28 Famous Songs about Foreign Countries in English: Musical Globetrotting without Leaving Home
Music, being the universal language, has always bridged boundaries, be it between hearts or countries. Sometimes, artists take us on a journey through their lyrics, whisking us away to foreign lands we might’ve never set foot in. From the mystic allure of Africa to the vibrant streets of Brazil, here are some of the most iconic English songs that paint vivid images of foreign countries.
Word Songs Map in English
Kokomo Vibes: The Caribbean in Songs
1.”Kokomo” by The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys had us yearning for a tropical escape with “Kokomo.” This 1988 classic paints a relaxing picture of the Caribbean. The song’s catchy chorus takes you through a host of island locations: Aruba, Jamaica (oooh I wanna take ya!), Bermuda, Bahama (come on pretty mama!). The track’s laid-back rhythm and balmy imagery have made it a favorite for many wanting to mentally escape to warmer climates.
2.”Jamaica Farewell” by Harry Belafonte
Belafonte’s melodious voice, combined with the poignant lyrics, tells a tale of leaving one’s beloved Jamaica. As he sings of the sun setting over the market-place and acknowledges he might never see his love again, listeners can feel the heartache and the charm of the island nation.
From Paris with Love: Odes to France
3.”Michelle” by The Beatles
“Michelle, ma belle. These are words that go together well, my Michelle.” The Fab Four infused French into this romantic ballad. Paul McCartney’s serenade with a mix of English and French gave listeners a unique love song that feels like a stolen dance in a Parisian café.
4.”Paris” by The Chainsmokers
This more recent hit reminisces about a rebellious love and the dream of escaping to “Paris to get away from your parents”. It’s less about the city itself and more about the idea of escape, but the name-drop surely made listeners dream of the romantic streets of Paris.
African Echoes: The Rhythms from the Heart of the Continent
5.”Africa” by Toto
Arguably one of the most recognizable songs about a foreign land, “Africa” by Toto captures the essence, mystery, and allure of the continent. With lyrics speaking of Kilimanjaro rising “like Olympus above the Serengeti”, it’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of Africa.
6.”Under African Skies” by Paul Simon
Paul Simon’s Graceland album, influenced heavily by South African mbaqanga music, is a love letter to the region. “Under African Skies” beautifully pays homage, reflecting on the vastness and history of the African landscape.
Dancing to the South American Beat
7.”Brazil” by Declan McKenna
While it’s a critique of the social and political issues surrounding the FIFA World Cup held in Brazil, the song beautifully incorporates the vibrant and pulsating rhythm that the country is known for.
8.”Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz and João Gilberto
A sultry bossa nova classic, it captures the beauty and essence of Brazil. Though sung partially in Portuguese, its English verses have made listeners worldwide daydream about the sun-soaked beaches of Ipanema.
Spanish Serenades: Love, Passion, and Flamenco
9. “Barcelona” by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé
Freddie Mercury, the enigmatic frontman of Queen, partnered with soprano Montserrat Caballé to create an anthem dedicated to Spain’s vibrant city of Barcelona. The song captures the city’s vivacious spirit, and it became an emblematic piece, especially when Barcelona hosted the Olympics.
10. “Spanish Eyes” by U2
U2, the Irish rock giants, gave us “Spanish Eyes” – a love song soaked in Spanish warmth and allure. With mentions of the Spanish sun and Spanish steps, it’s a gentle nod to the beauty of Spain.
Dreaming of the Far East: Japan in Tunes
11. “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors
While the song doesn’t actually delve deep into Japanese culture, its title and catchy chorus made it memorable. “Turning Japanese” is an expression of confusion, which the song captures aptly.
12. “Big in Japan” by Alphaville
Alphaville’s tune, on the surface, seems like it’s about fame in Japan. But delve deeper, and you’ll find a more profound story about two lovers trying to find solace away from their problems, hoping they might be “big in Japan.”
