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

Let Drum Beat: Lua Cheia

Music is a leading indicator of equality—or at least it offers a taste of what a better world might be like. Jazz, rock & roll, flamenco and cumbia are just a few examples of sounds that integrated cultures, even when hard barriers kept races and classes from mingling. Perhaps no nation is more defined by its blended musical traditions than Brazil, and few artists have stepped into the mix with more imagination and flair than the London-based ensemble … More Let Drum Beat: Lua Cheia

Les Cowboys Fringants: Les Antipodes

In physics, politics and romance, poles apart tend to come together. Les Cowboys Fringants are not the only musicians who explore humanity’s darker reaches with comedy and cynicism, let alone with harmony and dance-provoking chords, but they’ve been doing it exceptionally well since 1997. On their tenth album, the neo-trad folk-country ensemble offers a rousing tour of Les Antipodes … More Les Cowboys Fringants: Les Antipodes

Habib Koité: Kharifa

Everyone loves a love song, which explains why nobody composed What the World Needs Now is Responsibility Sweet Responsibility. Everyone touts diversity, yet there is Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All time” (*499 in English). If you seek wisdom in entertainment it’s useful to look beyond the market driven universe. A good place to start is with Habib Koité, the Malian singer-songwriter, born into a griot family of 17 siblings … More Habib Koité: Kharifa