Maher Cissoko: Cissoko Heritage

The elements of contemporary music—performers, instruments, genres, modes of consumption—are at the mercy of changeable tastes and racing technology. But consider the extraordinary endurance of West Africa’s griots, musical bearers of history and lore who have kept their art relevant for more than 500 years. Likely explanations for their survival include heredity (griot status passing from parent to child); the timeless thirst for the … More Maher Cissoko: Cissoko Heritage

Rachel Magoola: Resilience – Songs of Uganda

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness: Rare is the artist who embodies this adage as fully as Uganda’s Rachel Magoola. Since the 1970s her homeland has seen military dictatorship, civil war, forced recruitment of child soldiers, an HIV epidemic, economic collapse and food shortages. Magoola addresses these serial hardships not only as a singer-songwriter but also as activist, philanthropist … More Rachel Magoola: Resilience – Songs of Uganda

Cuca Roseta: Meu

Love is universal, the feeling that most connects people of every era—from cave dwellers to web surfers—which explains why love songs far outnumber all other kinds. And just like common folk looking for that magic spark, the challenge for artists who enter passion’s musical arena is being heard in the crowd. Cuca Roseta is a singer-songwriter of fado which, strictly speaking, is not about love per se but about saudade, that delicious, elusive Portuguese … More Cuca Roseta: Meu

Marjo Smolander: Cosmologies

Abbreviated version of Marjo Smolander’s biography: Born in the smallest village in Finland’s North Karelia region, she made the Sahara her second home and had to pull strings to get where she is today. Expanded story: It was in her fortunate village, Rääkkylä, that Värttinä, Finland’s most important folk band, formed in 1983; in the local music boom that ensued, young Marjo studied voice and … More Marjo Smolander: Cosmologies

Alex Cuba: Mendó

When Alex Cuba imagined his eighth album his dream may have seemed unreachable: He wanted songs that reflect the struggle and emotion simultaneously separating and uniting all humanity but he didn’t want them forever associated with a pandemic. If threading that needle wasn’t challenge enough, the albums behind him—earning him two Juno Awards, four Latin Grammys and three Grammy nominations—represented a tough act … More Alex Cuba: Mendó

Dobet Gnahoré: Couleur

The magic in The Wizard of Oz begins when a tornado wrenches Dorothy from her home in sepia-toned Kansas and drops her into a Technicolor universe. Something similar happens with Couleur (Color), Dobet Gnahoré’s sixth album, an exploration of women’s empowerment that emerges not from a fictional whirlwind but a worldwide crisis. Gnahoré, the first Grammy winner from Côte d’Ivoire, has spent the better part of 20 years commuting … More Dobet Gnahoré: Couleur

Tara Fuki: Motyle

Virtually all Western music comes from the same 12-note scale, so maybe it shouldn’t be remarkable that Tara Fuki— Dorota Barová and Andrea Konstankiewicz—accomplishes so much with two voices and two cellos. Across 20 years and six albums, however, fans and critics alike have expressed amazement and delight at their versatility. On Motyle (Butterflies) they are as agile as ever, blending classical, jazz and Central European folk-pop strains, and … More Tara Fuki: Motyle

Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili

Beauty happens when an artist arranges disparate parts and pieces into a fixed space, making arresting sense of out of confusion. Kady Diarra’s third album is a cornucopia of pleasures and wisdom, reflecting her life, her homeland (Burkina Faso), her region (West Africa) and her griot heritage. Her songs, conveyed by her extraordinary voice and magnetic personality, are entertaining to be sure, but also nurturing. She is rooted and nomadic, blending the … More Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili

Isabel Frey: Millenial Bundist

In May 2019, Isabel Frey, a singer of Yiddish revolutionary songs, landed her biggest gig yet, not in a concert hall but atop a van in central Vienna at the regular Thursday demonstration protesting the presence of the far-right Freedom Party in Austria’s ruling coalition. For the occasion, she took a pre-World War I song condemning the tsarist police, adapted the Yiddish lyrics into German and … More Isabel Frey: Millenial Bundist

Vaiteani: Signs

Imagine an archipelago, nine islands sharing a common culture but each welcoming visitors with a sign indicating its singular stories and features: One isle is focused on dance, another on flowers, others on music creation, parenthood, kisses, and the embrace of everything and its opposite. This is the universe Vaiteani paints on their second album, elements that begin separately and merge into creations greater than the sum of their parts. This is also … More Vaiteani: Signs