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

Lúcia de Carvalho: Pwanga

Lúcia de Carvalho has a friend who coaches people in writing personal testimonies designed to increase self-esteem. At the end of a project in Angola the friend asked the women farmers she had worked with to pose for a photo and noticed that no one smiled. A translator advised her to reassemble the group and ask, in Chokwe, “Pwanga ni puy?” (Light or darkness?)—and he women all responded “Pwanga!” as their faces lit up. This is the … More Lúcia de Carvalho: Pwanga

Tararua: Bird Like Men

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy flaunted New Zealand’s spectacular landscapes, but over the past generation there has also been, as one critic recently described it, a quiet revolution on the nation’s soundscape. Turn on a news report in 2022 and you’re likely to hear English-speaking commentators sprinkling their speech with Maori words and expressions. The language of the nation’s indigenous population is increasingly seen as a common … More Tararua: Bird Like Men

Batila: Tatamana

At the junction of multiple roads you often see signs pointing in many directions, and Batila’s debut solo album is a crossroads of sorts. Son of Congolese and Angolan parents, he was raised in Germany and England and now lives in Berlin, but his destination is more about identity—encompassing freedom, cultural integrity and Black love—than a place on the map. His signs are esoteric but he invites us in: Batila, his name, is Kikongo for “one who … More Batila: Tatamana

Carrie Newcomer: Until Now

There is nothing so strong or safe in an emergency of life, wrote Dickens, as the simple truth. “Emergency of life” is as good a description as any to describe humanity’s plight these past two years, and few contemporary artists are as adept at unearthing simple truths as Carrie Newcomer. On her nineteenth solo album, the Indiana singer-songwriter, essayist and educator wields her warm alto, stirring … More Carrie Newcomer: Until Now

Alena Murang: Sky Songs

The Earth doesn’t move beneath our feet but it does rotate, offering far flung lands with unique cultures a view of the same heavens. Perhaps this explains why Alena Murang’s songs evoke both the mystery of a faraway people and instant identification with their reverence for the sky. Murang is a Malaysian singer-songwriter and prodigy of the sape’, traditional lute of the Dayak peoples who inhabit the riverbanks and highlands of Borneo—and the … More Alena Murang: Sky Songs

Syssi Mananga: Mopepe Mama

The title track of Syssi Mananga’s captivating second album is an autobiographical ballad of freedom and motherhood, one concept pulling toward exploration, the other toward roots. Mopepe means “wind” in Lingala and the singer-songwriter is an amalgam of the boundaries she traverses as easily as the breeze and lineages she nourishes within. Daughter of a Congolese mother and Belgian father … More Syssi Mananga: Mopepe Mama

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

Vaiteani: Signs

Imagine an archipelago, nine islands sharing a common culture but each welcoming visitors with a sign indicating its singular stories and features: One isle is focused on dance, another on flowers, others on music creation, parenthood, kisses, and the embrace of everything and its opposite. This is the universe Vaiteani paints on their second album, elements that begin separately and merge into creations greater than the sum of their parts. This is also … More Vaiteani: Signs