slave. The slave becomes a gladiator. And the gladiator eventually kills the tyrant emperor, succumbing to his own wounds in the process. However, this completes his vengeance for the death of his family. And fulfils his obligation to bring peace to Rome, finally setting him free to reunite with his family in the afterlife. 

When I hear this song, I reflect on my own journey towards freedom. And it strikes even more deeply during Covid. 

When would I be free to hug my friends again, to visit the ocean and to travel the world without fear?

When would I be free from the pressure of my own ambitions and aspirations and be content with the mark I have made on the world?

When would I be free from my own obligations to society, especially given as I sit safely in my living room with AC, many struggle to make bread & access clean water?

When would I be free from my own inhibitions, to eventually meet my inner self, the Anmol that resides beneath all the layers? 

As I search for the answers, perhaps the dialogue by General Maximus that precedes the song, hints at how one can think about the journey. 

“I knew a man once who said, ‘Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.’”

Listen to the song:

I Want It that Way by Backstreet Boys

Nayantara Assisi

My all-time favourite is definitely 'I want it that Way' by Backstreet Boys. I heard it for the first time on the show, Brooklyn 99 and I loved it. Then I started singing it every day during our bus ride from school. Soon all my friends started singing it after hearing me sing it. Then it became our ‘Friend Anthem’ and we started singing it on school trips and before exams because we consider it as some sort of lucky charm/song. 

But it's impossible to like just one song. So, I made a playlist that has some of my favourite songs for you. It includes this one. 

Listen to the song:

High Hopes by Panic! At the Disco

Anugraha Assisi

Because it makes me feel good! 

Listen to the song:

Tum Se Milke Aisa Laga Tumse Milke from Parinda

Anna Assisi

Because it's a romantic song and it gives me hope. I like this version by Mahfuz Emon.

Listen to the song:

Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel

Charles Assisi

I first heard this song as a kid, when my uncle played it on his record player. Not that I understood the import of the lyrics. But clearly, he was enjoying himself and was immersed in the song. So I assumed this was a song to be enjoyed because it was being played by a man I was always in awe of. 

Then college happened. On one of our hikes, a classmate, formally trained in Western Classical music, pulled out his guitar and started to sign ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. There was much passion in his voice and I thought I could see all the girls fall in love with him. But I still wasn't paying attention to the lyrics.

Until a few months later, when a “sophisticated” friend, one my closest buddies actually, insisted I listen to this version of the song: Art Garfunkel singing live in concert at Central Park in New York, and let the import of the words sink in. 

I remember we were happily drunk and he insisted on playing it in a loop. There were times I’d feel deliriously happy. There were others when I felt sad. And yet others when I wondered how could anyone sing so wonderfully?

When I travelled to New York for the first time, I visited Central Park, plugged my headphones in, shut my eyes and the world out, to hear Garfunkel sing this. This had to be the most beautiful song, ever!

Listen to the song:

Jotheyali by S.P. Balasubrahmanyam and S. Janaki from Geetha

CS Swaminathan

Not the only favourite, but an evergreen song for me. The singers are S.P. Balasubrahmanyam (SPB) and S. Janaki. This year we lost SPB but his 40,000 songs live amongst us and satisfy every mood and situation. The music is by Illayaraja who has composed more than 7,000 songs in over 1,000 movies. This combination of composer and singers was my constant companion while growing up and provides me joy and relaxation even today. 

This melody was first composed for a Kannada movie Geetha (1980), was used again in a Tamil movie Nooravathu Naal (1984) and then made the national scene through Cheeni Kum (2007) under the title Jaane Do Na, sung by the versatile Shreya Ghoshal. The song appeals to me in all languages but I have a special liking for the original Kannada version.

Listen to the song:

The FF Playlist: Listen to it here

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