With around half the world’s population living under social distancing rules, many of us are turning to our favourite tunes for comfort. They’re helping us to reflect, grieve or even dance around while we follow orders to stay at home.
BBC Minute’s team – which provide 24/7 news bulletins for radio stations around the world – believe any challenge can be faced with the right music. We even have a motivational poster that reads: “Make a coffee, put on some gangsta rap, and handle it.”
It seems that’s a view shared by our partner stations in 100 cities across 40 countries. We asked their presenters which songs they’re playing to help their listeners get through the pandemic.
Consider it your lockdown playlist.
1. Bop Daddy (Falz) – chosen by Ronke from Splash FM in Ibadan, Nigeria
Many Nigerians are missing their nights out right now, if the #BopDaddyChallenge is anything to go by. It’s a TikTok trend, Ronke explains.
Those who would normally go to nightclubs have been taking to social media instead. They picture themselves transitioning from pyjamas into glamorous evening-wear – as if by magic. “They’re getting all made up… to go nowhere!” she laughs.
The soundtrack to the challenge is a tune by rapper-comedian Falz. “It really is just a guy talking about himself, and how he’s going to be your everything,” says Ronke.
“The lyrics may not always make much sense, but the important thing is that it’s fun to dance to while at home.”
2. Everything I Wanted (Billie Eilish) – chosen by Tebogo from Gabz FM in Gaborone, Botswana
Billie Eilish’s sombre song recounts a nightmare in which she takes her own life – but nobody cares. It’s hardly music to blast away the lockdown blues. But news reporter Tebogo insists it’s an apt choice for the present time, which is why Gabz FM has been playing it loads.
“It relates to the state of mind Botswana is in,” he says. “There’s a bit of uncertainty. You’re not sure where things are going to end up. But you have no choice other than to remain hopeful.”
In her track, Eilish ultimately finds solace in those people closest to her, namely her brother Finneas.
3. Imagine (John Lennon) – chosen by Michael from Metro Plus in Hong Kong
John Lennon’s famous song appeals for unity and compassion. And Michael at Hong Kong’s Metro Plus thinks people in Hong Kong are already showing each other more love than usual.
“You see a person without a mask by the roadside and someone will be giving him a helping hand. Before, they wouldn’t have even looked at that guy,” he says.
“This struggle is not between an Asian and an American, an American and a European, or a European and an African.
“Humans are up against something (coronavirus) we can’t even see. If all we come together, as this song asks, we’ll get through it.”
4. Mulk Kay Nojawano (traditional) – chosen by Asfandyar from Power 99 in Islamabad, Pakistan
Asfandyar’s tricky task is to create “positive content” during the pandemic. His team have chosen to rework a traditional song, which he says gives people courage.
“It makes them feel like defenders. They’re an army. Why? Because they’re staying home, keeping themselves and their families safe.”
His playlists follow a daily rhythm. In the mornings, people want energetic pop to exercise to. By 5pm, it’s time for something more reflective.
“That’s when the sun sets, and we play songs like this to give them hope again for tomorrow. Music is the thing here which is calming people down.”
5. Par Pira (BeePee) – chosen by Okeng from Radio King in Gulu, Uganda
Lockdown has made radio more crucial than ever in rural northern Uganda.
Okeng’s breakfast show has a feel-good feature in which the station calls up two people who want to connect with each other but lack the means (pay-as-you-go phone credit) – and it’s proving popular with couples.
As well as dating each other via radio, Gulu’s young lovers are said to be coping with their new separation by requesting an elegant Afro-fusion love song by local artist BeePee.
“The song means, ‘have me in your heart during the good times, but also the bad times’,” Okeng explains.
6. Quarantine Show (Dubioza Kolektiv) – chosen by Naida from Radio Antena in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Due to increased pressure on the internet, some of us are glad to just Skype a friend without having issues. But, miraculously, the seven members of Dubioza Kolektiv manage to use video-calling to jam out songs even while each musician stays at home.
Radio Antena likes to play the best bits from these live sessions. “Wash your hands!” urges this eccentric (but informative) tune.
Antena’s mostly English-language playlist rarely gets more Balkan than the odd Dua Lipa track. But presenter Naida says the coronavirus has raised demand for Bosnian artists.
“People are listening to us all over the world. A lot of people left here during the [1992-95] war. Right now, they’re missing home. They want to hear their language, and to know what’s happening here.”
7. Resistiré 2020 (David Bisbal, Vanesa Martín, Alex Ubago, and others) – chosen by Valeria from Metropolis FM in Montevideo, Uruguay
Recorded back in 1988, Resistiré has re-emerged as a defiant hymn, belted out from apartment balconies in virus-hit Spain.
“It’s different to a song like [Gloria Gaynor’s] I Will Survive,” says Valeria at Metropolis FM. “It’s not about saying, ‘I made it’. Instead it’s about saying, ‘I will fight this’.”
A star-studded 2020 cover version has become her most requested song. Uruguay has not yet been badly hit by Covid-19, Valeria says, but people here are watching the rest of the world anxiously.
“A lot of them have relatives in Spain. Or they’re terribly worried about family in the United States.”
8. Ride Natty Ride (Bob Marley) – chosen by Maya from Capital Radio in Khartoum, Sudan
“The stone that the builder refuse / Shall be the head cornerstone.”
Maya loves these Bob Marley lyrics. She thinks they mean that every underdog will have its day.
Protesters calling for political changes in Sudan in 2019 adopted the reggae icon as something of a “freedom symbol”, and he remains popular with young artists and activists a year later.
Many Sudanese continue to feel marginalised, Maya says. But now it’s as a result of coronavirus restrictions, which could hit the country’s poorest.
So, she keeps playing Marley, “no longer as a revolutionary voice, but as a calming father figure who says, ‘you’re going to get through this’”.
9. We Will Rock You (Queen) – chosen by Moustafa from Radio One in Baghdad, Iraq
“It’s our anthem,” says Moustafa of this 70s floor-stomper.
“Any time we face a challenge at the radio station, we have a saying: ‘We will rock this; this is not a problem for us.’ And the same thing goes for the listeners. Whenever they’re feeling down, they always request We Will Rock You.”
For Moustafa, lockdown is further proof of how radio offers young Iraqis an escape from their daily struggles.
Turns out it’s therapeutic for the DJ, too. “Just as listeners tell me their problems, I tell them mine. So, it’s back and forth, which is awesome.”
10. Rumah Kita (God Bless) – chosen by Hisa from Smart FM in Jakarta, Indonesia
Translated as Our Home, this karaoke-ready tune has taken on a new meaning at Jakarta’s Smart FM. Presenter Hisa is playing it for people who are ignoring social distancing restrictions.
“We want to invite them to stay at home and be observant of the rules,” she explains.
“The song’s message is all about how great Indonesia is: no matter where you go in the world, it’s always more comfortable here. And, right now, it’s best to stay not just in Indonesia, but in our homes.”
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