Mizgin: Lorin

Denied education, she taught herself. Denied a voice, she just sang louder. Mizgin, born in the Kurdish heartland of eastern Turkey, contracted polio at two and spent her early years at home, unable to go to school. Initially without crutches, she crawled; often alone, she listened to music and taught herself to play her brother’s saz. In her teens, against her parents’ wishes, she went to live with her sister in Istanbul, where she learned to read and write … More Mizgin: Lorin

Solju: Ođđa áigodat

Nothing is permanently frozen in time. In Sápmi—the Sami homeland that straddles northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia’s Kola Peninsula—this can be both blessing and curse. Ođđa áigodat (New Times) is a vivid record of a people fighting to preserve culture and language, even as development and climate change shrink their wilderness. The album’s authors are Ulla Pirttijärvi and Hildá Länsman, the mother-daughter/singer-songwriter duo from … More Solju: Ođđa áigodat

Bénabar: Le Début de la Suite

Gavroche, Eleanor Rigby, Lili Marlene—evocative characters of literature and song are often everyday people in uncommon circumstances or described in illuminating context. When it comes to finely detailed portraits and scenes, the French singer-songwriter Bénabar (Bruno Nicolini) leverages his modest start—he played more than 300 bar concerts before he met his first record … More Bénabar: Le Début de la Suite

Youssra El Hawary: No’oum Nasyeen

During the Arab Spring, when authorities in Cairo built walls to block demonstrators from Tahrir Square, Youssra El Hawary recalled a satirical poem she had read a few years earlier about a wall. Seeing the verse in a new light, she put it to music, then went—accordion in hand—to one of the new barriers and filmed a video. Her clip, El Soor (The Wall), went viral, jumpstarting her career. She formed a … More Youssra El Hawary: No’oum Nasyeen

Teacher Jekyll: Ondas

It’s easy to exaggerate a kindred connection between two people from the same city, especially if they were born 150 years apart. But consider: Jules Verne, who grew up in Nantes, certainly knew that nature can send a wave thousands of miles across the sea before it breaks on a shoreline. And Verne’s modern-day townsman, producer-musician-DJ Olivier Corre, knows that human imagination can create waves that bounce back and forth … More Teacher Jekyll: Ondas

Kany García: Soy Yo

The personal and the universal, the yin-yang of human connection. Artists strive for the formula—individual experience finding broad audience—and the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Kany García has scored with her perfect fifth album. The elements of Soy Yo (It’s Me) are her velvety voice, elegant melodies and intimate lyrics about life and love, family and friends, fear and courage. Soy Yo is also the culmination of a journey that took the artist from … More Kany García: Soy Yo

Eugenia Georgieva: Po Drum Mome

Eugenia Georgieva knits together instruments, cultures and generations with her graceful, soul-stirring voice. As a member of two ensembles she has performed Slavic and Japanese folk songs and also fused Bulgarian, Indian and English Renaissance sounds. On Po Drum Mome (A Girl on the Road), her first solo album, she explores her musical DNA. Although she grew up in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s … More Eugenia Georgieva: Po Drum Mome

Nsimbi

There is wisdom in movement and movement in wisdom. That’s an essential takeaway—and a lyrical one it is—from Nsimbi, the album and partnership of Ugandan hip-hop pioneer GNL Zamba and American singer-songwriter Miriam Tamar. Based on Swahili proverbs and the artists’ quest for cross-cultural understanding, the album’s 13 engrossing stories—performed in Luganda, Lingala, Swahili and English—bridge peoples, eras and musical … More Nsimbi

Lycinaïs Jean

She has the look of today’s youth—pierced, tattooed, androgynous—and the soul of romantic poets through the ages. She blends her music but refuses to blend herself, or calibrate her career arc according to market forces. And therein may rest the spark of the singer-songwriter’s prodigious talent. On her debut eponymous album, Lycinaïs Jean (“Jean” pronounced as in Billie Jean), with roots in Guadeloupe and Martinique, now living in Paris … More Lycinaïs Jean

Dafné Kritharas: Djoyas de Mar

Every sea is a timeless highway of hope and sorrow, and Dafné Kritharas has combed the Aegean for telltale echoes. Though focused on tides from the 1920s and 1930s, her crosscurrents run deeper: In 1492, the multicultural Ottoman Empire welcomed Jewish refugees from Spain, creating Ladino-speaking communities across the eastern Mediterranean. The sun set on pluralism with … More Dafné Kritharas: Djoyas de Mar