Among Teju Cole’s many talents is his ability to curate music that captures a mood or even the feel of a place. Since mid-March, when the lockdown began, Cole has been putting together playlists on Spotify that, as he explains on his Facebook page, are in line with the “gesture of sharing music in a time of anxiety.”
So far, Cole has put together eleven playlists themed around the quarantine. They are titled: 1) “songs without words”; 2) “in a zone”; 3) “imagined community”; 4) “the dark fact”; 5) “aria”; 6) “spoken lonesomeness is prophecy”; 7) “return from mount damavand”; 8) “take my hand”; 9) “field hospital”; 10) “melodious uncle”; and 11) “a singing line.” Each playlist is inspired by a different sentiment or occasion that has taken place since the start of the quarantine. Playlist 3, for example, was created in response to the deaths of the Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango and Maurice Berger on March 24 and March 23 respectively, and playlist 11, as another example, speaks to Cole’s realization that during social distancing, he is “better able to listen to Beethoven in a more involved way.”
Given recent events surrounding the death of George Floyd, however, Cole has been sharing the music from the eighth “quarantine” playlist, “take my hand.” When Cole first put the playlist up on April 30, his explanatory note suggests that the playlist was inspired by Arthur Jafa’s work “about making culture in freefall” and Saidiya Hartman’s “about grieving as a way of making life with one another.”
On May 29, Cole re-shares this playlist. In view of the explanatory notes provided the first time he shared it, the playlist seems particularly apt for conveying the need to rebuild society that the events of the past week stand for. Throughout the day, Cole also shared selections from the playlist.
Cole’s sharing of these songs reminds us that in times of anxiety and crises, music remains a way by which we can find solace. We hope you’ll take some time to listen to these songs and be comforted by them.
Cole’s Spotify page can be found here.