Imarhan: Aboogi

Imarhan’s third album takes its name from the dwellings the Tuareg band’s forebears built in their first permanent settlements—and it derives added meaning from the modern shelter they erected in Tamanrasset, in southern Algeria near the borders of Mali and Niger: After two albums produced in France, in 2019 the quintet started work on the first recording studio in the oasis town where they grew up, and Aboogi is the first album to … More Imarhan: Aboogi

Ebo Krdum: Diversity

The world has largely turned its attention away from Darfur, where war and genocide raged between 2003 and 2010, and where conflict still simmers. Ebo Krdum is one of many from the western Sudan region who have not forgotten the carnage and he has a message in his music—expressing not bitterness but pluralistic values. Krdum was still in his teens when he began singing and speaking out against a violent, corrupt regime that had no tolerance … More Ebo Krdum: Diversity

Kamel El Harrachi: Nouara

Nouara is Algerian chaâbi at its best—11 evocative folk-blues songs of elusive love, nostalgia, hope and self-awareness, served in Kamel El Harrachi’s silky voice. Throughout his career the artist’s challenge has actually been his strength: Son of the pioneering singer-songwriter and chaâbi modernizer Dahmane El Harrachi, Kamel has built on his father’s monumental oeuvre, never viewing it as a shadow. His second album embraces this musical heritage … More Kamel El Harrachi: Nouara

Tania Saleh: 10 A.D.

“Human justice is like ice/Melts with sunrise/Give me the ney and sing/Singing is the justice of hearts.” The Lebanese singer-songwriter Tania Saleh put these words by her countryman Khalil Gibran to music in 2017. Now she is back with her seventh album, and an intensely personal take on justice. In the 90 years since Gibran’s death, many nations have gravitated toward his feminist views—but not his homeland, where gender equality is the victim of … More Tania Saleh: 10 A.D.

Oum: Daba

The singer-composer Oum clearly intended her fifth album to be poetic, spiritual, optimistic and instructive but it’s unlikely she realized how prescient it would be. Released several months before coronavirus emerged, its message beautifully and eerily fits the atmosphere that has since descended on everyone, everywhere. Daba (Now) is a meditation on living in the ill-defined but all-important Present, isolated between the unalterable past … More Oum: Daba

Bab El West: Houdoud

Pandemic isolation can evoke images of The Little Prince, alone on his asteroid, testing the limits of confinement as he imagines transcending space. Similar fabulous journeys are at the heart of Bab El West’s second album, inspired not by Saint-Exupéry but by surrealist poet Paul Éluard’s observation: “’Frontier’ is a one-eyed word but humankind sees the universe with two eyes.” Houdoud (Border) is a natural concept for the Paris-based band whose … More Bab El West: Houdoud

Aziza Brahim: Sahari

On the poignant album cover a girl in ballet shoes and a tutu poses against the backdrop of a refugee camp. Aziza Brahim’s enchanting desert blues are yet to come but the singer-songwriter has already riveted our attention to the story of her people. Brahim herself was born in a camp a year after her mother fled Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, Spain’s last colonial foothold in Africa. The 1975 invasion displaced tens of thousands, many of … More Aziza Brahim: Sahari

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

A-WA: Bayti Fi Rasi

In Genesis, Rachel leaves Haran with her large family and reaches the Promised Land before dying in childbirth. In modern times, the Rachel who often declared Bayti Fi Rasi (My Home Is in My Head) was a single mother who left the land of her birth—transported in an airlift that took 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel in 1949-50—trading oppression in one country for hardship in another. Multitudes remember the biblical matriarch, but if a family is a … More A-WA: Bayti Fi Rasi

Amira Kheir: Mystic Dance

The base camp for Mystic Dance, Amira Kheir’s third album, appears on the cover: The pyramids of Meroë, 200 kilometers (125 miles) down the Nile from Khartoum. The locale is an identity marker for the Sudanese-Italian singer-songwriter, a starting point for a musical fabric woven from classical Sudanese and ancient Nubian sounds laced with soul and jazz, rock and desert blues. On the dance-journey, Kheir, who now lives in London, visits traditional … More Amira Kheir: Mystic Dance