Payadora Tango Ensemble: Silent Tears – The Last Yiddish Tango

Art that evokes the Holocaust works best not when it shocks but when it enlightens. The melancholy music of Silent Tears may sound familiar—and its setting might be recognizable if its stage hadn’t gone dark in 1939. In the temporal bubble between World Wars I and II, Warsaw was one of the world centers of tango … More Payadora Tango Ensemble: Silent Tears – The Last Yiddish Tango

Tarabband: Yekhaf

Art takes us deeper into headlines and history: We wouldn’t have the same understanding of the Spanish Civil War without Guernica; Les Misérables is a lens on the trials of nineteenth-century Parisians. Like Picasso and Hugo, Iraqi-Egyptian singer-songwriter Nadin Al Khalidi is an artist for whom exile amplifies insight. She channels personal experience and stories of voiceless people to illuminate the world as she has seen it: The encounters and destinies of refugees and immigrants … More Tarabband: Yekhaf

George Telek: Kambek (I Lilikun Mulai)

Strikingly fresh and warmly familiar, George Telek’s music offers a study in contrasts. One of the few singer-songwriters from Papua New Guinea to achieve international renown, he cloaks his touching voice in a stylistic range extending from rock and reggae to string-band airs and Melanesian harmonies. Kambek (Coming Back), his latest album, is the first recorded in his home base of Rabaul, in East New Britain province, since a volcanic … More George Telek: Kambek (I Lilikun Mulai)

Laia Llach: Sol d’hivern

Darwin believed love songs began as a primeval mating ritual and Byron heard melody in the roar of the deep sea. Romance and nature are the oldest tropes in music and also the newest; every song on these themes we hear today connects us with humanity’s long arc. There are, of course, artists of greater and lesser import: One who certainly deserves to be heard widely is the Catalan singer-songwriter Laia Llach, whose dulcet voice flows the eight … More Laia Llach: Sol d’hivern

Sona Jobarteh: Badinyaa Kumoo

Maya Angelou observed that some people can’t recognize opportunity right before their eyes, “while others can sense a good thing coming when it is days, months or miles away.” No wonder that, in the liner notes of her latest album, the Gambian musician-singer-songwriter Sona Jobarteh—herself accustomed to overcoming obstacles to reach good outcomes—cites the American poet as a role model. After a grounding in classical music (cello, piano, harpsichord … More Sona Jobarteh: Badinyaa Kumoo

Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair: Lossan

It’s easy to observe that Lossan, a collaboration between Manx singer Ruth Keggin and Scottish harpist Rachel Hair, is an exquisite collection of ballads, lullabies and jigs from the Isle of Man—and difficult to overstate the album’s transcendent mission. Keggin’s voice is not only pure it’s also pivotal: In addition to a performer she is also the Manx Language Development Officer, so designated by Culture Vannin (the Manx Heritage Foundation) … More Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair: Lossan

Lucibela: Amdjer

Lucibela’s soft and lovely voice calms as it penetrates the din of club, street or civilization. On her second album she presents stories that illuminate Cape Verde, her homeland archipelago, and distant shores as well. Amdjer (Woman) is a tribute to her sister citizens, their daily joys and travails, relationships, work, raising children, reflecting their culture but also demonstrating that, as the artist puts it, “What happens to Cape Verdean women happens to … More Lucibela: Amdjer

Minyeshu: Netsa

The year 2020 brought a global pandemic, but for Minyeshu Kifle Tedla it also inspired Netsa (Free), her fifth album. The Ethiopian singer-songwriter (who lives in Amsterdam) viewed the unexpected hiatus from touring and the shared threat to all humanity as causes for introspection, posing questions about life and career. She churned her meditations into a collection—alternately explosive, gentle and mystical—of 10 songs exploring love, memory, heritage, nature … More Minyeshu: Netsa

Palms Station: Stand Together. Fall Apart.

Forget the billionaires’ rockets: Commonfolk have probed the heavens for millennia through the power of music. Case in point—Stand Together, Fall Apart by Palms Station (aka Hillel Tigay), a nine-track exploration of despair and hope across a between-stops universe. It’s an exhilarating ride, starting with I Don’t Know the Way to Your Heart (video 1), suspended between cosmos and concrete, words and chords ringing like incantations. Is the song about … More Palms Station: Stand Together. Fall Apart.

Souad Massi: Sequana

Like water, music flows; like music, water heals. Souad Massi may not be the first artist to link the two essential life forces, but on her seventh studio album she combines them in spectacular and oracular fashion. Sequana takes its name from the Gallo-Roman goddess of the Seine, with wellsprings believed to have curative powers. In pandemic solitude, the Franco-Algerian singer-songwriter would walk along the riverbank in Paris, where she found … More Souad Massi: Sequana