Alexa, I'm homesick. Play sounds of India

Evocative soundscapes for YouTube and major music streaming channels are designed to transport international students back to their home countries.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Recording the sounds of a temple for the Sounds of Home series.  


Living far from home can mean missing family and friends. And familiar sights, smells and sounds -- the morning rumble of crickets, hurried voices on a train platform, the cheers at a local sports stadium. 

A new series of evocative soundscapes aims to help students living abroad feel more connected to home. But anyone longing for the place they come from -- or just wanting a virtual auditory journey -- can appreciate them. 

The soundscapes, called Sounds of Home, are available on YouTubeiTunesGoogle PlayAmazonSoundcloudDeezer and Tidal, and conjure India, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. Each recording is a little over four minutes, but that's enough to transport listeners to another place. 

The India soundscape includes dhol drums, a Buddhist temple drumbeat, children playing, the sound of a buzzing fly. Malaysia's shares Kelantanese villagers speaking, the waves at Pantai beach, and a local football chant. Singapore sounds include tropical thunder and rain, a skatepark, fireworks and cheering spectators at a racecourse, and Taiwan's include a suona instrument, motorcycles, elders gossiping and a traditional clapping exercise. 

Banking giant HSBC got international influencers like Melissa Koh and Zarnizar to ask followers which sounds of home they missed most and then take to the streets, parks and beaches around their native cities to record local soundtracks. For the campaign, which promotes its international services, HSBC did some research and found that 92% of international students miss the familiarities of home while studying overseas, with almost 6 out of 10 saying it's the sensory experience they miss most, and three-quarters specifically citing the sounds of their hometown. 

"Perhaps sounds are so important in homesickness because they are hard to encapsulate in a specific, single memory, and play a bigger role in our ongoing consciousness," neuroscientist Susan Greenfield said. "Sound also allows room for imagination, conjuring up in your mind a personal scenario. This means sound can be used to good effect to induce a sense of personal well-being." 

Plenty of apps transmit ambient sounds like rain, wind, leaves or crackling fire to help people relax and stay mindful. These soundscapes bring a vivid touch of home to the mix. 


HSBC got international influencers like Zarnizar of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to take to the streets of their native cities with recording equipment.