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

Tanya Brittain: Hireth

Hireth is Cornish for a species of nostalgia, akin to the Portuguese saudade, that expresses insatiable yearning. On her first solo album, singer-songwriter Tanya Brittain comes magnificently close to quenching this singular thirst. Across 10 tracks she captures pregnant moments on the brink of change; waltzes us back to lost golden ages of song, from the English Renaissance to the 1960s folk revival; and promotes a language that’s been on the precipice of extinction … More Tanya Brittain: Hireth

Frank London: Ghetto Songs

It’s not news that great music emerges from dire circumstances, but bravissimo to Frank London, composer, trumpeter and co-founder of the Klezmatics (among myriad exploits) for his new album, a breathtaking journey through the ghettos of history. In 2016, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Venice Ghetto, Beit Venezia, an institution dedicated to the lagoon city’s Jewish culture, invited London as an artist-in-residence … More Frank London: Ghetto Songs

Céline Banza: Praefatio

Céline Banza’s voice is so utterly captivating it seems to eliminate emotional distance, merging melancholy with hope, grievance with comfort, artist with audience. On her debut album the Congolese singer-songwriter tells stories of love, separation and chauvinism—plus childhood innocence lost and miraculously recovered. Time has been as thin as space in her 24 years: Born in Kinshasa in 1997, she composed songs before age seven and her father … More Céline Banza: Praefatio

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 rouse 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