Habib Koité: Soô

Traffic, drought and Kardashians may dent the Los Angeles brand, but the city still charmed Habib Koité, the great Malian singer-songwriter and descendant of griots. L.A. is his tribute song, favorably measuring Southern California’s sun, hills, even livestock, against what his own country offers. “Avoid comparing yourself to a race of heroes/Theirs is a special brew you should avoid drinking,” he sings, in Bambara, before switching to a chorus in English about consoling tequila (video 1) … More Habib Koité: Soô

Dobet Gnahoré: Na Drê

As a singer-songwriter, percussionist, choreographer and dancer, Dobet Gnahoré brings life experience to her music. In the Ki-Yi Mbock Company, a theater ensemble and training village in her native Côte d’Ivoire, she encountered artists and musical styles from across Africa. Her country endured a decade of upheaval that twice forced her to seek refuge in France. Na Drê (My Heart), her fourth album, focuses on the burdens and joys … More Dobet Gnahoré: Na Drê

Moh! Kouyaté: Loundo

Most singer-songwriters master notes, but few are as steeped in history as Moh! Kouyaté. Born into a family of griots—the West African bards who impart stories and oral history through song—he brings centuries of heritage to his music. Kouyaté’s compositions and lyrics blend Mandinka tradition from his native Guinea (he now lives in Paris) with blues, jazz and rock. He sings in Maninka and several sister languages from the Mandé … More Moh! Kouyaté: Loundo