Afrika Mamas: Ilanga / The Sun

Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Shakira, Nicki Minaj—voices embodying women’s empowerment have revolutionized popular music over the past half century. But as superstars inspire millions of women, they also highlight art as an individual pursuit. Transformative group vocals are more readily found in communal-oriented societies—and there is no finer example than Afrika Mamas, six single … More Afrika Mamas: Ilanga / The Sun

Adjiri Odametey: Ekonklo

Adjiri Odametey has a touch of the philosophy professor who presents life’s central questions in the classroom, or around the campfire, with such gentle and infectious enthusiasm that we don’t so much think it over as drink it in. Ekonklo (The Other Side), the singer-songwriter’s sixth album, is brimming with disparate elements that fit together only by the grace of a virtuoso. Odametey was born and raised in Ghana, where he studied traditional music … More Adjiri Odametey: Ekonklo

Mónika Lakatos and the Gipsy Voices: Hangszín

More than anything else, her voice—soaring, soulful, charismatic, bluesy, passionate—explains why Mónika Lakatos received the 2020 World Music Expo (WOMEX) Lifetime Achievement Award, becoming the first Roma artist to win the prestigious honor. Hangszín (Sound Colors), her second album with Gipsy Voices, further enhances her reputation on the world scene and also in Hungary … More Mónika Lakatos and the Gipsy Voices: Hangszín

Fely Tchaco: Yita (Deep Water)

Migration is a universal story: All humanity came out of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Voluntary or involuntary, migration is constant, driven by push-pull factors like dreams, exploration, climate change, conflict, hunger and persecution. Yita (Deep Water), the title track of Fely Tchaco’s fifth album, is a soaring elegy for migrants who never reached their destination and also a hymn … More Fely Tchaco: Yita (Deep Water)

José Alberto (El Ruiseñor): Mi Tumbao

A freedom-fighting poet named Perucho Figueredo wrote La Bayamesa, Cuba’s national anthem, on horseback in 1867, after Spanish authorities surrendered to pro-independence forces in Bayamo. More than 150 years on, the city—located in eastern Cuba’s Granma province—still has abundant horse traffic and resounding music composed locally by José Alberto Tamayo Diaz, popularly known as … More José Alberto (El Ruiseñor): Mi Tumbao

The Teacups: In Which…

The Teacups have etched a high profile on the United Kingdom’s folk landscape these past ten years and the a cappella quartet’s third album is an epic journey that adds to their stellar reputation. The collection’s 19 traditional and modern songs encompass seafaring, hunting and drinking, tilled gardens, street vendor cries, love, loss and class inequality, all delivered with elegant timing and breathtaking harmony. The ensemble—Alex … More The Teacups: In Which…

Nakany Kanté: De Conakry a Barcelone

Nakany Kanté’s third album evokes a place where disparate cultures and experiences harmonize, each home displays artifacts reflecting the owner’s origins and precious pieces acquired on journeys of discovery, and each soul is forged by days of challenge and success, cheer and sadness. The smooth mix of De Conakry a Barcelone is organic, echoing not only a dialogue of African and Western … More Nakany Kanté: De Conakry a Barcelone

Merema: Kezeren Koiht

The 14 songs on Kezeren Koiht (Ancient Custom) have everything required of first-rate folk tales: Dreams and journeys, peril and gore, omens and clairvoyants, love sagas that end well and badly. But where the Brothers Grimm had the perfect family name for their collected works, a suitable adjective for Merema’s collection should perhaps reflect the ensemble’s honorable purpose: Survival of the culture and languages their stories represent. Merema is based … More Merema: Kezeren Koiht

Amira Medunjanin: For Him and Her

The voice—low, flowing, passionate—belongs to Amira Medunjanin, renowned for interpretating songs from her native Bosnia and Herzegovina. But as the title of her ninth album indicates, she sings for three: Him and Her are Serbian singer-songwriter Toma Zdravković and Bosnian singer Silvana Armenulić, epic-tragic figures of the kafana (coffee-house) music that blended sevdalinka … More Amira Medunjanin: For Him and Her

Leyla McCalla: Vari-Colored Songs – A Tribute to Langston Hughes

Leyla McCalla stands enigmatically on the cover of Vari-Colored Songs, her dress suggesting the solution to a puzzle: Connect the dots. On the album she sings eight Langston Hughes poems that she set to music, five traditional Haitian songs (in Creole), and two original compositions—all to lean, elegant arrangements. The common thread is … More Leyla McCalla: Vari-Colored Songs – A Tribute to Langston Hughes