Juanes: Mis Planes Son Amarte

As a lyricist, Juanes has been compared to John Lennon, as a humanitarian to Bono. He has sold 15 million albums and has honors to spare. So what more does the Colombian singer-songwriter aspire to? Well, there was his boyhood dream of becoming an astronaut… His latest album—marrying guasca and cumbia to classic rock—is an elegant, passionate collection of a dozen love songs; based on music alone, they rank among his best. It also … More Juanes: Mis Planes Son Amarte

Carminho Canta Tom Jobim

Wise is the traveler who dives into another culture without losing her own identity, who enables both visitor and host to see themselves in a new light. So it is that Carminho, a pre-eminent star of the fado renaissance, brings her made-in-Portugal voice to songs by the late Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim, the patriarch of bossa nova. An invitation from Jobim’s family prompted Carminho Sings Tom Jobim, the offer including accompaniment by the master’s band—guitarist Paulo Jobim … More Carminho Canta Tom Jobim

Andrea Pancur: Alpen Klezmer – Zum Meer

Scholars debate whether Yiddish, the German-based language of Ashkenazi Jews, emerged in the Rhineland or Bavaria. Few have studied Bavarian-Yiddish links more than Andrea Pancur, who focuses less on debating linguistic history than on composing new connections. After nearly three decades in klezmer music, she added her native Bavaria to the mix; Zum Meer (To the Sea) is the second album in her signature genre of Alpen Klezmer … More Andrea Pancur: Alpen Klezmer – Zum Meer

Kanazoé Orkestra: Miriya

It’s unlikely Donald Trump has heard Kanazoé Orkestra’s stirring debut album, but when he told a group of African leaders that he has many friends “going to your countries, trying to get rich,” he unwittingly validated the exploitation lament in the album’s lead song, Fantanya (Poverty). “Why is Africa poor?” asks the lyric, written by bandleader Seydou Kanazoé Diabaté, “Here we find gold and diamonds, but they go abroad/We grow coffee…/We grow rice…/But there is hunger” (video 1). Born in Burkina … More Kanazoé Orkestra: Miriya

Young Iranian Female Voices: Songs in the Mist

The world music movement is a bridge, allowing artists who once might have been heard only in their own land to reach across borders and oceans. Sometimes distant ears also represent a lifeline for performers who can’t be heard in their own country at all. In Iran, women are prohibited from singing solo to mixed-gender audiences or having their voices broadcast. Providing a stage for eight supremely talented Iranian women to sing of love, hope, longing … More Young Iranian Female Voices: Songs in the Mist

Tuuletar: Tules maas vedes taivaal

Nature plays music for those who listen. In addition to the unique performance style that has earned them well deserved laurels, the women of the a cappella quartet Tuuletar listen carefully—to the earth, to the modern urban soundscape and to their own inner voices, all of which contribute their “vocal folk hop,” based on Finnish mythology but skipping across musical borders. The group’s name comes from the goddess of wind and … More Tuuletar: Tules maas vedes taivaal

Khamoro Budapest Band: Hungarian Gypsy Music

One of the most commonly used Romani loan words in English is “pal”—a fraternal takeaway reflecting the solidarity that binds a wandering people. A powerful byproduct of that solidarity is music that breaches social barriers the Roma themselves have often been unable to penetrate. They planted flamenco in Spain and gave manouche jazz to France; further east, the Roma sound is routinely viewed as synonymous with Hungarian … More Khamoro Budapest Band: Hungarian Gypsy Music

Helene Blum: Dråber af tid

The great Jim Croce could only dream of capturing Time in a Bottle, but on her fifth solo album the Danish folksinger and songwriter Helene Blum succeeds in making the clock stand still. Each song on Dråber af tid (Droplets of Time) revolves around a defining moment—a marriage proposal, a lullaby, a separation, a war’s end—the narrative unit around which life stories are built. The album offers stunning music, evocative imagery and, above all, Blum’s spellbinding voice—bright and poignant, magically fusing opera house … More Helene Blum: Dråber af tid

Galant, tu perds ton temps: Nous irons danser

Charmingly deceptive, Galant, tu perds ton temps literally means, “Young man, you’re wasting your time,” but in practice the name of the five-woman ensemble of traditional Québec music seems as much a term of endearment as a brushoff. Their playful songs are filled with courting, flirting, unfaithful suitors and ill-fitting marriages arranged by clueless fathers. On Nous irons danser (We Will Dance), the women—Evelyne Gélinas, Isabelle Payette … More Galant, tu perds ton temps: Nous irons danser

Elemotho: Beautiful World

Elemotho’s Beautiful World is a jewel with facets that reflect topographical and human landscapes. The Namibian singer-composer traces his songwriting to childhood memories of storytelling around campfires in the Kalahari and uses forthright lyrics to turn ignorance toward understanding, loss toward hope and to find beauty in unexpected places. Singing traditional and new works in English, Setswana and other Namibian languages, he works with … More Elemotho: Beautiful World