Private Playlist: Bedouine swoons to her favorite songs that evoke a mood

Bedouine. Photo by Claire Marie Vogel

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.

The gently iconoclastic music of Bedouine (Azniv Korkejian) may call to mind any number of stylistic reference points, including bossanova, psychedelia, and classic American songcraft. But her oft-recounted life story has also been one of synthesis and integration. Born in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian expatriates, she was raised on Arabic and Armenian traditional music. She discovered MTV growing up in a Western enclave in Saudi Arabia and moved to the U.S. while in grade school. Her family's peripatetic lifestyle took her further around the country until she landed as an adult in Echo Park. 

She released her self-titled debut as Bedouine in 2017 and followed it with "Bird Songs of a Killjoy" in 2019. For the most recent in a series of cover versions recorded in lockdown, she collaborated with Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff on a rendition of Big Star's "Thirteen."

For this edition of Private Playlist, Bedouine selects her favorite mood-setting songs, from the rootsy funk of Bobby Charles to the swoon-inducing Chet Baker.

“Some songs will make you be in the right mood. They would set the mood even if I wasn’t in it to begin with.” — Bedouine

Bedouine: I'm always so intimidated when somebody asks me to make a playlist. I don't listen to music passively because my ears are always spoken for. I was a sound editor before I was doing music full time, so I never really got to play music on a daily basis while I was working. So when I do listen to music, it's pretty active. I'm really listening, and sometimes I'm even reading lyrics as I listen.

Some songs will make you be in the right mood. They'll set the mood, you know, and I think that's what separates ... I hate to say "good songs" from "great songs," [because] it's all so subjective, but these songs set the mood. If they come on, I don't turn them off. And as somebody that doesn't really get to consume much music, they would set the mood even if I wasn't in it to begin with.


I'm starting with a double-header from Bobby Charles. The first one is "Small Town Talk," and the second is "I Must Be in a Good Place Now." The whole record is amazing, but I think these two tracks are worth stopping what you're doing and listening to right now. I love Bobby Charles' voice. I love his accent, even though I don't really know what kind of accent it is. I always think, if Yogi Bear had cut a record, it would sound like Bobby Charles. If you're seated, "Small Town Talk" will get you out of your chair. And [this is] coming from a person who loves to be seated. I don't get off my seat for much, and "Small Town Talk" will have me doing some really weird strut or something. It's so funky. And "I Must Be In A Good Place Now" is the most beautiful, lush exhale of a song. It's one of those perfect songs.


I can't mention Bobby Charles without mentioning "Magnolia" by J.J. Cale, another song that's a total exhale. You listen to it and your shoulders drop. I almost didn't include it because I felt like I had to choose between Bobby Charles or "Magnolia." But I was just like, "You know what, no rules. This song's coming right after it." Emotionally, they do similar things to my body and my mind. I really believe that they slow your heart rate. They both have such a satisfying slow tempo, which is really hard to do as a songwriter without making somebody restless. And there's not a trace of that in these songs. You really do sit down with them. They set the pace for you. 


Next is a really big pivot. Charles Aznavour was part-Armenian, and I'm Armenian. But regardless, it's a gorgeous song, so dramatic, so emotive, and he's so good at that. And the way he gesticulates [in the video] takes it to a whole other level. Very theatrical and beautiful, very dynamic. "La Bohème" is so saccharine, and it's got such strong character, you would think it's a song you wouldn't put on all the time. But from the very first note, it grabs you.

My parents did play a lot of Armenian, Greek, and Arabic music, but I wasn't really hip to Aznavour as an adult until much more recently. With that said, I do feel some sort of connection to it because he's Armenian. When I visited Armenia, his house in Yerevan is a museum now. And I've never gone in, [since] it wasn't open when I was visiting, but it's on display purposefully in the city center. And [the connection] might just be as simple as that.

The first time I knew about him was in the Truffaut film, "Shoot the Piano Player," which he starred in. And it's a name that I always remembered, because his last name is so similar to my first name. His last name is Aznavour and my first name is Azniv, and it's so bizarre to see those first three letters, for whatever that's worth. But it wasn't until I heard this song that I was really taken by him.


I feel like I'm studying and observing songcraft more and more often. When I was younger, I would sing standards with a friend on piano in bars and restaurants. So it's always had some real estate in my heart, not to mention the relationship to bossanova music. That's a flavor that I'm so influenced by. And whether I meant it to or not, it's found its way into my music so much. There's a handful of flavors I find in my songwriting, when I reflect on it: country funk, bossanova, psychedelic folk, to name a few. And the standards and bossanova share space in that realm.

The first thing I picked up on about “Walk On By” was the movement and the structure. I was so taken by where it was going, and the form, I think. Which doesn't sound very emotional, but the movement of the song had a really emotional effect on me. I don't have a specific association with it. I'm just blown away by the craft of the song.


"Swoon," I think, is the word for this song. I actually played trumpet as a kid. Not to say that Chet Baker was an influence on my trumpet playing. I would be so lucky, but I wasn't that hip of a kid. But he's subtlety by design, if there ever was. And it takes such talent, taste, and restraint to sing like that. The lack of character is what [gives it] more character than most things. Gosh, what a dreamy person, player, and song. Just the combination.

I can't tell you the first time I heard this song, but I will tell you one time that I heard it. It was with a person I was seeing, who I'm still seeing, and who definitely falls in love too easily. It's his theme song. We were sitting on a porch swing and the song was playing from inside the house. And the sun had a perfect beam on us. We were both in our robes in the morning, drinking our coffee. And my eyes were closed, but I could tell there was this perfect golden beam of light coming onto my eyelids. Just as it was happening, I was thinking, "I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life, this moment." Because we were falling in love at the time.


The Carpenters are a newer discovery for me, which is another embarrassing thing to say out loud. But it's like things I've always known about, and probably heard a lot in movies, but didn't really sit down with. I only just recently sat down and listened to a couple of their records back-to-back. And I was so bewildered, like, "Why haven't I done this sooner? Why does it take so long to really sit down and listen to something actively?" And I chose "Goodbye to Love" because it's a perfect example of what I've really been inspired by lately, which is these really beautiful, lilting, moving melodies. They're almost gymnastic melodies, even though they're so smooth and fluid.


Matt Duncan is a newer artist, and I'm happy to call him a friend. His song "Beacon" has a similar flavor to some of [my other] songs, and there's so much more where that comes from. I encourage anyone who's reading to really dive into Matt's music. He has this incredibly soulful voice, and I'm pretty sure he plays and records everything himself. [He writes] these really super-catchy songs that also get you off your seat and get you moving. There's such an emotional response that you don't even really have to talk about it, you just feel it. And "Beacon" is a great example.

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