Balarù: Gravure

Do Baroque concertos composed for harpsichord sound as good with piano? Does a Languedoc cabernet sauvignon taste as good today as it did in 1850, before blight forced French winemakers to import American vine roots? For better or worse, music and viticulture face mergers, evolution, assimilation—and when taste is involved there are no right or wrong answers. But one fine day the four musicians of Balarù, from Piedmont in Italy’s … More Balarù: Gravure

Kanazoé Orkestra: Tolonso

Time to discuss immigration in musical terms. Popular songs in the so-called developed world revolve mostly around romantic relationships, with an uptick in recent decades of alcohol and drug themes. Lyrics in the developing world focus more on survival, conflict, society and family. Kanazoé Orkestra is a microcosm of immigrant-music dynamics, based in Toulouse and led by Burkina Faso-born Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté, balafon master and … More Kanazoé Orkestra: Tolonso

Le Vent du Nord: Territoires

Oz, Neverwhere, Asteroid B-612—great artists create worlds or pair real domains with fantasylands to explore larger questions. Count in this company Le Vent du Nord, vanguard of Québec’s progressive folk movement. On Territoires, they tread overlapping realms—the Québec and New France of today and of history, of the heart, imagination and aspiration. No surrealism in these territories but the ensemble more than compensates with soundscapes … More Le Vent du Nord: Territoires

Zaz: Effet Miroir

Camus argued that travel is a spiritual testing, stripping us of habitual surroundings and taking us not away from but toward our essence. Zaz, one of the most popular French artists abroad, did three world tours in four years and says her adventures reshaped her sense of self. Known for retro-modern French chanson and jazz manouche, on Effet Miroir (Mirror Effect), her fourth album, she presents a more nuanced and eclectic soundscape, 15 songs … More Zaz: Effet Miroir

Shauit: Apu Peikussiakᵘ

Song can be a pathway to survival for threatened languages. Over the past generation the 10,000 speakers of Innu in Québec and Labrador have seen a creative surge in new music. The folk-rock duo Kashtin gained prominence in their community and in broader Canadian society, especially after their songs were featured on the TV series Due South and later on soundtrack compilations. It was at a music festival in Maliotenam, an Innu First Nations … More Shauit: Apu Peikussiakᵘ

Kendji Girac: Amigo

As one of France’s leading recording artists, Kendji Girac knows the rigors of a marathon tour—indeed, before voice or instrument, his earliest training was for the road. He was born in the Dordogne to a family of Catalan-speaking Gypsies who spent six months of every year in a caravan. His father taught him to prune trees and his grandfather taught him guitar. When he was 16 his uncle filmed him singing a flamenco adaptation of Bella, a popular hip-hop … More Kendji Girac: Amigo

Ann O’aro

She stares from the album cover—stark, vulnerable, penetrating. From outside, Ann O’aro’s life may seem in search of a metaphor, a verbal contrivance to make it sound less horrifying, but she’s beyond that. As a child, she played piano, organ and flute. And as a child, she was raped by her father who, when Ann was 15, committed suicide. After school, she left her home on Réunion, the French island in the Indian Ocean, working as a tattoo artist … More Ann O’aro

Nour: Après L’orage

They can be meteorological or emotional, a vortex of personal, political or technological upheaval or even (nowadays) a whirlwind of Tweets. Storms typically require cleanup, but what about the flip side—the light that’s more lucid, the ungoverned mess that mixes things up, leaving arrangements never before seen but that, just maybe, make logical or absurdist sense? What about fear and insecurity weathered and what we learn from it all? Nour isn’t … More Nour: Après L’orage

Bénabar: Le Début de la Suite

Gavroche, Eleanor Rigby, Lili Marlene—evocative characters of literature and song are often everyday people in uncommon circumstances or described in illuminating context. When it comes to finely detailed portraits and scenes, the French singer-songwriter Bénabar (Bruno Nicolini) leverages his modest start—he played more than 300 bar concerts before he met his first record … More Bénabar: Le Début de la Suite