Noa: Letters to Bach

No composer has motivated more artists to adapt his work than Johann Sebastian Bach. Remixing began when eighteenth-century orchestras deployed pianos in pieces JBS composed for clavichord and harpsichord; it continues today with jazz, folk and blues iterations, among others. But arguably no one has channeled Bach so audaciously—or lyrically—as the Israeli singer-songwriter Noa (Achinoam Nini). She describes Letters to Bach, her eleventh … More Noa: Letters to Bach

Daoirí Farrell: A Lifetime of Happiness

When Daoirí Farrell sings, time slips away and a powerful sense of place takes over. Tales of romance begin not in a car or—heaven forbid—on social media, but typically when two people out walking meet on an Irish country road, and where a random tweet is not a meme but an avian sound. With his third solo album, Farrell solidifies his reputation … More Daoirí Farrell: A Lifetime of Happiness

Olivia Chaney: Shelter

There’s magic in Olivia Chaney’s second solo album, the how of it defying explanation but the where instructive: An 18th-century cottage on the North Yorkshire moors, no electricity, plumbing or running water; a refuge from urban noise, distraction; solitude, where she confronts the uncreative demons, wrestling with them until her inner chorus of angels emerges. Notwithstanding the sharp sense of place in her writing retreat and her songs … More Olivia Chaney: Shelter

Rachael McShane & The Cartographers: When All Is Still

Sex, death and rebellion are the stuff of tavern gossip and folk music, and they reach their fullest resonance when delivered with a healthy dose of irreverence. This is the payload of When All Is Still, a rollicking album of comedy and calamity, mischief and mayhem, by Rachael McShane and her band. Yorkshire-born and Newcastle-based … More Rachael McShane & The Cartographers: When All Is Still

Nsimbi

There is wisdom in movement and movement in wisdom. That’s an essential takeaway—and a lyrical one it is—from Nsimbi, the album and partnership of Ugandan hip-hop pioneer GNL Zamba and American singer-songwriter Miriam Tamar. Based on Swahili proverbs and the artists’ quest for cross-cultural understanding, the album’s 13 engrossing stories—performed in Luganda, Lingala, Swahili and English—bridge peoples, eras and musical … More Nsimbi

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh: Foxglove & Fuschia

Like a gentle wave, her voice rolls in, sometimes buoyantly high, sometimes achingly low. Her name may be challenging but her warm sound flows through the auditory channels and touches all the senses. Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (pronounced Murr-en Nick OWL-eve) embodies the Irish music renaissance, as a singer of the ornamental sean nós and more contemporary folk styles, flutist, university … More Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh: Foxglove & Fuschia

Namvula: Quiet Revolutions

The difference between Namvula Rennie’s 2014 debut album and her new release Quiet Revolutions mirrors the distinction between a short story anthology and a novel—on one hand a lovely collection in which each song reflects a specific musical universe, on the other an enchanting holistic sound expressing many facets of an integrated identity. The Scottish-Zambian singer-songwriter has imbibed folk, jazz, Latin, Afro-beat and traditional Zambian influences … More Namvula: Quiet Revolutions

Julie Fowlis: Alterum

The starting point is harmony between Scottish Gaelic—“spoken for over a thousand years,” Julie Fowlis observes, “yet considered otherworldly on its own shores”—and her enchanting, heaven-to-earth voice. On Alterum, she approaches otherness not only as a homegrown/uncommon language but also as a series of dimensions—a mystical plane of nearby hidden realms (magical/supernatural); proximate elements that give one another definition (land/sea) … More Julie Fowlis: Alterum

Vaiteani

A Google search of literature featuring Tahiti turns up novels by 46 authors, only one of whom is Tahitian: Most of what the world knows about the fabled island is filtered through foreign eyes. The singer-songwriter Vaiteani Teaniniuraitemoana acknowledges that some stereotypes of her home island are positive, but she sees all simplified images as reference points to be checked against experience. A good starting place is her eponymous debut … More Vaiteani