The Sunday Playlist: Shazad Latif shares his top 12 tracks

Actor Shazad Latif fills Gentleman's Journal in about his deep, wide-reaching passion for music — and shares his favourite tracks for The Sunday Playlist, in association with KEF.

“It’s one of my favourite things to do, and I miss it dearly,” Shazad Latif tells Gentleman’s Journal, with a wry chuckle that doesn’t quite disguise the discernible longing in his voice.

No, Latif isn’t talking about reading, or books: though this would be a common assumption for anyone who caught his winning portrayal of the kind, fussy, overtly bookish Alfred Winchman in the recent hit BBC show The Pursuit of Love. If you managed to resist the lavish (yet cosy) allure of this period drama, you’re a stronger man than most; and if you joined the rest of the country over the recent Sunday nights, you may well have found yourself charmed by the warmhearted Winchman — a refreshing antidote to many of the show’s less dependable characters.

But back to Latif. The activity of which he spoke so longingly was — contrary to what Winchman would almost certainly feel at the prospect — clubbing in Berlin: because Latif’s interests are somewhat more well-rounded than those of his most recent on screen character. Latif has a deep passion for music of all kinds, and for every part of life that music filters into: from working out to nights out; from helping him in his work, to tapping into his emotions — and everything in between. So, we caught up with the actor to hear a little more about one of the greatest joys of his life.

When do you usually listen to music for leisure?

On set. When they’re doing mike set-ups and all that sort of stuff, you just want to stay in the zone, really. Usually, some sort of classical music or film score [will] just keep me in that [emotional] place. I think it always helps to try to match the emotions [of the music] to the moment [of the scene] — anything you can do to try and better your acting! Music’s a very powerful tool, in that sense — a very beautiful tool.

What was the last song you listened to?

Lainey Wilson’s Things A Man Oughta Know. It was when the sun came out; [so I wanted to] put country on, because I just thought it was a bit of a country vibe. It just hit me in the right moment. It’s a feminist track, isn’t it? Just a great, great track.

Spotify or vinyl?

Both are great. Spotify’s easier, for some things — but there is something beautiful about vinyl. Especially the artwork, and the covers.[I love] having that physical representation of a certain time and place. Building your library as a collector is a nice thing to do.

What was the last album you bought?

The Wicker Man soundtrack, because I was going through a stage of showing someone all my favourite horror films. But that soundtrack is great, there are great Scottish folk songs, and it’s just really eerie. It’s such a weird album to buy — especially to buy on vinyl and try to play to someone — but it’s just got some great tracks, especially the opening track of that film where he’s on the plane.

What is your favourite workout song?

Looking for Me by Paul Woolford, Diplo and Kareen Lomax. It reminds me of being at a festival, being by the swimming pool…it gets you going. It’s just a great workout song. Diplo’s an incredible musician anyway; but yeah, I just love that song.

[When I’m working out,] I put on the same track — so I’ll listen to that for the whole workout, because I can’t keep changing. I’ll just get obsessed with that one rhythm.

What do you listen to when you want to relax?

Classical music and film scores. The Lark Ascending by [Ralph] Vaughan Williams is just a great classical piece to wake up to: it’s just a very beautiful classical piece. And film scores are just my go-to to get into an emotional state. All of the greats, any Hans Zimmer — the Interstellar soundtrack is just a great example of taking you to another place.

Which other instrument would you like to learn to play?

I would love to play piano or Indian drum.

When I was growing up, there was no space for a piano, or money for a piano. The piano represents a different sort of world, you know? A world you want to understand and get into. And it’s such an emotional instrument; any sort of note you can just tap straight into your heart.

And then Indian drum, [because of] the connection to Pakistan; [of] keeping that Asian connection alive. There’s something so rhythmic and earthy about that kind of drum, and it just kind of takes us to a primal state. Any drum, any drum beat, gets us into that ‘no thinking’ primal state. That’s a good place to be, I think, sometimes, especially in these modern times.

