2Frères: À Tous Les Vents

Quebec’s Route 132—stretching 1,000 miles (1,600 km), up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspé but skirting major cities—is a good metaphor for the journey of Erik and Sonny Caouette, who specialize in folk songs about family, friendship and small-town life. And like a highway, a thread connects the duo’s albums: Nous Autres (We Ourselves), the 2015 debut that made them an overnight sensation and earned two Félix awards (Quebec’s most … More 2Frères: À Tous Les Vents

Let Drum Beat: Lua Cheia

Music is a leading indicator of equality—or at least it offers a taste of what a better world might be like. Jazz, rock & roll, flamenco and cumbia are just a few examples of sounds that integrated cultures, even when hard barriers kept races and classes from mingling. Perhaps no nation is more defined by its blended musical traditions than Brazil, and few artists have stepped into the mix with more imagination and flair than the London-based ensemble … More Let Drum Beat: Lua Cheia

Special Consensus: Chicago Barn Dance

A week after it began broadcasting from Chicago on April 12, 1924, radio station WLS debuted National Barn Dance, one of the pre-eminent country music programs of its day; over the decades it hosted leading stars—Gene Autry, Patsy Montana, Hank Williams, among others. When the last Barn Dance aired in 1968, Greg Cahill, a young Chicago banjo player, was dancing between college, music … More Special Consensus: Chicago Barn Dance

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