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

Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili

Beauty happens when an artist arranges disparate parts and pieces into a fixed space, making arresting sense of out of confusion. Kady Diarra’s third album is a cornucopia of pleasures and wisdom, reflecting her life, her homeland (Burkina Faso), her region (West Africa) and her griot heritage. Her songs, conveyed by her extraordinary voice and magnetic personality, are entertaining to be sure, but also nurturing. She is rooted and nomadic, blending the … More Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili

Ann O’aro: Longoz

The longose is an invasive species that suffocates other vegetation. On her second album, Ann O’aro likens the tree—which flourishes on Réunion, her home island—to traumatic memories that smother the spirit. Symbolism is the latest step in O’aro’s personal-artistic arc: Her 2018 debut album was a stunning exercise—and exorcism—in scorched-earth blues, confronting childhood rape by her alcoholic father, who committed suicide when she was 15 … More Ann O’aro: Longoz

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

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)

Nakany Kanté: De Conakry a Barcelone

Nakany Kanté’s third album evokes a place where disparate cultures and experiences harmonize, each home displays artifacts reflecting the owner’s origins and precious pieces acquired on journeys of discovery, and each soul is forged by days of challenge and success, cheer and sadness. The smooth mix of De Conakry a Barcelone is organic, echoing not only a dialogue of African and Western … More Nakany Kanté: De Conakry a Barcelone

Trio Bacana: Transatlântikèr

From their name choices you might not guess that the women of Trio Bacana are French, residents of an ancient walled town in Brittany. Bacana is Brazilian Portuguese slang for “cool,” and the awesome trio’s 2017 debut album was an all-Brazilian affair. Transatlântikèr is an invented word combining the oceanic highway linking France to the Americas with kèr—meaning “village” in Breton and “heart” in Réunion Creole. Cultivating their roots in samba … More Trio Bacana: Transatlântikèr

Francis Cabrel: À l’aube revenant

On his fourteenth album Francis Cabrel exhibits a striking mix of freshness and nostalgia, reminding fans new and old why his voice, pen and ever-expanding canon of folk-blues-chanson remain so central to the soundtrack of the French-speaking world. Aside from its evocative treatment of modern and courtly love, freedom and alienation, technological tyranny and global warming, the … More Francis Cabrel: À l’aube revenant

Carla Pires: Cartografado

Travel far and discover yourself: The idea has inspired literary figures and works from Camus to Kerouac to Cloud Atlas. The twist Carla Pires offers on her fourth studio album is assimilating the distant horizon not only into herself but also her art—taking fado away from its origins in Lisbon and showing how it becomes more world-wise and simultaneously more deeply fado. She comes naturally to Cartografado (Fado’s Cartography), having … More Carla Pires: Cartografado

2Frères: À Tous Les Vents

Quebec’s Route 132—stretching 1,000 miles (1,600 km), up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspé but skirting major cities—is a good metaphor for the journey of Erik and Sonny Caouette, who specialize in folk songs about family, friendship and small-town life. And like a highway, a thread connects the duo’s albums: Nous Autres (We Ourselves), the 2015 debut that made them an overnight sensation and earned two Félix awards (Quebec’s most … More 2Frères: À Tous Les Vents