Flor de Toloache: Las Caras Lindas

“Whatever women do,” observed the feminist pioneer Charlotte Whitton, “they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” No surprise that when Flor de Toloache became the first all-female mariachi band in New York City—and a rarity on the wider mariachi stage—they encountered skeptics. But the group’s first album earned a Grammy nomination … More Flor de Toloache: Las Caras Lindas

Afrika Mamas: Iphupho

A common symbol of Zulu culture is the cowhide shield, ever present in images of the warrior-king Shaka and also the centerpiece on the official crest of KwaZulu-Natal, the South African province that is the heartland of the Zulu people. But as history merges with herstory, it’s evident that societies are shielded not only by warriors but also by strong women. And no group embodies the idea of protective Zulu women more than the a cappella ensemble … More Afrika Mamas: Iphupho

Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II

The song Shpatsir in Vald (A Walk in the Forest) has everything—poignant dialogue between lovers about to be separated by war, a dulcet Russian waltz melody and the spellbinding voice of Sophie Milman (video 1). The lyrics were penned in 1944, but the song wasn’t released until 2018—and therein lies a story. The Soviet Union, World War II: A team of ethnomusicologists led by … More Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II

Julie Fowlis: Alterum

The starting point is harmony between Scottish Gaelic—“spoken for over a thousand years,” Julie Fowlis observes, “yet considered otherworldly on its own shores”—and her enchanting, heaven-to-earth voice. On Alterum, she approaches otherness not only as a homegrown/uncommon language but also as a series of dimensions—a mystical plane of nearby hidden realms (magical/supernatural); proximate elements that give one another definition (land/sea) … More Julie Fowlis: Alterum

Sigrid Moldestad: Vere Her

Sigrid Moldestad’s stature as a composer rests on more than her exquisite melodies. OnVere Her(Being Here) she aligns elements of nature and imagination—love and mortality, stress and relief; rain and sun; memory and hope; yesterday, today and tomorrow—finding joyful, nostalgic and melancholic beauty in life’s twists and contrasts. Though rooted in Norwegian folk, Moldestad nonetheless allows her songs to turn like flowers toward whichever genre … More Sigrid Moldestad: Vere Her

Ensemble Mze Shina: Odoïa

If Early Music transports us to medieval times, then Georgian polyphony, stretching back more than 1,600 years, is communal song in primeval form. UNESCO declared this tradition an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and, like more modern sounds (jazz, bluegrass, tango), Georgian polyphonic singing has in recent years spread outward from its home in the Caucasus Mountains. The Ensemble Mze Shina (Georgian for “inner sun”) emerged in … More Ensemble Mze Shina: Odoïa

Vaiteani

A Google search of literature featuring Tahiti turns up novels by 46 authors, only one of whom is Tahitian: Most of what the world knows about the fabled island is filtered through foreign eyes. The singer-songwriter Vaiteani Teaniniuraitemoana acknowledges that some stereotypes of her home island are positive, but she sees all simplified images as reference points to be checked against experience. A good starting place is her eponymous debut … More Vaiteani

Toto Bona Lokua: Bondeko

Bondeko, the work of three prodigiously gifted artists who mix voices and compositions to produce a dreamy, multi-layered sound, is a transcendent microcosm of the musical diversity of Africa and its Diaspora. The singer-songwriters—Gérald Toto (Paris-born guitarist/musical director with roots in Martinique), Richard Bona (Cameroonian bassist, who commutes between Paris and New York) and Lokua Kanza (Congolese guitarist based in Paris)—first … More Toto Bona Lokua: Bondeko

Maureen Nehedar: Gole Gandom

Her voice has an exquisite purity that commands without overwhelming. The facets of her life and music—liturgical poems and love songs—add to the aptness her name: Nehedar means “splendid” in Hebrew. Maureen Nehedar was two years old when her family left Isfahan, Iran, in the wake of the Islamic Revolution. They arrived in Israel with few tangible belongings but, as she describes it … More Maureen Nehedar: Gole Gandom

Eskelina: La verticale

There’s a vein of Pygmalion to Eskelina Svanstein’s career in French chanson—just substitute divergent nationalities for social classes and assign more harmony to the goal of student and teachers. The story opens with a Swedish girl singing on the street in a French town. She hands a demo of her music to a renowned composer (Christophe Bastien); he eventually calls, and enlists a lyricist (Florent Vintrigner); the three rendezvous, composer and poet begin sculpting … More Eskelina: La verticale