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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

Earwormz: Trip Chunes

This edition we write about the tunes we traveled to as we physically moved across the globe for fall break. From the wet sounds of goa-psy to the sandy drums of Egyptian heritage, we try to narrate a score to our trips.

In the context of our different Fall Break experiences, we thought we would take this opportunity to explore what it means to listen to music during trips. Spending an ample amount of time in the car also gave us an abundant amount of time to reflect on how our shared space is construed and shaped by an AUX jack.
We were driving to downtown Cairo, arguing over who should be in charge of the music as per usual. It’s a lot of pressure: how do you, of all people, dictate and create the journey that your friends would be a part of for the next couple of minutes? In what seemed like a lightbulb moment, my friend grabbed the AUX and said to me: “I need to show you this song”. All of a sudden, I was transported to the desert that existed well before the hustle and bustle of Cairo. With a simple Arabian beat on the hang sending her in, Menna Hussein exclaimed, in Arabic, “I am the gypsy, daughter of the valley and the desert”. Was that Edward Said rolling in his grave? I couldn’t care less. On a trip where it was constantly assumed that I did not speak Arabic, where I heard, “Oh, you’re Arab? I thought you were a foreigner!” more times than I cared for, where I nonetheless felt a return to the Levantine roots that I left behind somewhere during my stay in the Gulf, I saw myself in Hussein’s place dancing in the desert as I watched the music video on an iPhone in the backseat. A connection to a song, be it because of the beat, the idea, or both, sometimes feels innate. With the sun beating down on us, with sand in my shoes from visiting the pyramids, with my best friends with me, the final burst of the chorus ended and brought me back to reality of the modern Arab city.
The car again, but this time with less talking. It’s been a long day, it’s been a long semester, it’s been a long week. Late-night is a feeling in itself. And I only know this now because of how well Australian duo “Breathe.” captured it in “Are You All Good?”. Leading in with a muted vocal, with the addition of just a soft-synth to carry the melody and a stripped-back percussion, I look out the window all dramatically and see my friends sitting or sleeping in silence. Are they alright? Are they all good? The song’s buildups and drops are emotionally toying, but the most prominent thing to me in this moment is the never-ending synth and its undeniable melancholy. Like the end of a long day, a long semester, a long week, like the end of a long vacation, music that induces reflection is typically one that strikes a chord with every person in your party. And what better way to do so than by listening to a song about being there for your best friend?
We landed at the Dabolim airport at around six in the morning. As we walked down to pick up our ridiculously chunky jeep, I knew that our 2000s Mahindra Thar screamed with personality. But the real question was, “Does it have AUX, bro?” And as a matter of fact it did, and being the only person with a phone with a 3.5 mm jack — a well kept local-secret to monopolize music rights in cars — I played this track. Between my mate’s shaky gear shifts, a French woman started speaking over the eerie arpeggio. I’ve loved this part of the song, where the arpeggio grows into a looming synth. Listening to it from the backseat of our jeep, the track took on a new life. As I watched the sun slowly rise over the Goan forest canopies, I became aware of the immediate comfort that the abundance of greenery brought to me — a pleasant departure from the Saadiyat beige. The ever-growing synths calmly dissipated the tension as I fell into a mellow trance that would leave me glowing for the days to come.
A couple of days into our Goa trip, we drove our open jeep into a “secret beach” about 50 kilometers outside the city. What followed was a day of cigarettes smoked over the golden sun dipping into the Arambol beach as we got a good feel for the sticky-smooth sand. On our way back, we decided to take our mud-soiled toes to get dinner at one of the fancier establishments in Goa — a glorified beach shack with live music. As we rocked up, I heard an unmistakable verse that goes, “My name is Giovanni Giorgio, But everybody calls me Giorgio”. Getting out of the jeep, I was thrown back by the French disco bass thumping through the speakers of the shack. Ecstatic, we walked in, only to seat ourselves by a candle-lit table, close to the band warming up over Daft Punk’s iconic click track. As we swayed our heads to the wet synths, the manager walked over a couple minutes later and said something like, “Sorry, lads; can’t seat ya with flip-flops on”. My mate stole a candle in resistance to their trashy policy, as we hopped back into our jeep and lit up the car with the track that we never got to finish.
Check out the songs that defined our fall breaks:—J4Wg
Aravind Kumar and Reema El-Kaiali are columnists. Email them at
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