Marjan Vahdat: Our Garden Is Alone

At the foundation of Our Garden Is Alone lies a rift between body and soul. Though Marjan Vahdat lives in California her heart is in her native Iran: Whenever one part of her is in daylight the other part sees only the night sky. Her songs carry fierce sorrow and glimmers of hope, suspended between clarity and ambiguity. Are expressions of love aimed at a person or at a country? Does the … More Marjan Vahdat: Our Garden Is Alone

Roberta Sá: Sambas & Bossas

Long story short: During a university semester break in 2002, Roberta Sá successfully auditioned for Fama, a talent show on Brazil’s TV Globo. A four-week stint in the national spotlight landed her a manager, leading to her performing a song by Dorival Caymmi for the soundtrack of a prime-time telenovela; her first album contract soon followed. In the succeeding years Sá became an icon of MPB … More Roberta Sá: Sambas & Bossas

Divanhana: Zavrzlama

The title of Divanhana’s sixth album is a Bosnian word meaning “knotted,” a refreshing departure from overused terms like “fusion” and “blending” to describe music that unites diverse elements. Based in sevdah (sometimes called Bosnian blues), the Sarajevo-based band’s wonderful tangle encompasses the Balkan, Turkish and Sephardic strands from which the style was woven in the sixteenth century, the jazz, classical, Latin and pop elements they add … More Divanhana: Zavrzlama

Nour: L’élégance des mots crus

Are the words Nour refers to in the title of her fourth album elegant because they are raw, or because they are believed—or is it both? From the lyric ambiguity we can’t be sure, and that seems to be the elegant point. The album represents catharsis, the artist asserts, a coming to terms with romantic misfortune, and her resilience can be seen in every corner, from the post-rupture breakup metaphors (great void … More Nour: L’élégance des mots crus

Ebo Krdum: Diversity

The world has largely turned its attention away from Darfur, where war and genocide raged between 2003 and 2010, and where conflict still simmers. Ebo Krdum is one of many from the western Sudan region who have not forgotten the carnage and he has a message in his music—expressing not bitterness but pluralistic values. Krdum was still in his teens when he began singing and speaking out against a violent, corrupt regime that had no tolerance … More Ebo Krdum: Diversity

Lúcia de Carvalho: Pwanga

Lúcia de Carvalho has a friend who coaches people in writing personal testimonies designed to increase self-esteem. At the end of a project in Angola the friend asked the women farmers she had worked with to pose for a photo and noticed that no one smiled. A translator advised her to reassemble the group and ask, in Chokwe, “Pwanga ni puy?” (Light or darkness?)—and he women all responded “Pwanga!” as their faces lit up. This is the … More Lúcia de Carvalho: Pwanga

Aguamadera: Las historias que han dejado

Walk from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego singing in Spanish and everyone along the route will understand the lyrics, the 10,800 km (6,700 miles) between the two points constituting the longest more-or-less straight line in the world you can travel using a single language. Covering the music shared by Latin America and Spain is, of course, an encyclopedic task. But as impressionistic adventures go, Las historias … More Aguamadera: Las historias que han dejado

Tararua: Bird Like Men

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy flaunted New Zealand’s spectacular landscapes, but over the past generation there has also been, as one critic recently described it, a quiet revolution on the nation’s soundscape. Turn on a news report in 2022 and you’re likely to hear English-speaking commentators sprinkling their speech with Maori words and expressions. The language of the nation’s indigenous population is increasingly seen as a common … More Tararua: Bird Like Men

Yungchen Lhamo: Awakening

Like a mountain wind or a force of nature, Yungchen Lhamo’s voice gracefully and powerfully opens Awakening, her sixth album, demonstrating that beauty exists to direct our attention. In a rare convergence of planetary decay and pandemic, she suggests, all humanity faces the same existential challenge, highlighting how connected and interdependent we are. Surely this … More Yungchen Lhamo: Awakening

Maja Milinković: Kaftan D’Alma

In the Age of Discovery Portugal was the starting point for explorers, but for Maja Milinković it’s the destination. Like adventurers of old, the Bosnian singer-songwriter thrives in parallel worlds, from the church where she sang as a child and the shelter where she learned guitar during the Bosnian war, to classical studies at the Sarajevo Music Academy and the pop-rock that powered her first two albums … More Maja Milinković: Kaftan D’Alma