Gwendoline Absalon: Vangasay

The name of Réunion, France’s Indian Ocean department, commemorates the union of radical and bourgeois forces during the French Revolution. So it’s ironic that for much of the twentieth century authorities in Paris prohibited maloya, the island’s iconic music form, on the grounds that it was revolutionary. Maloya itself represents union, the fruit of a blended culture with contributions from … More Gwendoline Absalon: Vangasay

Damir Imamović: Singer of Tales

As a boy during the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-96) Damir Imamović took advantage of confinement and learned to play guitar. He didn’t envision a music career, but after earning a philosophy degree and landing a job in publishing, fate approached him, dressed as an assignment to edit a book on the songs of his grandfather, Zaim Imamović, a leading sevdah artist of the twentieth century. By the time … More Damir Imamović: Singer of Tales

Emmi Kujanpää: Nani

Nani is a dreamscape of overlapping civilizations, emotions, epochs and realms, merged into songs as delightful to hear as they are stimulating to map. Start with Emmi Kujanpää’s sterling voice, soothing kantele (Finnish zither), rich compositions and her accompanying artists, including a chorus from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy. Add the cultures: Kujanpää grew up on Finnish traditional music and the ways and sounds of Karelia, the … More Emmi Kujanpää: Nani

Manhu: Voices of the Sani

The Sani people are part of China’s ethnic landscape but the fine detail of their culture is often obscured behind mythology and rock. The rock is from the Stone Forest: Sani villages dot the area around the spectacular limestone pillars, densely clustered like trees across 500 km² (200 mi²) of Yunnan province. The myth surrounds Ashima, a folk heroine who escapes a forced marriage, only to drown and turn into the forest’s most prominent monolith … More Manhu: Voices of the Sani

Oum: Daba

The singer-composer Oum clearly intended her fifth album to be poetic, spiritual, optimistic and instructive but it’s unlikely she realized how prescient it would be. Released several months before coronavirus emerged, its message beautifully and eerily fits the atmosphere that has since descended on everyone, everywhere. Daba (Now) is a meditation on living in the ill-defined but all-important Present, isolated between the unalterable past … More Oum: Daba

Vedan Kolod: Wild Games

Siberia is renowned for vast panoramas and extreme temperatures but it is also rich in sound. Over the past 15 years the folk trio Vedan Kolod has been introducing world audiences to the region’s acoustic qualities, from whistling forest winds to echoes of time to their own spellbinding blend of voices and traditional instruments. A family band from Krasnoyarsk, roughly the halfway point on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Vedan Kolod has a repertoire … More Vedan Kolod: Wild Games

Cristina Branco: Eva

From David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust to Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce, from Philip Roth’s Zuckerman to Marcel Duchamp’s Rrose Sélavy, the alter ego has an honored place in creative art. But the Portuguese singer Cristina Branco molded something different in the title character of her latest album: Eva was born not as an artistic device but as a stroke of self-actualization. In 2006, wandering through a museum outside Copenhagen, Branco visualized a confident bestie … More Cristina Branco: Eva

Malinky: Handsel

Malinky’s sixth album is a 20th anniversary gift—or handsel—to the award-winning ensemble’s legions of fans and to the Scots-language folk tradition its members faithfully serve. Co-founder Steve Byrne sums up the band’s ethos: “Dig where you stand,” stressing the importance of local song, culture and history to communal and individual confidence. Under that four-word banner is Handsel’s stunning detail: a two-volume, 27-song collection of new … More Malinky: Handsel

Nelia Safaie: Songs from Lands of Silence

Dawn is inevitable but some nights are longer than others. The eight songs of Nelia Safaie’s debut solo album are suspended in the fog between night and day, winter and spring, sadness and happiness. She sings gently, often with exquisite melancholy and ultimately with hope. Her poetry is both explicit and allegorical, images from one song shadowing themes from others so that everything … More Nelia Safaie: Songs from Lands of Silence

Aditya Prakash Ensemble: Diaspora Kid

Aditya Prakash describes his Los Angeles childhood as “socially American and culturally Indian” and observes that growing up the two aspects of his life were largely separate. He began studying Carnatic music—the classical vocal style of South India—at age five; by the time he was 10 he was shuttling between LA and Chennai in pursuit of his music education, and by 15 he was touring with Ravi … More Aditya Prakash Ensemble: Diaspora Kid