Dina e Mel: Bërbili

The seed for Bërbili (Nightingale) was planted in 1999 when a professor asked musicology student Dina Bušić to research and record music representing her heritage. On her mother’s side she is Arbanasi, descended from eighteenth-century Albanian Catholic refugees who settled in her home town of Zadar, Croatia, when the city was a stronghold of the Venetian Republic. The descendants lost much of their culture but retained their Albanian dialect into … More Dina e Mel: Bërbili

Pharis and Jason Romero: Bet on Love

They met at a fiddle jam in 2007 and married three months later; they live outside Horsefly, British Columbia, a village of 1,000 souls in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains, where they build and sell banjos and raise their two children. Among the storybook details of their life together, the rarest is the music Pharis and Jason Romero make, a folk-country-bluegrass hybrid so fresh they might have picked … More Pharis and Jason Romero: Bet on Love

Cris Gera: Music in Me / Nziyo Dziri Mandiri

The singer-songwriter Cris Gera recorded his latest album, Music In Me/Nziyo Dziri Mandiri, in 2016, but more than three years passed before its release. The eight-track collection is a lively Afro-jazz/pop/R&B mix about love, hope and the challenges of everyday life in Zimbabwe, but a ninth song recorded separately and released only on social media grabbed the spotlight, eliciting death threats … More Cris Gera: Music in Me / Nziyo Dziri Mandiri

Mahsa Vahdat: Enlighten the Night

Paradox or simple fact, the greatest expressions of freedom often emerge from landscapes where it is conspicuous by its absence. Having grown up in a nation that prohibits public singing by women, the Iranian vocalist-musician Mahsa Vahdat knows the push-pull of oppression and resilience. She sings truth to force in the form of classical and contemporary Persian poems, put to music with … More Mahsa Vahdat: Enlighten the Night

El Pony Pisador: Matricular una Galera

They are zany, surreal and buoyant, bathtub mariners and virtuosos who sweep through a composition like a storm, leaving behind a perfect mosaic of disparate elements. Five guys from Barcelona who have never gone to sea, El Pony Pisador surfs the soundwaves, inspired by Lord of the Rings (they imagined their earliest gigs as playing “hobbit party music”) and the comic strip figures Asterix and … More El Pony Pisador: Matricular una Galera

Sauljaljui: Insides Revealed

Pull back the curtain, peel the skin, peer into the microscope, much of the human quest for understanding involves looking beneath the surface of things. Sauljaljui doesn’t actually veil her mystique—outside she’s a modern singer-songwriter, inside a proud woman of her tribe, the Paiwan, one of the Indigenous peoples of Taiwan—but magic runs through every note and frame of Insides Revealed, her second solo album. It flows from her musical odyssey: Once … More Sauljaljui: Insides Revealed

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