February 9, 2016

The Soundtrack of Your Life

Our lives are not always our own, but instead often shaped by the times, circumstances, and people that come in and out throughout them. As such, compiling a soundtrack to one’s life can be, if unpacked through the influences that shape us, a soundtrack of the people and places who formed our history. The music is not our own, but that of those that came before us — a soundtrack built before we were born but that was passed along to us through implicit osmosis, through the sights, sounds, and tastes of the places we called home, and the people with whom we shared those homes.

I was born in East Africa, but immigrated quickly to New York City, where we lived with many other immigrant families in Rego Park, Queens. Some years after that, we found ourselves in the Kingsview-Dixon neighborhood of Toronto. Aside from Dar Es Salaam, New York, and Toronto, the only other city I have truly called home is Washington DC, where I spent my college years and then worked for a few years after that.

Here then, are the songs of those cities, the soundtrack of home, places that made me who I am.

Mlimani Park Orchestra, M.V. Mapenzi 1”

Marley Marl, The Symphony”

Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force, Planet Rock”

Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers, Bustin’ Loose”

Eva Cassidy & Chuck Brown, You Don’t Know What Love Is”

Thrust, Do You Understand”


It was my father who was my first musical influence, filling the house with soul and funk music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. He may have not had the best voice when he sang oldies around the apartment, but his love of dance was infectious, and shaped my subsequent love of all music that featured a beat suitable for dancing. My friends in Rexdale and Dixon introduced me to hip hop, my friends in choir introduced me to R&B, but at my core, my father’s love of sweet soul has shaped my musical taste since birth.

Here then, are the songs that remind me of my father, and of my friends early in life. This is the soundtrack of the people of my childhood, a soundtrack that has become my own.

Chuck Berry, Johnnie B. Goode”

Prince, When Doves Cry”

(Not available for embedding, but you’ve all heard it many times before.)

Chaka Khan, I Feel For You”

Cameo, Word Up”

Tammi Terrell & Marvin Gaye, You’re All I Need To Get By”

The Drifters, Under the Boardwalk”

Funkadelic, One Nation Under A Groove”

Martha and the Vandellas, Dancing In The Street”


(This post was created as my submission for the Spring 2016 edition of The Mixtape Concern. Download this mixtape, including all the songs and my narration, over on Dropbox.)


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