Soul of the Horniman

If music is the gateway to the soul, then this month’s playlist offers a glimpse into the soul of the Horniman.

Members of staff from across the Horniman were asked simply to contribute their favourite music.

The responses represent a superb variety of tastes, from classical to electronic to Afro beats, and everything in between.

Colleagues told us their choice evoked strong emotions or fond memories, or that it represented their identity or heritage; others chose the music they love to dance to.

The result is this incredibly diverse and life-affirming jamboree that lends insight into the beating heart of the Horniman – its staff. We hope you find something in it that speaks to you!

Here are some of their reasons

Lord Kitchener, Sugar Bum Bum

I play in a steel pan band and Sugar Bum Bum is one of the calypso songs we play. It’s full of joy and never fails to get people up and dancing!
Formal Learning Officer

Noname, Don’t Forget About Me

It’s a bit existential! But it’s about life and what you leave behind, by one of my favourite artists, Noname.
Senior Curator of Anthropology

Sidhu Moose Wala, SYL

SYL, explores a major political issue relating to Indian government rerouting a majority of Panjab’s water, to the detriment of Panjabi agriculture, economy and peoples. The song also explores a legacy of violence against Panjab carried out by the Indian government, calling for Sikh and Panjabi sovereignty.
Senior Curator of Social Practice

Ague Re, Holy Dance- Large Sound Remix

I’ve always loved Balearic music, like this beguiling house track, because it’s a genre with no genre. It’s more of a feeling/vibe - it’s quite ineffable, which I love. Why is the DJ moving from Italo-disco to John Martyn via Barry Biggs? We don’t know, but it feels so right!
Community Engagement Coordinator

Oki Dub Ainu Band, Kon Kon

I first saw the band play live in London at Spitz in 2006. When I was still new to London/UK and feeling rather lonely, the sound of Tonkori really meant a lot to me. My family came from Hokkaido and I always loved Ainu music. Even better was that Oki Dub Ainu sounded so innovative and contemporary while simultaneously sounded so unmistakably an Ainu music. I remember being so exhilarated by that. Needless to say I am a super-fan since!
Conservation Manager

JS Bach, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Brandenburg Concerto No.6, 1st mvmt

This piece seems miraculous to me: it does so much with apparently so little. There are no violins - it's scored for low strings only. I love its energy and its surprising turns in harmony. This performance is special to me since I know so many of the players.
Senior Curator of Musical Collections and Cultures

David Bowie, Sound and Vision

This track was never meant to have lyrics- I think you can tell. Berlin Bowie music is best Bowie. Dark but Hopeful. A teenage brain staple in 1993. Still loved in 2023.
Senior Curator of Anthropology

David Shire, Night on Disco Mountain

My favourite piece of music is an odd mix of my two favourite genres, Disco and the romantic period of Russian classical music. The piece samples one of the first examples of classical music I had ever really listened to when I was a small child, watching Fantasia by Disney “A Night on the Bare Mountain – By Modest Mussorgsky”. This is some of the most emotive pieces of music I had ever heard, as it transported me to that haunted mountain top full of ghouls, witches and demons. The next as I said was Disco, a genre full of all the emotions of life. Coming out as gay as a teenager this style of music gave me icons to worship and fall in love with, as they sang about heartache, determination and fierce independence to music that demanded that you moved your body to relentless beats.
Assistant Curator, Nature & Love

Andrea Bocelli,  Nelle Tue Mani

My song is, for me, a source of motivation.
Volunteering Coordinator

Asake, Olorun

This short song’s mix of vocal harmonies and string arrangements drew me in as soon as I first heard it, it always brings me to a peaceful meditative space. Though sung almost entirely in Yoruba (which I don’t speak) I recognised the name “Olorun” as the name associated with the supreme creator in Yoruba tradition. The unapologetic use of a traditional African name for “God” resonated with me immediately, as someone who has been passionate about destigmatising the spiritual aspect of African cultures. The song consisting of praise for the supreme Yoruba deity as well the artist’s recognition of his own triumphs in life, acts as a powerful introduction to the rest of the album.
Assistant Curator of Musical Collections and Cultures

Cyndi Lauper, Girls Just Want to Have Fun

It makes me feel amazing when I’m in a good mood already, and makes me feel a bit better when I’m in a bad mood. It’s great both to sing along to and to dance to, and is just very joyful in general.
Formal Learning and Engagement Officer

Marni Nixon,  I could have danced all night

It was my one of my Grams’s (Sylvia Roundhill) favourite songs and after she passed away last December, I listen to it often to think of her. It always makes me smile and reminds me of watching Golden Age musicals with her and my Gramps growing up. She visited the Horniman a few years ago and loved it here; I’d love to hear her song played here.
Formal Learning Manager

Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones,  Round Midnight

Walking home from a party across Hampstead Heath and as the sun was pushing through a rather foggy sky, I arrived at the summit of Parliament Hill overlooking London. I lit a cigarette and I didn’t even smoke. I was twenty, I can’t remember whose party it was or the inevitable dalliances that had happened. I just know I was alone on my way home and this is the soundtrack to that memory. I wasn’t listening to a Walkman - I could hear it in my head, even if I didn’t know what it was then.
Senior Workshop Technician

Marlene Shaw,  California Soul

It transports me to the ocean on a beautiful warm morning when all is good in the world.
Nature + Love Capital Project Coordinator

Mario, Let Me Love You

My number one choice.
Security Assistant

Dur-Dur Band, Dooyo

A band from Mogadishu, Somalia. The band was formed in the 1980s and was one of the most famous performers at the Mogadishu disco scene at the time. I absolutely love this tune, there is something captivating about it, you just cannot sit still to it.
Formal Learning Officer

Kishar Kumar, Eena Meena Deeka

It’s a fusion of jazz and Bollywood and never fails to make me smile.
Volunteering Manager

Daft Punk, Something About Us

I chose this because it reminds me of my best friend – when we were in school we thought we were an iconic duo like Daft Punk. I am very lucky to still live 10 minutes away from her.
Events Assistant

Nina Simone, I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free

Because Nina Simone should have the last word.
Music Department

Listen to these songs and more on this month’s playlist.

Join us in the Music Gallery on Tuesday afternoons for Hey, Jukebox! where we will be playing these songs from 3.30pm.

Image: blocks on Unsplash