When in the mountains, we are constantly surrounded by nature’s music – rumble of the river, rustle of the leaves crushing under feet, howl of the winds, tweet of birds or buzz of the insects. These sounds give immense joy. We even crave them often on those dull Thursdays in the office. However, the wretched species that we humans are, we simply need to plug in our headphones and listen to our favourite artists, even while attending Mother Earth’s musical concert. Without any further introduction, here is my “mountain playlist”. From Ladakh to Sikkim, these songs have always been a great company. And to be honest, just one article is an injustice to them.
1. Mountain High
Starting with a resonant, all too familiar sound of prayer bells heard in Buddhist Monasteries, this upbeat song instantly takes you to the hills. With the Nepali lyrics that hints at the presence of “almighty” all around us who manifests himself through each & every element of the nature, it is no wonder that the song ends in hypnotic chants of “Om mani padme hum”.
From an album called “Sketches Darjeeling” by a musician from the hills Bipul Chhetri, the song “Mountain High” also speaks about longing for your home or hometown. Like me, if you also consider mountains your home then you would find the same reverence in Bipul’s chanting “Home calling home” as in a Buddhist monk chanting “Om mani padme hum”.
Also listen to Asaar from same album. TBH this album demands a separate article.
2. No ceiling
If you haven’t watched the movie “Into the Wild (2007)” do yourself a favour and watch it ASAP. The movie is about a crazy young boy called Christopher McCandless who gives up all his possessions to travel, live in the wilderness and discover the true meaning of life. Soundtrack for this motion is created by Eddie Vedder. Eddie has a deep, sonorous male voice that he commands to sound like a throaty, guttural beast as well as honey soaked old wise English man’s. I would not hesitate to say that his voice has all the qualities that make up a mountain. His voice is the Himalaya.
This song “No Ceiling” speaks about the all encompassing nature of love. True love is never limited to a boy or a girl. Not even to a select few people. It embraces entire humanity, every single living being and even non living elements of nature too. That’s why in the movie, Chris can not come to terms with killing a reindeer even though his own survival is at stake.
Closely competing for this spot is “Long Nights” from the same album.
3. Mai Ne Meriye
With lot of Bollywood hits under his belt, Mohit Chauhan is still connected to his Himachali roots. Born and raised in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh, he has trekked a lot in the Shivalik range. A song like “Mai Ne Meriye” comes naturally to him. This song tells the story of a Pahari girl who has given away her heart to a boy from Chamba.
Originally appeared in Mohit’s solo album “Fitoor”, I like the MTV unplugged version better. Perhaps because of the cello which strikes a chord somewhere deep within you.
Babaji is another must listen song by Mohit Chauhan set Himachal.
4. Cherapunjee (Bheeg Gaya Mera Mann)
Moving to the beautiful north east of India, this song – as the name suggests – is all about the wettest place on earth – Cherapunjee. When Kailash Kher croons “Bheeg gaya mera mann” – in his petrichor emanating voice – we too get completely drenched in the joy of this delightfully worded song.
5. Mann Ki Lagan
Next song in this list is a stark contrast from the wettest place on the earth – a high altitude desert, Ladakh. Picturized in phantom like yet stunningly beautiful landscapes, “Mann ki lagan” has been included here mainly because of its video. If the steamy parts of the video are ignored, the lyrics make it a song equally about romantic or the divine love. RFAK can be cringe worthy at times but in this song he is brilliant.
6. Piya Basanti Re
Way back in Y2k, many artists rode the wave of rising indie Indian music scene and became instant hits. However, most were lost in oblivion sooner or later once ugly remixes came. A few songs, like “Piya Basanti” have stood the test of time and continue to thrive even today. Again, the picturization of this song makes it eligible for “mountain playlist”. Rains in the lower Himalayan foothills + melodious voices laced with Indian classical overtones + nostalgia = perfect mood setter in mountains.
7. Aaoge Jab Tum
A beach is an uncomplicated, breezy, open place. Like the face of a young lad. Mountains are nuanced, mysterious, unpredictable. Like the heart of a lady. There is often an air of melancholy attached to the mountains. Shot in Shimla, “Aaoge jab tum” captures this inherent gloominess of the mountains to the T.
8. Kahaan hoon main
Imtiaz Ali has a soft corner for the Himalayas, which is why we see it in abundance in his most (4 out of 5) films. The mountains in his films are not just used as locales but they are an integral part of story telling. Just imagine sitting atop an HPTDC bus passing through unexplored regions of Himachal, like Reckong Peo, the harsh winds passing straight through your bones, rocks looming above your head, their shadows playing their own little game, roads taking sharp turns, a mighty river racing alongside. Once the initial adrenaline rush has subsided a bit, you feel great joy and gratitude for being there. Because it’s the place you always dreamed of going one day. You were meant to be here. You belong here. You are aware of every element of nature around you. Suddenly you realise what’s the real meaning of “live in the moment”.
“It can only be experienced; can’t be described in words” a novice writer like me would say. But the trio of Imtiaz Ali, Irshad Kamil and ARR have done it in “kahaan hoon main”. You can actually feel the place through the visuals, lyrics and music respectively. From Alia Bhat, Randeep Hooda starring Highway, this song might be the last that you would notice in the album (first would be Patakha Guddi). However once you do, it will stay with you for a long time through the joys and sorrows.
9. Neeli Aasmani Chhatri
This song is a unique blend of innocence, mischief and spontaneity which only kids are capable of. Especially the wild ones you meet in smaller towns and villages. From the movie “the blue umbrella” by Vishal Bhardwaj (which is adapted from a Ruskin Bond short story by the same name), “neeli aasmani chhatri” is a playsong of a little pahari girl. Unlike other entries in this list so far, this song doesn’t delve into existential questions nor does it reflect upon melancholic nature of mountains nor does it ponder about creations of almighty. However, beauty of this song lies in its sweet simplicity. Take a bow Gulzar sa’ab.
10. Bawra Mann
There are two versions of Baawra Mann – Female (Shubha Mudgal) and Male (Swanand Kirkire). Both have totally different moods. This fan video includes both the versions and combines them with the footage of Malshej Ghats in monsoon. For me, this is a mountain song – not the Himalayan type rather one which reminds of our very own Western Ghats.
Also listen to Ab ke sawan by Shubha Mudgal.
Hope you enjoyed reading this and listening to the music as much as I did writing it. The entire playlist can be accessed here. If you have any “special” mountain / travel songs that are close to your heart, let me know in the comments below. I’d be glad to include them in second part.