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

Ayom

Continents separated by geological forces are knit together again by human movement. But the case of Brazilian singer-songwriter Jabu Morales is exceptional: When she landed in cosmopolitan Barcelona she entered an atmosphere in which her strengths—radiant voice, magnetic persona, Afro-Brazilian rhythms—seemingly became superpowers, especially as they marinated in musical styles from the Mediterranean to Angola, from the Caribbean … More Ayom

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

Maria Monda

Civilizations through the ages have paid homage to the Earth, but today planet reverence at best coexists with environmental abuse. And while the debut album by the Portuguese trio Maria Monda sounds like traditional wisdom and makes no mention of global warming, its very restraint makes a powerful, modern case for protecting Mother Nature. Sofia Adriana Portugal, Susana Quaresma and Tânia Cardoso met at Lisbon’s School of Theater … More Maria Monda

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

Cristina Branco: Eva

From David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust to Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce, from Philip Roth’s Zuckerman to Marcel Duchamp’s Rrose Sélavy, the alter ego has an honored place in creative art. But the Portuguese singer Cristina Branco molded something different in the title character of her latest album: Eva was born not as an artistic device but as a stroke of self-actualization. In 2006, wandering through a museum outside Copenhagen, Branco visualized a confident bestie … More Cristina Branco: Eva

Flavia Coelho: DNA

Joyce’s Ulysses, Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Hugo’s Les Misérables—often a nation’s most critical and loving assessments come from its children abroad. Add to this roster DNA, the fourth album that Brazilian singer-songwriter Flavia Coelho has sent home from Paris, 12 tracks that convey the artist’s irrepressible spirit and the insight of a penetrating novel. Like her DNA, Coelho’s style palette is a glorious mix—Brazilian and Caribbean sounds … More Flavia Coelho: DNA

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

Roberta Sá: Giro

For better or worse the world always turns, and though the release of Roberta Sá’s Giro (Spin) predates the current global pandemic by several months, it provides a useful lens for looking back with longing and forward with hope at a universe that now seems stuck in the ice of fear, compounded by social distancing. The music reminds us that it’s a beautiful/complicated universe revolving around love—present and absent, creeping and rushing … More Roberta Sá: Giro

Maja Milinković: Fadolinka

Like many artists, Maja Milinković takes advantage of unexpected opportunity and inspiration. She learned guitar in an underground shelter during the Siege of Sarajevo; it helped her stay calm and prepared her for a music career. By age 15 she was playing in a rock band and by 30, with two solo pop-rock albums behind her, she was widely known in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans. But along the way a friend showed her a video of Amália … More Maja Milinković: Fadolinka