Cris Gera: Music in Me / Nziyo Dziri Mandiri

The singer-songwriter Cris Gera recorded his latest album, Music In Me/Nziyo Dziri Mandiri, in 2016, but more than three years passed before its release. The eight-track collection is a lively Afro-jazz/pop/R&B mix about love, hope and the challenges of everyday life in Zimbabwe, but a ninth song recorded separately and released only on social media grabbed the spotlight, eliciting death threats … More Cris Gera: Music in Me / Nziyo Dziri Mandiri

Mahsa Vahdat: Enlighten the Night

Paradox or simple fact, the greatest expressions of freedom often emerge from landscapes where it is conspicuous by its absence. Having grown up in a nation that prohibits public singing by women, the Iranian vocalist-musician Mahsa Vahdat knows the push-pull of oppression and resilience. She sings truth to force in the form of classical and contemporary Persian poems, put to music with … More Mahsa Vahdat: Enlighten the Night

El Pony Pisador: Matricular una Galera

They are zany, surreal and buoyant, bathtub mariners and virtuosos who sweep through a composition like a storm, leaving behind a perfect mosaic of disparate elements. Five guys from Barcelona who have never gone to sea, El Pony Pisador surfs the soundwaves, inspired by Lord of the Rings (they imagined their earliest gigs as playing “hobbit party music”) and the comic strip figures Asterix and … More El Pony Pisador: Matricular una Galera

Sauljaljui: Insides Revealed

Pull back the curtain, peel the skin, peer into the microscope, much of the human quest for understanding involves looking beneath the surface of things. Sauljaljui doesn’t actually veil her mystique—outside she’s a modern singer-songwriter, inside a proud woman of her tribe, the Paiwan, one of the Indigenous peoples of Taiwan—but magic runs through every note and frame of Insides Revealed, her second solo album. It flows from her musical odyssey: Once … More Sauljaljui: Insides Revealed

2Frères: À Tous Les Vents

Quebec’s Route 132—stretching 1,000 miles (1,600 km), up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspé but skirting major cities—is a good metaphor for the journey of Erik and Sonny Caouette, who specialize in folk songs about family, friendship and small-town life. And like a highway, a thread connects the duo’s albums: Nous Autres (We Ourselves), the 2015 debut that made them an overnight sensation and earned two Félix awards (Quebec’s most … More 2Frères: À Tous Les Vents

Let Drum Beat: Lua Cheia

Music is a leading indicator of equality—or at least it offers a taste of what a better world might be like. Jazz, rock & roll, flamenco and cumbia are just a few examples of sounds that integrated cultures, even when hard barriers kept races and classes from mingling. Perhaps no nation is more defined by its blended musical traditions than Brazil, and few artists have stepped into the mix with more imagination and flair than the London-based ensemble … More Let Drum Beat: Lua Cheia

Special Consensus: Chicago Barn Dance

A week after it began broadcasting from Chicago on April 12, 1924, radio station WLS debuted National Barn Dance, one of the pre-eminent country music programs of its day; over the decades it hosted leading stars—Gene Autry, Patsy Montana, Hank Williams, among others. When the last Barn Dance aired in 1968, Greg Cahill, a young Chicago banjo player, was dancing between college, music … More Special Consensus: Chicago Barn Dance

Gwendoline Absalon: Vangasay

The name of Réunion, France’s Indian Ocean department, commemorates the union of radical and bourgeois forces during the French Revolution. So it’s ironic that for much of the twentieth century authorities in Paris prohibited maloya, the island’s iconic music form, on the grounds that it was revolutionary. Maloya itself represents union, the fruit of a blended culture with contributions from … More Gwendoline Absalon: Vangasay

Damir Imamović: Singer of Tales

As a boy during the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-96) Damir Imamović took advantage of confinement and learned to play guitar. He didn’t envision a music career, but after earning a philosophy degree and landing a job in publishing, fate approached him, dressed as an assignment to edit a book on the songs of his grandfather, Zaim Imamović, a leading sevdah artist of the twentieth century. By the time … More Damir Imamović: Singer of Tales

Emmi Kujanpää: Nani

Nani is a dreamscape of overlapping civilizations, emotions, epochs and realms, merged into songs as delightful to hear as they are stimulating to map. Start with Emmi Kujanpää’s sterling voice, soothing kantele (Finnish zither), rich compositions and her accompanying artists, including a chorus from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy. Add the cultures: Kujanpää grew up on Finnish traditional music and the ways and sounds of Karelia, the … More Emmi Kujanpää: Nani