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World Music Songs for Mothers

A Global Mother's Day Playlist

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It should be no surprise that Mothers are one of the most popular subjects for songwriters around the world. From folk songs to modern songs, here's a playlist about Moms, by artists from around the world.

1. Mariam Matossian - "Mayrigis" ("To My Mother")

Mariam Matossian is an Armenian-Canadian who is both an avid collector of Armenian folksongs and a songwriter. This song, "Mayrigis," is a quiet and enchanting example of her beautiful vocals, and though not in English, the meaning comes through clearly.

2. Black Lodge Singers - "To the Mother of Black Lodge"

This stirring number from Native American stars the Black Lodge Singers (a family group, comprised of a father and many of his twelve sons), is dedicated to the mother of the family. It's a pow-wow song, so it consists primarily of chanting, but it's pleasantly melodic at the same time.

3. Cathie Ryan - "Peata Beag do Mhathar" ("Mother's Little Pet")

This sweet little Irish traditional tune is in good hands with songstress Cathie Ryan, who has a way of making even a playful tune sound powerful and elegant.

4. Vusi Mahlasela - "Thula Mama"

This charming guitar-driving song from South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela tackles the ideals of childhood, the struggles that Mothers and their rebellious children sometimes go through, and the love that gets everyone past everything. It's quite charming, to say the least.

5. Zheng Xulan - "My Mom Taught Me a Song"

This ballad from Zheng Xulan is a modern pop classic in China. Though Chinese music can be a difficult acquired taste for Western listeners, this song is written mostly in a Western scale, and Zheng's voice is really very pretty, making the song both lovely and easily listenable.

6. Soulfege - "Sweet Mother"

Both funky and heartfelt, this upbeat tune from highlife-reggae-soul band Soulfege lays out a poetic story (in English, conveniently) about a Mother's sacrifices and the subsequent gratitude of her child. It's upbeat and lightly hip-hop influenced, but definitely not so heavy that your Mom won't be able to hang with it.

7. Marcel Khalife - "Ummi" ("My Mother")

Palestinian/Lebanese oud player Marcel Khalife set the words of a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish to create this epic love song which clocks in at over nine minutes long. The poem, one of Darwish's most famous, is a celebration of a mother's life and love, and a lament about missing her.

8. Afro Celt Sound System - "Mother"

Aurally striking, like so many of Afro Celt Sound System's songs, "Mother" is a fusion lover's dream. With elements of African music, Irish music and Arabic music all swirling together into one atmospheric sound, this slowed-down number features both ACSS lead singer Iarla O'Lionaird (singing in English) and Rwandan singer Dorothee Munyaneza (singing in Kinyarwanda).

9. Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys - "Oh Mam" ("Oh Mom")

Cajun superstars Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys put their swamp-poppy reworkings on this song that was originally penned by Creole fiddle player Carlton Frank. David Greely deftly handles the vocals, a melancholy set of lyrics about missing Mom when she's gone.

10. The Jolly Boys - "Mother and Wife"

For the sake of ending things on a light note, check out this tongue-in-cheek ditty from Jamaican mento band The Jolly Boys. The lyrics pose the question, "If your mother and your wife were drowning, I want to know which one you would be saving?" The answer, of course, is your mother, because you can "always get another wife, [and] never get another mother in my life."
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