Here we begin a series of playlists of songs to write to by current Best of Young British Novelists, with Tahmima Anam.


‘I Loves You, Porgy,’ by Nina Simone

Whatever you do, don’t go to a performance of Porgy and Bess to try and understand the meaning of this song. Sometimes a song is just a song, perfect without context or explanation.


‘Sorrow Tears and Blood,’ by Fela Kuti

My friend Michael Veal, who wrote the definitive biography of Fela Kuti, calls him “The Chief Priest”. This song is political, poetic, feverish, and heart-stopping.

‘Ke Tomar, by Fakir Lalon,’ sung by Labik Kamal Gourob

Modern Bengali folk music has adopted Fakir Lalon Shah, the Sufi mystic and lyric poet, as one of its contemporary icons. Labik is a prodigiously talented devotee of this haunting and soulful tradition.


‘Carnaval Di Sao Vincente,’ by Cesaria Evoria

Introduced to me by Michele Ashley, who listens to Cesaria Evora in her studio in Waltham, Massachussetts, while crafting some of the world’s most exquisite cellos.


‘It Never Entered My Mind,’ by Miles Davis

How, how does he turn a Rogers and Hart show tune from the 1940’s into this? Genius. Listen and be transported.

For more about the author, including critical perspectives and in-depth biographies, visit the British Council’s web pages on Tahmima Anam.

Photograph © Nadav Kander

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