Teresinha Landeiro: Agora

Fado means destiny, and those who sing Portugal’s signature music explore saudade—nostalgia for what, or who, is lost and longed for. But what is the fate of fado itself? The first post-Amália Rodrigues generation of fadistas—an extraordinary cadre that includes Ana Moura, Camané, Carminho, Cristina Branco, Cuca Roseta, Duarte, Mariza, etc.—brought ample talent and innovation to keep fado fresh and enough tradition to keep it grounded. With most … More Teresinha Landeiro: Agora

Kata: 1902

The Faroe Islands are shrouded in subpolar isolation, tantalizing mythology and stubborn clouds, but their rugged terrain and spectacular landscapes are accessible to travelers, and examples of the archipelago’s fascinating culture are just a few mouse clicks away. One good starting point is the women’s vocal ensemble Kata. 1902, the group’s second album, is an extraordinary collection rooted in mystery and history, with dramatis personae remote yet somehow … More Kata: 1902

Maher Cissoko: Cissoko Heritage

The elements of contemporary music—performers, instruments, genres, modes of consumption—are at the mercy of changeable tastes and racing technology. But consider the extraordinary endurance of West Africa’s griots, musical bearers of history and lore who have kept their art relevant for more than 500 years. Likely explanations for their survival include heredity (griot status passing from parent to child); the timeless thirst for the … More Maher Cissoko: Cissoko Heritage

Rachel Magoola: Resilience – Songs of Uganda

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness: Rare is the artist who embodies this adage as fully as Uganda’s Rachel Magoola. Since the 1970s her homeland has seen military dictatorship, civil war, forced recruitment of child soldiers, an HIV epidemic, economic collapse and food shortages. Magoola addresses these serial hardships not only as a singer-songwriter but also as activist, philanthropist … More Rachel Magoola: Resilience – Songs of Uganda

Cuca Roseta: Meu

Love is universal, the feeling that most connects people of every era—from cave dwellers to web surfers—which explains why love songs far outnumber all other kinds. And just like common folk looking for that magic spark, the challenge for artists who enter passion’s musical arena is being heard in the crowd. Cuca Roseta is a singer-songwriter of fado which, strictly speaking, is not about love per se but about saudade, that delicious, elusive Portuguese … More Cuca Roseta: Meu

Marjo Smolander: Cosmologies

Abbreviated version of Marjo Smolander’s biography: Born in the smallest village in Finland’s North Karelia region, she made the Sahara her second home and had to pull strings to get where she is today. Expanded story: It was in her fortunate village, Rääkkylä, that Värttinä, Finland’s most important folk band, formed in 1983; in the local music boom that ensued, young Marjo studied voice and … More Marjo Smolander: Cosmologies

Alex Cuba: Mendó

When Alex Cuba imagined his eighth album his dream may have seemed unreachable: He wanted songs that reflect the struggle and emotion simultaneously separating and uniting all humanity but he didn’t want them forever associated with a pandemic. If threading that needle wasn’t challenge enough, the albums behind him—earning him two Juno Awards, four Latin Grammys and three Grammy nominations—represented a tough act … More Alex Cuba: Mendó

Dobet Gnahoré: Couleur

The magic in The Wizard of Oz begins when a tornado wrenches Dorothy from her home in sepia-toned Kansas and drops her into a Technicolor universe. Something similar happens with Couleur (Color), Dobet Gnahoré’s sixth album, an exploration of women’s empowerment that emerges not from a fictional whirlwind but a worldwide crisis. Gnahoré, the first Grammy winner from Côte d’Ivoire, has spent the better part of 20 years commuting … More Dobet Gnahoré: Couleur

Tara Fuki: Motyle

Virtually all Western music comes from the same 12-note scale, so maybe it shouldn’t be remarkable that Tara Fuki— Dorota Barová and Andrea Konstankiewicz—accomplishes so much with two voices and two cellos. Across 20 years and six albums, however, fans and critics alike have expressed amazement and delight at their versatility. On Motyle (Butterflies) they are as agile as ever, blending classical, jazz and Central European folk-pop strains, and … More Tara Fuki: Motyle

Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili

Beauty happens when an artist arranges disparate parts and pieces into a fixed space, making arresting sense of out of confusion. Kady Diarra’s third album is a cornucopia of pleasures and wisdom, reflecting her life, her homeland (Burkina Faso), her region (West Africa) and her griot heritage. Her songs, conveyed by her extraordinary voice and magnetic personality, are entertaining to be sure, but also nurturing. She is rooted and nomadic, blending the … More Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili