Jean-Marc Sauvagnargues & A Banda: Saudade

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

Roberta Sá: Giro

For better or worse the world always turns, and though the release of Roberta Sá’s Giro (Spin) predates the current global pandemic by several months, it provides a useful lens for looking back with longing and forward with hope at a universe that now seems stuck in the ice of fear, compounded by social distancing. The music reminds us that it’s a beautiful/complicated universe revolving around love—present and absent, creeping and rushing … More Roberta Sá: Giro

Kefaya + Elaha Soroor: Songs of Our Mothers

Kefaya’s 2016 debut album was a sumptuous stew of world sounds, but when Giuliano Modarelli and Al MacSween, founders of the London-based pan-cultural collective, met Afghan singer-songwriter Elaha Soroor, they discovered a radiant and particularistic voice they were happy to make the focal point of their universal ethos. Songs of Our Mothers unites Soroor’s story—of seeking equality but … More Kefaya + Elaha Soroor: Songs of Our Mothers

Coe, Peters & Smyth: The Road to Peterloo

Events buried in history can shape society long after they have faded from view. Many Britons have recently become reacquainted with a seminal chapter in their national story—the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. Notwithstanding the victory over Napoleon four years earlier, Britain faced domestic turmoil, especially in the northern industrial towns; mechanization had slashed textile workers’ … More Coe, Peters & Smyth: The Road to Peterloo

Souad Massi: Oumniya

“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

Vicente García: Candela

According to legend, during the Dominican Republic’s War of Independence a certain solider abandoned his post in the midst of battle, and after victory his comrades mockingly sang ”Tomás fled with the flag” in a distinctive rhythm that became the foundation of merengue. Almost certainly apocryphal, the legend nonetheless reflects a central truth: The music style goes to the heart of Dominican culture and identity. More to the point, merengue—with … More Vicente García: Candela

Maja Milinković: Fadolinka

Like many artists, Maja Milinković takes advantage of unexpected opportunity and inspiration. She learned guitar in an underground shelter during the Siege of Sarajevo; it helped her stay calm and prepared her for a music career. By age 15 she was playing in a rock band and by 30, with two solo pop-rock albums behind her, she was widely known in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans. But along the way a friend showed her a video of Amália … More Maja Milinković: Fadolinka

Kate Rusby: Philosophers, Poets & Kings

There’s an exquisite equilibrium to Kate Rusby’s voice, at once celestial and cozy, planting a wistful note in the most comical saga and a vein of comfort in the most tragic. On Philosophers, Poets & Kings, her seventeenth solo album, the folksinger-songwriter covers a sweeping range of experience and emotion drawn mostly from her South Yorkshire surroundings—old and new tales of wine and … More Kate Rusby: Philosophers, Poets & Kings

Wuta Mayi: La Face Cachée

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

Sissi Imaziten: Anzur

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