Zäpämmät: Äiti Maa

Global and local are like yin and yang for the duo Zäpämmät. Though partners Marjo Smolander and Pauliina Kauppila are both deeply rooted in Finnish folk tradition and have degrees from Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, Smolander also calls herself a kantele-griot, combining the iconic Finnish zither she plays and the West African musician-storytellers she emulates; percussionist Kauppila is likewise steeped in flamenco and Afro-Cuban … More Zäpämmät: Äiti Maa

Bab El West: Houdoud

Pandemic isolation can evoke images of The Little Prince, alone on his asteroid, testing the limits of confinement as he imagines transcending space. Similar fabulous journeys are at the heart of Bab El West’s second album, inspired not by Saint-Exupéry but by surrealist poet Paul Éluard’s observation: “’Frontier’ is a one-eyed word but humankind sees the universe with two eyes.” Houdoud (Border) is a natural concept for the Paris-based band whose … More Bab El West: Houdoud

Flavia Coelho: DNA

Joyce’s Ulysses, Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Hugo’s Les Misérables—often a nation’s most critical and loving assessments come from its children abroad. Add to this roster DNA, the fourth album that Brazilian singer-songwriter Flavia Coelho has sent home from Paris, 12 tracks that convey the artist’s irrepressible spirit and the insight of a penetrating novel. Like her DNA, Coelho’s style palette is a glorious mix—Brazilian and Caribbean sounds … More Flavia Coelho: DNA

The Garifuna Collective: Aban

Measured by awards, chart listings and critical acclaim, Garifuna artists have a high profile on the world music scene, even though their community numbers less than one percent of the population in the Central American countries—Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua—they call home. At the center of this small Afro-Indigenous civilization is the Belize-based Garifuna Collective … More The Garifuna Collective: Aban

Louisa Lyne & di Yiddishe Kapelye: Lust

Louisa Lyne’s art is inserting Yiddish songs into unexpected contexts. On her third album she and her band put the traditional language of Ashkenazi Jews into creative dialogue with Spanish, English, Hebrew and her native Swedish; mix period pieces with new—sometimes surprising—material; and season with klezmer, tango, jazz, Central European cabaret, Cuban and West African sounds. In Lyne’s … More Louisa Lyne & di Yiddishe Kapelye: Lust

Che Apalache: Rearrange My Heart

Joe Troop doesn’t so much play fusion as embody it: Since his North Carolina childhood, every sound he ever heard seems to have become part of his music personality. At 14 he was inspired when he saw Doc Watson perform, but as much as young Troop covered himself in bluegrass he didn’t think his home turf was the best place for a gay artist, so he opted for world pastures. In Seville he learned … More Che Apalache: Rearrange My Heart

Eneida Marta: Ibra

Many elements go into Eneida Marta’s songs, but her voice carries such an elegant sense of balance that everything seems like one thing: Music that links traditional sounds of her country, Guinea-Bissau, with contemporary styles; messages that marry regret and hope; an artist’s life inseparable from a larger sense of mission. Whether her words float like waves lapping tranquil African beaches or dance lightly to pulsing rhythms, she keeps all the … More Eneida Marta: Ibra

Habib Koité: Kharifa

Everyone loves a love song, which explains why nobody composed What the World Needs Now is Responsibility Sweet Responsibility. Everyone touts diversity, yet there is Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All time” (*499 in English). If you seek wisdom in entertainment it’s useful to look beyond the market driven universe. A good place to start is with Habib Koité, the Malian singer-songwriter, born into a griot family of 17 siblings … More Habib Koité: Kharifa

Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn

“Pity the nation,” wrote Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “that knows no language but its own.” Far more satisfying than pity is listening to Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn, who know one another’s languages and express their familiarity in profoundly local and transcendently global music. Wu is a Beijing-born composer, singer and master of the 21-string guzheng; Washburn an Illinois-born, Grammy winning singer-songwriter and clawhammer banjo … More Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn

Alex Cuba: Sublime

Dickens was right in concept but exaggerated the singularity of his age: It is always, in every era and every land, the best and worst of times. Great art often emerges from hard lessons, but sometimes songs written before a crisis rush toward our freshly frazzled nerves like first responders. When he released Sublime last fall Alex Cuba couldn’t have known a pandemic was imminent but today the music of his seventh album penetrates the haze of uncertainty … More Alex Cuba: Sublime