Fonseca: Agustín

Accustomed to naming each of his albums after one of its standout tracks, Fonseca switched gears when he realized his newest release would coincide with his wife’s giving birth. Thus did Agustín become his eighth baby and also his third. It may be a cliché to paint a successful artist in the rosy light of his songs, but the Colombian singer-songwriter embodies his music in myriad ways, composing a portrait of dedication to family, art and society. His causes … More Fonseca: Agustín

Ooldouz Pouri: Waiting for the Dawn

Flowers, dreams and music have this in common: They bloom even in harsh climes. An elegant example is Waiting for the Dawn, Ooldouz Pouri’s first solo album. The hour of sunrise, even the year, may be in doubt. The point is that she sings—passionately, radiantly—her voice floating on songs from bygone eras that inspire hope in difficult times. Pouri was born in Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, where … More Ooldouz Pouri: Waiting for the Dawn

Zaz: Effet Miroir

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

Shauit: Apu Peikussiakᵘ

Song can be a pathway to survival for threatened languages. Over the past generation the 10,000 speakers of Innu in Québec and Labrador have seen a creative surge in new music. The folk-rock duo Kashtin gained prominence in their community and in broader Canadian society, especially after their songs were featured on the TV series Due South and later on soundtrack compilations. It was at a music festival in Maliotenam, an Innu First Nations … More Shauit: Apu Peikussiakᵘ

BraAgas: O ptácích a rybách

In the enchanting voices of the Czech quartet BraAgas, the sovereigns of sky and water serve as messengers, bearing wise counsel, ill tidings, memory and witness to lovers young and old. On O ptácích a rybách (About Birds and Fishes), the four women—Kateřina Göttlichová, Michala Hrbková, Karla Braunová and Michaela Krbcová—mine traditional Bohemian and Moravian sources for their sixth album, which soars on their stirring harmonies and … More BraAgas: O ptácích a rybách

Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo

The Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara is often described in terms of her voice—soulful, sensuous, poignant, passionate—but perhaps the foundational qualities she brings to her music are wisdom and independence. She knows the value of tradition because she has tested its boundaries—at 19 she defied her family, avoiding an arranged marriage by running off to join a French theater company. She understands the importance of … More Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo

Kendji Girac: Amigo

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

Catarina dos Santos: Rádio Kriola

The subtitle of Catarina dos Santos’ second album is “Reflections on Portuguese Identity,” a subject as big as the ocean that touches Portugal, Africa and Brazil and as small as the working-class town where she grew up. Facing Lisbon across the Tagus, Barreiro is home to families from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea, Mozambique and inland Portugal. From an early age, Dos Santos—whose father … More Catarina dos Santos: Rádio Kriola

Ann O’aro

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

Duarte: Só a Cantar

Duarte is a fado purist, making no concession to other genres, just Portuguese and acoustic guitars, bass and his sensitive, expressive voice. Literally and figuratively, he takes pains to be authentic as he explores the nuances of loss and makes Só a Cantar (Singing Alone), his fourth album, more hopeful than some of his earlier work. He laments warmed-over fado for tourists: “We’ve lost the dark side,” he said in an interview with Public Radio International—referring … More Duarte: Só a Cantar