Afrika Mamas: Ilanga / The Sun

Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Shakira, Nicki Minaj—voices embodying women’s empowerment have revolutionized popular music over the past half century. But as superstars inspire millions of women, they also highlight art as an individual pursuit. Transformative group vocals are more readily found in communal-oriented societies—and there is no finer example than Afrika Mamas, six single … More Afrika Mamas: Ilanga / The Sun

Adjiri Odametey: Ekonklo

Adjiri Odametey has a touch of the philosophy professor who presents life’s central questions in the classroom, or around the campfire, with such gentle and infectious enthusiasm that we don’t so much think it over as drink it in. Ekonklo (The Other Side), the singer-songwriter’s sixth album, is brimming with disparate elements that fit together only by the grace of a virtuoso. Odametey was born and raised in Ghana, where he studied traditional music … More Adjiri Odametey: Ekonklo

Fely Tchaco: Yita (Deep Water)

Migration is a universal story: All humanity came out of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Voluntary or involuntary, migration is constant, driven by push-pull factors like dreams, exploration, climate change, conflict, hunger and persecution. Yita (Deep Water), the title track of Fely Tchaco’s fifth album, is a soaring elegy for migrants who never reached their destination and also a hymn … More Fely Tchaco: Yita (Deep Water)

The Teacups: In Which…

The Teacups have etched a high profile on the United Kingdom’s folk landscape these past ten years and the a cappella quartet’s third album is an epic journey that adds to their stellar reputation. The collection’s 19 traditional and modern songs encompass seafaring, hunting and drinking, tilled gardens, street vendor cries, love, loss and class inequality, all delivered with elegant timing and breathtaking harmony. The ensemble—Alex … More The Teacups: In Which…

Leyla McCalla: Vari-Colored Songs – A Tribute to Langston Hughes

Leyla McCalla stands enigmatically on the cover of Vari-Colored Songs, her dress suggesting the solution to a puzzle: Connect the dots. On the album she sings eight Langston Hughes poems that she set to music, five traditional Haitian songs (in Creole), and two original compositions—all to lean, elegant arrangements. The common thread is … More Leyla McCalla: Vari-Colored Songs – A Tribute to Langston Hughes

Beppe Gambetta: Where the Wind Blows / Dove Tia o Vento

Over a career spanning 40-plus years and more than a dozen albums, Beppe Gambetta has steadily added talents to his repertoire. From a young acoustic guitarist channeling Italian and American folk and bluegrass into a signature style, he became singer, composer, arranger, sound engineer and concert producer. At age 65 he has added one … More Beppe Gambetta: Where the Wind Blows / Dove Tia o Vento

Black Umfolosi: Washabalal’ Umhlaba / Earth Song

The Zimbabwean ensemble Black Umfolosi takes its name from a river in South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, whence the group’s ancestors migrated almost 200 years ago. And though the zigzagging riverbed has been mostly dry in recent years it remains a wellspring of identity and memory inspiring the gentle cadences and sparkling harmonies of its distant sons and daughters. Over the course of … More Black Umfolosi: Washabalal’ Umhlaba / Earth Song

Tio: Sorousian

Any artist who mixes traditional and contemporary music navigates between old and new worlds but few, if any, bridge gaps as wide as Tio Bang. The multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter divides his time between modern Melbourne, Australia, and a treehouse—made of bamboo and cast-off timbers tucked between the roots of a towering banyan—in his native Vanuatu, an 83-island archipelago embracing more than 100 languages. On Sorousian (Story) … More Tio: Sorousian

Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger

Just as we remember Bach and Beethoven, future generations will surely know Pete Seeger (1919-2014). From McCarthy-era blacklisting to performing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, with an ebullient tenor and wielding a five-string banjo or 12-string guitar, the seminal folksinger-songwriter etched a riveting but humble profile … More Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger

Ásgeir: Bury the Moon / Sátt

There’s a lot in play on Ásgeir’s third album and at any moment some features are prominent while others are concealed. The songs are constant in tone but richly layered: Musically a mix of traditional folk and folktronica with forays into jazz and R&B (several with alternate acoustic and electronic videos), thematically they range from meditations on nostalgia and heartbreak to the power and vulnerability of nature, with Iceland’s stark and magical landscape … More Ásgeir: Bury the Moon / Sátt