If exile is painful it is also a powerful creative force. Artists from Victor Hugo to Bob Marley, from Gloria Estefan to James Joyce, have not only clung to lands that they or their parents left behind, they also put their heritage on everyone’s cultural map. So it is with Sissi Imaziten, who grew up in an immigrant family in France but whose crystalline voice in Kabyle—the principal Berber (Amazigh) language in Algeria—evokes a world in the Tell Atlas Mountains … More Sissi Imaziten: Anzur
Clio doesn’t so much write songs as paint them. Her lyrics flow in conversational tones, filling each story like brush strokes on a canvas. On Déjà Venise (Already in Venice), her second album, the French singer-songwriter is concerned mostly with couples on the verge of connecting or disconnecting. Her portraits, often simultaneously realist and impressionist, are composed of images—unsipped coffee on a counter, a departed lover’s footprints in snow … More Clio: Déjà Venise
Based in Avignon, the women of La Mòssa are polyphonic and polyglot; they have varied music backgrounds (jazz, folk, rock, roots), they tell stories old and recent, true-to-life, fanciful and surreal, describing marriage and courtship, evoking wars, witches and mermaids. There’s an elegant coherence to it all, as if they carry a world of lore in a small purse—labeled “roads women have traveled” and closed with a clasp of attitude. What binds all the facets … More La Mòssa: a moss’!
Colombia ranks second in the Americas for forest cover and second worldwide in overall biodiversity, but the country is paying an unexpected environmental price for peace: The 2016 accord between government and guerrillas made more land accessible to exploitation, and as a result deforestation has increased dramatically. Government, community organizations and NGOs are battling to protect the trees; meanwhile, every popular movement needs … More Yapunto!
Maloya and the Creole of her native Réunion were the chosen causes of Maya Pounia’s musician father and storyteller mother—activists in the movement to preserve a music heritage long suppressed and a language long marginalized. The teenaged pink-haired Maya listened to rock and pop, wanted to be a stewardess and ultimately went to study in mainland France. But separated from her culture, she craved it, gravitating toward other students … More Maya Kamaty: Pandiyé
Time to discuss immigration in musical terms. Popular songs in the so-called developed world revolve mostly around romantic relationships, with an uptick in recent decades of alcohol and drug themes. Lyrics in the developing world focus more on survival, conflict, society and family. Kanazoé Orkestra is a microcosm of immigrant-music dynamics, based in Toulouse and led by Burkina Faso-born Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté, balafon master and … More Kanazoé Orkestra: Tolonso
Camus argued that travel is a spiritual testing, stripping us of habitual surroundings and taking us not away from but toward our essence. Zaz, one of the most popular French artists abroad, did three world tours in four years and says her adventures reshaped her sense of self. Known for retro-modern French chanson and jazz manouche, on Effet Miroir (Mirror Effect), her fourth album, she presents a more nuanced and eclectic soundscape, 15 songs … More Zaz: Effet Miroir
As one of France’s leading recording artists, Kendji Girac knows the rigors of a marathon tour—indeed, before voice or instrument, his earliest training was for the road. He was born in the Dordogne to a family of Catalan-speaking Gypsies who spent six months of every year in a caravan. His father taught him to prune trees and his grandfather taught him guitar. When he was 16 his uncle filmed him singing a flamenco adaptation of Bella, a popular hip-hop … More Kendji Girac: Amigo
She stares from the album cover—stark, vulnerable, penetrating. From outside, Ann O’aro’s life may seem in search of a metaphor, a verbal contrivance to make it sound less horrifying, but she’s beyond that. As a child, she played piano, organ and flute. And as a child, she was raped by her father who, when Ann was 15, committed suicide. After school, she left her home on Réunion, the French island in the Indian Ocean, working as a tattoo artist … More Ann O’aro
Think global, act local. The mantra applies to government planning, the environment and business, but it’s also a defining feature of music—and few artists active today have embodied the concept longer than the French-Spanish singer-songwriter Manuel Malou. When he was eight he won a flamenco competition in Paris; as a teenager, he was in the vanguard of Spain’s post-Franco cultural awakening and, as part of Los Golfos, created an enduring … More Manuel Malou: Unomundo