Koum Tara

Like most urban settlements, Lyon began with people and currents from other places—Roman refugees camped at the confluence of the Saône and Rhône rivers. For two millennia the rivers have framed the city’s heart and in recent years La Confluence, France’s largest urban renewal project, has transformed the area near the original encampment into a vibrant residential, business and cultural hub. Now Lyon is home to another kind of convergence, a dazzling … More Koum Tara

Bab El West: Douar

The concept of Bab El West’s first full-length album was born in Brittany when Habib Farroukh spotted a road sign for the town of Douarnenez. The Moroccan-born singer-composer and two French-born band mates compared notes and discovered that “douar” has almost the same meaning in Breton (land or domain) as in Arabic and Berber (village). Thus emerged the enchanting, imaginary hometown-homeland of their music, at the crossroads of … More Bab El West: Douar

Carmen París & Nabyla Maan: Dos Medinas Blancas

If you had to choose one biography as a window to the splendor and diversity of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), a good choice might be the scientist-philosopher-musician-poet Ibn Bâjja. Though much of his work was lost, his theories on astronomy and physics were preserved by Maimonides and Averroes, fellow polymaths who shared his fate—all outlived the age of coexistence and died in exile. The modern … More Carmen París & Nabyla Maan: Dos Medinas Blancas

Seydu: Sadaka

With his smooth and generous voice, Seydu is poignant in singing about the impact of war, incisive in warning of corruption, reverent about the beauty of African women and upbeat regarding the power of a smile. Such themes animate Sadaka (The Gift), his third album, broadly focused on the redemptive power of giving. Born into a musical family in Sierra Leone—a nation scarred by the slave trade and, more recently, by blood diamonds … More Seydu: Sadaka

Oum: Zarabi

Weaving is an apt metaphor for the disparate strands of Oum’s music—North African Gnawa, Hassani, Sufi, jazz, gospel, Afro-beat, R&B, bossa nova and Cuban trova—which converge like winds in a magical desert. The Moroccan singer-songwriter (full name, Oum El Ghait Benessahraoui) grew up in Marrakech but also feels at home in the oasis town of M’hamid el Ghizlane, known for it annual arts festival and the local women who weave … More Oum: Zarabi

Souad Massi: El Mutakallimûn

Dylan and Marley, Fela Kuti and Ramy Essam— musicians can move the world. Likewise Souad Massi, Algeria’s greatest female singer, who grew up on American music, relocated to France following death threats earned in a political rock band and knows well the struggle of Europe’s Muslim minorities. El Mutakallimûn (Masters of the Word)—her sixth solo album—draws inspiration from al-Andalus, the Muslim-ruled kingdom in Spain that was once a beacon of science, literature … More Souad Massi: El Mutakallimûn

Tarabband: Ashofak Baden

The musical seeds are familiar: Childhood violin lessons, a preference for Dylan and Joan Baez; first lyrics penned in English, first performance folk, dreams of starting a punk band. But this story belongs to Baghdad-born Nadin Al Khalidi, who found refuge in Sweden. Only after crossing a cultural bridge did she discover she could also become one. Al Khalidi is the heart and soul of Tarabband (from tarab, meaning “ecstasy in music.”), her soothing … More Tarabband: Ashofak Baden