At 14, Erza Muqoli has already led an eventful life, her success framed by a dramatic family backstory. The heart of her biography is her incandescent voice, at once floating and penetrating, girlish and mature. She burst on the French music scene at age 9, singing on a TV talent show, which led to her joining Kids United, a vocal group formed in 2015 to promote UNICEF programs. In three years the ensemble released three number-one albums … More Erza Muqoli
It defies neat translation, but you can feel it: Saudade, the Portuguese word at the intersection of longing, melancholy and nostalgia—with sometimes a measure of hope. When Jean-Marc Sauvagnargues and the five members of A Banda (The Band) released their 11-track bossa nova revival-renewal album a few months ago, it was an instant classic of golden age songs, nimble adaptations and elegant … More Jean-Marc Sauvagnargues & A Banda: Saudade
“Government,” observed Ibn Khaldoun. “is an institution that prevents injustices, except those it commits itself.” For more than a year, peaceful demonstrators in Algeria have been challenging an entrenched, corrupt regime bent on fulfilling the definition articulated by the fourteenth-century Muslim sage. One of the most eloquent voices in support of the protests is that of Souad Massi, the Algiers-born, Paris-based artist who has spent much of her career … More Souad Massi: Oumniya
Just as the Congo (Kinshasa) inhabits Africa’s center, Gaspard Wuta Mayi is central to the nation’s musical saga. The rumba singer-songwriter is a veteran of a series of seminal ensembles, including Orchestre Bamboula, which represented the Congo at the landmark 1969 Pan-African Culture Festival in Algiers; TPOK Jazz, the leading Congolese band from the 60s to the 80s; the Paris-based Quatre Étoiles, which surfed the soukous wave … More Wuta Mayi: La Face Cachée
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