Jean-Marc Sauvagnargues & A Banda: Saudade

It defies neat translation, but you can feel it: Saudade, the Portuguese word at the intersection of longing, melancholy and nostalgia—with sometimes a measure of hope. When Jean-Marc Sauvagnargues and the five members of A Banda (The Band) released their 11-track bossa nova revival-renewal album a few months ago, it was an instant classic of golden age songs, nimble adaptations and elegant … More Jean-Marc Sauvagnargues & A Banda: Saudade

Souad Massi: Oumniya

“Government,” observed Ibn Khaldoun. “is an institution that prevents injustices, except those it commits itself.” For more than a year, peaceful demonstrators in Algeria have been challenging an entrenched, corrupt regime bent on fulfilling the definition articulated by the fourteenth-century Muslim sage. One of the most eloquent voices in support of the protests is that of Souad Massi, the Algiers-born, Paris-based artist who has spent much of her career … More Souad Massi: Oumniya

Clio: Déjà Venise

Clio doesn’t so much write songs as paint them. Her lyrics flow in conversational tones, filling each story like brush strokes on a canvas. On Déjà Venise (Already in Venice), her second album, the French singer-songwriter is concerned mostly with couples on the verge of connecting or disconnecting. Her portraits, often simultaneously realist and impressionist, are composed of images—unsipped coffee on a counter, a departed lover’s footprints in snow … More Clio: Déjà Venise

La Mòssa: a moss’!

Based in Avignon, the women of La Mòssa are polyphonic and polyglot; they have varied music backgrounds (jazz, folk, rock, roots), they tell stories old and recent, true-to-life, fanciful and surreal, describing marriage and courtship, evoking wars, witches and mermaids. There’s an elegant coherence to it all, as if they carry a world of lore in a small purse—labeled “roads women have traveled” and closed with a clasp of attitude. What binds all the facets … More La Mòssa: a moss’!

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