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

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

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

Koum Tara

Like most urban settlements, Lyon began with people and currents from other places—Roman refugees camped at the confluence of the Saône and Rhône rivers. For two millennia the rivers have framed the city’s heart and in recent years La Confluence, France’s largest urban renewal project, has transformed the area near the original encampment into a vibrant residential, business and cultural hub. Now Lyon is home to another kind of convergence, a dazzling … More Koum Tara

Cocanha: i ès ?

Occitan, mother tongue of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart, had a literary golden age in the 12th century and produced the great singer-songwriters of the Middle Ages, the troubadours and trobarises. It was still widely spoken in southern France in 1904 when the Occitan poet Frédéric Mistral won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but the 20th century was hard on the storied Romance language (nearest relative: Catalan). Though commonly … More Cocanha: i ès ?

Florent Nouvel: Le Nouvel Album

Florent Nouvel has a child’s sense of wonder and a director’s flair for composition. He simultaneously reveals and fabricates—his Facebook bio describes him as “le plus grand chanteur” of France (6 feet, 6 inches, or 1.99m)—and in fabricating illustrates larger truths with fine details. He writes catchy French chanson melodies, with deft touches of swing, bossa nova or jitterbug rock, that animate … More Florent Nouvel: Le Nouvel Album

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