Tuuletar: Rajatila/Borderline

Tuuletar’s debut album introduced vocal folk hop, a performance style of a cappella harmony, beatboxing, gesture and movement that filtered the natural world through Finnish mythology. Listening to Rajatila (Borderline), the group’s second album, is—for want of a better analogy—akin to reading Ulysses: It’s experimental, challenging, brilliant, but instead of the tranquil Liffey … More Tuuletar: Rajatila/Borderline

Carminho: Maria

The song Sete Saias (Seven Skirts) describes the women of Nazaré, Portugal, who traditionally wore multiple layers on the cold beach where they waited for their husbands’ fishing boats. The only piece of small-town folklore on Maria, the song may at first glance seem like an outlier. But the skirts serve as a perfect metaphor for Carminho’s elaborately layered fifth album. Is the titular Maria the singer—full name Maria do Carmo Carvalho Rebelo de Andrade … More Carminho: Maria

A-WA: Bayti Fi Rasi

In Genesis, Rachel leaves Haran with her large family and reaches the Promised Land before dying in childbirth. In modern times, the Rachel who often declared Bayti Fi Rasi (My Home Is in My Head) was a single mother who left the land of her birth—transported in an airlift that took 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel in 1949-50—trading oppression in one country for hardship in another. Multitudes remember the biblical matriarch, but if a family is a … More A-WA: Bayti Fi Rasi

Otava Yo: Do You Love

There’s more than a touch of Gogol in the Russian ensemble Otava Yo: There’s humor, symbolism and archetypal characters that serve as anchors for artistic brilliance. Group leader and co-founder Alexey Belkin explains that the band’s work reflects “not so much folklore as a twenty-first century attitude toward folk music,” brought to animation in layers of respect and self-parody, with instruments that run from traditional zithers and pipes to worldly violin … More Otava Yo: Do You Love

Yapunto!

Colombia ranks second in the Americas for forest cover and second worldwide in overall biodiversity, but the country is paying an unexpected environmental price for peace: The 2016 accord between government and guerrillas made more land accessible to exploitation, and as a result deforestation has increased dramatically. Government, community organizations and NGOs are battling to protect the trees; meanwhile, every popular movement needs … More Yapunto!

Carrie Newcomer: The Point of Arrival

In a recent social media post, Carrie Newcomer described an unexpected layover at O’Hare Airport: In a comfortable Starbucks booth she opened a book, but didn’t get much read because of a barista singing mini arias. “He was obviously a trained vocalist,” she wrote, “and a seriously fine baritone …. singing out orders in soaring melodies, lattes and … More Carrie Newcomer: The Point of Arrival

Juan Luis Guerra: Literal

Juan Luis Guerra and his band 4.40 forever altered the Latin soundscape with bachata and merengue flavored by salsa, jazz and rock infusions and vivid lyrics bearing everything from magical realism and social commentary to sexual metaphor and unapologetic romance. Thirty-five years after his debut album, the Dominican singer-songwriter remains one of the most influential Spanish-language artists of all time—also a wizard, able to evoke reverent … More Juan Luis Guerra: Literal

Maya Kamaty: Pandiyé

Maloya and the Creole of her native Réunion were the chosen causes of Maya Pounia’s musician father and storyteller mother—activists in the movement to preserve a music heritage long suppressed and a language long marginalized. The teenaged pink-haired Maya listened to rock and pop, wanted to be a stewardess and ultimately went to study in mainland France. But separated from her culture, she craved it, gravitating toward other students … More Maya Kamaty: Pandiyé

Nobuntu: Obabes beMbube

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country but in Nobuntu it may have found its waves—warm, rolling a cappella tides that wash over the soul. Nobuntu means “Mothers of Compassion” and Obabes beMbube (Women of Mbube) is the third—and perhaps defining—album by the female ensemble from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city. Their two previous records fused Afro-jazz, soul, gospel and folk, some songs featuring voice only, some backed … More Nobuntu: Obabes beMbube