Cocanha: i ès ?

Occitan, mother tongue of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart, had a literary golden age in the 12th century and produced the great singer-songwriters of the Middle Ages, the troubadours and trobarises. It was still widely spoken in southern France in 1904 when the Occitan poet Frédéric Mistral won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but the 20th century was hard on the storied Romance language (nearest relative: Catalan). Though commonly … More Cocanha: i ès ?

Lucibela: Laço Umbilical

Feather light arrangements carry Lucibela and her low, soft-power voice like a princess in an open litter, high enough off the ground so her countrymen can see how effortlessly she floats, near enough to hear her singing their story. Laço Umbilical (Umbilical Cord), her first album, is a masterpiece in Cape Verdean Creole, combining melancholy mornas and brisk coladeiras with Brazilian influences; mixing love songs to a beautiful archipelago and ballads about a … More Lucibela: Laço Umbilical

Florent Nouvel: Le Nouvel Album

Florent Nouvel has a child’s sense of wonder and a director’s flair for composition. He simultaneously reveals and fabricates—his Facebook bio describes him as “le plus grand chanteur” of France (6 feet, 6 inches, or 1.99m)—and in fabricating illustrates larger truths with fine details. He writes catchy French chanson melodies, with deft touches of swing, bossa nova or jitterbug rock, that animate … More Florent Nouvel: Le Nouvel Album

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh: Foxglove & Fuschia

Like a gentle wave, her voice rolls in, sometimes buoyantly high, sometimes achingly low. Her name may be challenging but her warm sound flows through the auditory channels and touches all the senses. Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (pronounced Murr-en Nick OWL-eve) embodies the Irish music renaissance, as a singer of the ornamental sean nós and more contemporary folk styles, flutist, university … More Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh: Foxglove & Fuschia

Shakira: El Dorado

Shakira’s eleventh studio album, launched in 2017, showed her in peak form—bearing in mind that with Grammys galore, career record sales over 60 million and YouTube views topping 12 billion, her “peak” has an altitude mere superstars can’t reach. But the El Dorado World Tour scheduled to begin last November was delayed seven months by a vocal cord hemorrhage, and as the Colombian singer-songwriter wondered if she would ever perform … More Shakira: El Dorado

Curly Strings: Hoolima

All societies revere music, but surely Estonia ranks first among equals when it comes to the power of song. The 1987-91 Singing Revolution, involving mass-scale performances of patriotic anthems, was a pivotal step in ending the Soviet occupation. Fast forward 27 years and the nation seems focused less on traditional music than on engaging with the wider world, but there is still something deeply Estonian about the quest to create new … More Curly Strings: Hoolima

Namvula: Quiet Revolutions

The difference between Namvula Rennie’s 2014 debut album and her new release Quiet Revolutions mirrors the distinction between a short story anthology and a novel—on one hand a lovely collection in which each song reflects a specific musical universe, on the other an enchanting holistic sound expressing many facets of an integrated identity. The Scottish-Zambian singer-songwriter has imbibed folk, jazz, Latin, Afro-beat and traditional Zambian influences … More Namvula: Quiet Revolutions

Cuca Roseta: Luz

Rather than linger over beautiful sunsets, our ancestors ran home at dusk, so fraught with danger and superstition was the night. Advanced societies tend to take light for granted. On her fourth album, Cuca Roseta shows a preindustrial appreciation for light’s physical and spiritual dimensions—illumination and inspiration—and treats fado, Portugal’s signature music form, as a natural source of joy and introspection. Roseta is a singer and songwriter … More Cuca Roseta: Luz

2Frères: La Route

You can’t take the country out of the boy. And with 2Frères—Erik and Sonny Caouette—you can’t really take the boys out the country, either. When the retro folk-rockers dreamed big, they moved from Chapais, population 1,600 and 700 kilometers north of Montreal, to Cowansville, population 12,000 and 90 kilometers east of Québec’s culture capital. So far and no farther. Unpretentious family guys, they conquered the airwaves (with invaluable input … More 2Frères: La Route

Flor de Toloache: Las Caras Lindas

“Whatever women do,” observed the feminist pioneer Charlotte Whitton, “they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” No surprise that when Flor de Toloache became the first all-female mariachi band in New York City—and a rarity on the wider mariachi stage—they encountered skeptics. But the group’s first album earned a Grammy nomination … More Flor de Toloache: Las Caras Lindas