What’s your favourite lyric?

“Now I been lookin’ for a job but it’s hard to find

Down here it’s just winners and losers and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line

Well I’m tired of comin’ out on the losin’ end

So honey last night I met this guy and I’m gonna do a little favor for him” — Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City

It’s that last line. It’s the way he drops it. I mean — this whole song is like spoken word. It’s a poem: a poem that tells a beautiful story, a story about that down and out, working-class hero character that he’s talking about; and there are struggles, and pain, and [this verse] just encapsulates [this guy’s] whole life.

I think it’s the struggle that gets me. I don’t know why, I think it just touches me. It always got me, it always stuck with me, that line: just that — sort of — struggle to get somewhere.

What’s your favourite musical moment in a movie/television series?

I like that bit in Girls, Season One, where she dances in her room and Robyn’s Dancing On My Own plays. That just represented a time in my life where you’re out partying – you know when the show mirrors what’s going on in your life? But it was just a great piece of filmmaking, as well. That song just reminds me of being out, and being young, and being free. [The characters] just dance, and it’s a friendship; it’s just such a lovely moment. I’ve always thought that’s one of the best TV musical moments I’ve seen.

Shazad Latif's Sunday Playlist

All Or Nothing by Cher. It just takes me straight back to Year Six, to that school disco [at the] that local community centre: that very specific time and place.

Don’t Rush by Young T & Bugsey. This song again reminds me of going out in my early 20s, with a rum and coke — it’s just a great party tune. For me and one of my best friends [who’s from Nottingham, like the artist], it’s one of our go-to songs when we’re getting ready to go out.

The Sailor’s Bonnet by The Gloaming. This song has one of the nicest builds. It starts with that violin, and it just slowly, slowly keeps building, building — it takes about five minutes, and it’s so emotional. I cry basically every time I listen to that song.

Tearjerker by Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales. Again, it’s like a spoken word song. Jarvis Cocker’s voice is so strange, and lulling, and it’s sort of sad; it’s a very eerie song, but very beautiful.

Tarantella by Oliver Hoare & The Late Great. [Oliver Hoare] is one of my best friends: he’s a stunning musician. Tarantella’s just…it’s such a good song. He’s an incredible lyricist, but it’s also the way he marries music to his words; you can feel his soul when he sings. You can really feel him: it’s very special to watch.

Mitwa by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Javed Akhtar. This is an Indian song — a Pakistani-Indian track. It’s one of the current really, really good tracks at the moment: it’s just a classic traditional song, really.

Starry Night by Peggy Gou. It’s just got that Berlin rhythm, where you could just dance for 24 hours non-stop. It literally reminds me of being by the DJ booth, at a club in Berlin. I love clubbing in Berlin, it’s one of my favourite things to do and I miss it dearly, but [this song] just takes me back there.

Akulaleki by Samthing Soweto. I was just driving around, and this South African music came on. It’s a great driving song — an example of just how varied African music is. This is just such a great; I’d never heard anything like this song.

Emcimbini by Kabza de Small and DJ Maphorisa. So that time I was driving, these two songs [Akulaleki and Emcimbini] came on back to back. [This one] reminded me of He Lives In You from The Lion King: just a deep, deep sound. Again, those two tracks I heard together — but I’d never heard songs like them before, really.

Champagne Kisses by Jessie Ware. I love Jessie Ware, I just think she’s great. And I just love this song — it’s a good shower song. Again, [a great song for] getting ready to go out — it’s great.

Low Sun by Chicane. [This song] is, like, seven minutes long; and it just builds and builds. Each instrument seems to get layered every time — there’s a new piano, there’s a new violin: there’s a rhythm to it. You could just imagine driving to LA: that American sunset, American road trip kind of vibe.

Crossroads by Tracy Chapman. She is a legend. And this is just one of those tracks. Me and my friend love it, it’s just a really powerful, moving track — but it’s also got nice music. It’s the perfect marriage of lyrics and music, I think. It’s got both.

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