Sutari: Siostry Rzeki / River Sisters

Air, time, energy, life, blood, words, water: They all flow and they all play roles in the trances, mysteries, ancient rituals, sharp insights, drama and delight of Siostry Rzeki (River Sisters), the third album by the Polish women’s trio Sutari. In eight songs, Basia Songin, Kasia Kapela and Zosia Zembrzuska explore nature, freedom and femininity while expressing themselves in endlessly creative … More Sutari: Siostry Rzeki / River Sisters

Black Umfolosi: Washabalal’ Umhlaba / Earth Song

The Zimbabwean ensemble Black Umfolosi takes its name from a river in South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, whence the group’s ancestors migrated almost 200 years ago. And though the zigzagging riverbed has been mostly dry in recent years it remains a wellspring of identity and memory inspiring the gentle cadences and sparkling harmonies of its distant sons and daughters. Over the course of … More Black Umfolosi: Washabalal’ Umhlaba / Earth Song

Carla Pires: Cartografado

Travel far and discover yourself: The idea has inspired literary figures and works from Camus to Kerouac to Cloud Atlas. The twist Carla Pires offers on her fourth studio album is assimilating the distant horizon not only into herself but also her art—taking fado away from its origins in Lisbon and showing how it becomes more world-wise and simultaneously more deeply fado. She comes naturally to Cartografado (Fado’s Cartography), having … More Carla Pires: Cartografado

Tio: Sorousian

Any artist who mixes traditional and contemporary music navigates between old and new worlds but few, if any, bridge gaps as wide as Tio Bang. The multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter divides his time between modern Melbourne, Australia, and a treehouse—made of bamboo and cast-off timbers tucked between the roots of a towering banyan—in his native Vanuatu, an 83-island archipelago embracing more than 100 languages. On Sorousian (Story) … More Tio: Sorousian

Ila Paliwal: ILA – The Earth Symphony

Mother Nature blesses humanity with many gifts but she gave Ila Paliwal a little more—her name. “Ila” is Sanskrit for “Earth” and on her second album Paliwal, a classically trained Indian vocalist, songwriter and producer, celebrates her namesake planet and channels her reverence into protecting the environment and embracing diversity. Like the heavenly body it honors, the album is lush, from … More Ila Paliwal: ILA – The Earth Symphony

Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger

Just as we remember Bach and Beethoven, future generations will surely know Pete Seeger (1919-2014). From McCarthy-era blacklisting to performing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, with an ebullient tenor and wielding a five-string banjo or 12-string guitar, the seminal folksinger-songwriter etched a riveting but humble profile … More Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger

Sen Svaja: Kraitis iš pelkės / Dowry from a Swamp

Three women who present themselves as pixies, mixing real and mythic realms. Three pillars: Smart theatricality; venue (a biodiverse marsh); and group name (Sen Svaja), from an Old Prussian term meaning “with family,” implying not only blood but also those adopted from outside. The sundry elements of Dowry from a Swamp work and play in the service of darkly magical folk songs, five from the … More Sen Svaja: Kraitis iš pelkės / Dowry from a Swamp

Jesse & Joy: Aire

Every lyric has three dimensions: Surface meaning (often the only facet listeners discern); background inspiration and context; and new interpretations that come from projecting songs onto future landscapes. On its face Aire, Jesse & Joy’s fifth album, is an intoxicating journey through love—budding, burning, struggling, crumbling—delivered in a lush blend of reggaeton, hip-hop, folk and pop/rock ballads, with guest appearances by J Balvin and Luis Fonsi. But … More Jesse & Joy: Aire

Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard Band: Strømmen

In poetry and prose, flowing water is a common metaphor for life and history, constancy and destiny. But there’s nothing common about Strømmen (The Current), which meanders with calm majesty through timeless landscapes. Helene Blum and Harald Haugaard are a lyricist-composer couple (in art and life), she a nightingale of club and concert hall, he a virtuoso fiddler, together peerless navigators and … More Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard Band: Strømmen

Maria Monda

Civilizations through the ages have paid homage to the Earth, but today planet reverence at best coexists with environmental abuse. And while the debut album by the Portuguese trio Maria Monda sounds like traditional wisdom and makes no mention of global warming, its very restraint makes a powerful, modern case for protecting Mother Nature. Sofia Adriana Portugal, Susana Quaresma and Tânia Cardoso met at Lisbon’s School of Theater … More Maria Monda