Sissi Imaziten: Anzur

If exile is painful it is also a powerful creative force. Artists from Victor Hugo to Bob Marley, from Gloria Estefan to James Joyce, have not only clung to lands that they or their parents left behind, they also put their heritage on everyone’s cultural map. So it is with Sissi Imaziten, who grew up in an immigrant family in France but whose crystalline voice in Kabyle—the principal Berber (Amazigh) language in Algeria—evokes a world in the Tell Atlas Mountains … More Sissi Imaziten: Anzur

Tsaziken: Machnaty

Like the queue outside the Louvre, the seven-woman chorus Tsaziken is a fascinating mix of disparate elements and common threads. Based in Cologne, with German and Slavic roots, on their second album they sing in eight languages and highlight a shared passion for combing the world’s cultures in search of traditional songs about love and destiny. The group ignited at a 2004 music festival when its four original singers met Raimund Kroboth, director of the … More Tsaziken: Machnaty

Mariachi Los Camperos: De Ayer Para Siempre

The U.S.-Mexican border looms large in American discourse these days, but when it comes to the mariachi landscape the frontier barely exists. From Guadalajara to Hollywood to the facing shores of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, one of the most venerated bands performing traditional Mexican music is Los Angeles-based Mariachi Los Camperos. The Grammy-winning ensemble has played Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and collaborated on Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de Mi Padre, the biggest … More Mariachi Los Camperos: De Ayer Para Siempre

Clio: Déjà Venise

Clio doesn’t so much write songs as paint them. Her lyrics flow in conversational tones, filling each story like brush strokes on a canvas. On Déjà Venise (Already in Venice), her second album, the French singer-songwriter is concerned mostly with couples on the verge of connecting or disconnecting. Her portraits, often simultaneously realist and impressionist, are composed of images—unsipped coffee on a counter, a departed lover’s footprints in snow … More Clio: Déjà Venise

Wiyaala: Sissala Goddess

Candace Bushnell, creator of Sex and the City, has company. The Ghanaian singer-songwriter Noella Wiyaala opens her second album with Village Sex (video 1), intertwining music and attitude: Her outlook balances respect for some traditions (like pre-marital abstinence) with modern ideals (women comfortable with sexuality); her style blends West African folk, Afropop and arena rock. On Sissala Goddess, Wiyaala unveils a rustic 16-track … More Wiyaala: Sissala Goddess

Três Bairros: O Turno da Noite

Love is the magician that pulls a man out of his own hat, but how many get lucky when they try to force the alchemy? Consider the countless stories—tragic, hilarious, pathetic, triumphant—of guys who make the effort. To that list add the debut album of Três Bairros, artists of Portuguese tradition (mostly but not exclusively fado) who serve up passion in gardens, cafés, streets and windows, with success … More Três Bairros: O Turno da Noite

La Mòssa: a moss’!

Based in Avignon, the women of La Mòssa are polyphonic and polyglot; they have varied music backgrounds (jazz, folk, rock, roots), they tell stories old and recent, true-to-life, fanciful and surreal, describing marriage and courtship, evoking wars, witches and mermaids. There’s an elegant coherence to it all, as if they carry a world of lore in a small purse—labeled “roads women have traveled” and closed with a clasp of attitude. What binds all the facets … More La Mòssa: a moss’!

Nella: Voy

People on three continents paid to see Nella Rojas sing on stage even before the launch of her splendid debut album, but her first post-release show had a captive audience—passengers on an Iberia Airlines flight from Madrid to Lisbon. Intentional or not, the airborne concert (everyone on the plane got a free CD), was an apt metaphor for a song collection focused on the interval between life’s departures and arrivals, between nostalgia, hope and … More Nella: Voy

Romano Drom: Give Me Wine

Millennials, baby boomers, GenX and Z—today’s vocabulary suggests that each generation is a world unto itself, with distinct attitudes and values. Romano Drom’s Give Me Wine is all about generations, but in the classic sense of culture transmitted from parents to children, from antiquity to the twenty-first century. The Budapest-based band was founded in 1999 by the late Antal Kovács and … More Romano Drom: Give Me Wine

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 … More Tuuletar: Rajatila/Borderline