Middle Eastern Mystery: Songs that Echo the Desert
13. “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin
Inspired by Robert Plant’s travels through the Sahara, “Kashmir” might have the name of a region in India, but its sounds and spirit are drawn from the vastness and mystery of deserts. The rhythmic beating and melodies are evocative of a journey through undulating dunes.
14. “Arabian Nights” from Aladdin
While it’s from a Disney movie, “Arabian Nights” deserves a mention. The song, with its descriptions of the hot desert nights and bazaar, paints a colorful picture of the Middle East.
Heading Down Under: Australasia in Lyrics
15. “Down Under” by Men at Work
An ode to their homeland, Men at Work’s iconic track is all things Australian. With mentions of Vegemite sandwiches and chunder (Australian slang for vomit), this tune is a playful and proud anthem for Aussies everywhere.
16. “I Remember You” by Skid Row
This power ballad by the American band Skid Row isn’t strictly about Australia, but with the line “Remember yesterday, walking hand in hand. Love letters in the sand, I remember you,” it beautifully encapsulates the beaches and romantic aura of the continent.
Capturing Canada: From Rocky Mountains to Vast Prairies
17. “Alberta Bound” by Paul Brandt
Paul Brandt’s homage to his home province in Canada captures the picturesque beauty of Alberta. From the Rocky Mountains to the city of Calgary, this song is a heartfelt tribute to Canada’s majestic landscapes.
18. “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” by The Kings
This track by the Canadian band, The Kings, might not be an explicit shoutout to Canada, but with mentions of places like Yonge Street in Toronto, it subtly celebrates the country.
19. “Amsterdam” by Coldplay
Amidst the haunting piano melodies and heartfelt vocals, Coldplay’s song speaks of a deeper emotional experience, but the choice of the title and references subtly evoke the feeling of being lost in the canal-laden city of Amsterdam.
20. “Zurich Is Stained” by Pavement
An indie-rock gem, this song might not delve deep into Swiss scenery, but its title and melancholic melodies conjure up images of a colder, reflective Europe.
Latin American Lures
21. “Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz and João Gilberto, featuring Astrud Gilberto
A classic bossa nova tune, this song is a love letter to the beaches of Brazil. The “Girl from Ipanema” refers to a woman from the Ipanema neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.
22. “Cuba” by The Gibson Brothers
This disco track from the late ’70s exudes all the vibrancy, colors, and zest of Cuban culture. It’s impossible not to dance when you hear this homage to Cuba.
Journey through Asia
23. “Bombay Dreams” by A.R. Rahman featuring Preeya Kalidas & Raza Jaffrey
This song is a title track of the West End musical, which showcases the hopes, dreams, and challenges of people in the bustling Indian metropolis of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay).
24. “Katmandu” by Bob Seger
In this rock classic, Bob Seger expresses a desire to escape and head to a distant place – in this case, Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. It’s about the allure of getting away from familiar terrains to find solace.
25. “Tripoli” by Matthew Good Band
While not exclusively about the Libyan city, the song is a commentary on Western interventions in foreign lands. It’s a poignant, reflective piece on the band’s album.
26. “Cairo Nights” by Liquid Blue
A world-music ensemble, Liquid Blue’s “Cairo Nights” is an ode to Egypt’s sprawling capital. The song’s instrumentals mix Eastern and Western influences, perfectly encapsulating the blend that Cairo represents.
27. “Sydney (I’ll Come Running)” by Brett Dennen
Brett Dennen sings about rushing back to a lover in Sydney, encapsulating the distance, desperation, and love into a heartfelt song about Australia’s famous harbor city.
28. “Fiji Time” by Dave Bilbrough
“Fiji Time” captures the relaxed, laid-back vibes of Fiji, an archipelago in the heart of the Pacific Ocean.
This musical journey around the world showcases the universal power of songs. They transport us, educate us, and often, inspire us to pack our bags for real-life adventures. But until then, let’s keep globetrotting with these tuneful tales!