Khiyo: Bondona

Khiyo emerged when Sohini Alam, a singer born in London to Bangladeshi parents, met Oliver Weeks, a Gloucester-born musician-composer steeped in Bengali culture. Their work together reflects nothing less than the laws of chemistry and the story of humanity: Two entities combine to produce something new that shows its roots but also develops independent force and identity. The music of their now six-member band (plus guests) is Bengali folk … More Khiyo: Bondona

Iberi: Supra

High ground is supposed to be secure, but Georgia’s perch in the Caucasus Mountains hasn’t kept out invaders—from Romans to Russians, with other empires in between. Still, time seems to be on the country’s side. Georgians have a winemaking tradition going back 8,000 years and a heritage of polyphonic singing that predates their fourth-century adoption of Christianity. Wine, music, history and dedication to homeland all merge on Supra … More Iberi: Supra

Rachel Magoola: Resilience – Songs of Uganda

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness: Rare is the artist who embodies this adage as fully as Uganda’s Rachel Magoola. Since the 1970s her homeland has seen military dictatorship, civil war, forced recruitment of child soldiers, an HIV epidemic, economic collapse and food shortages. Magoola addresses these serial hardships not only as a singer-songwriter but also as activist, philanthropist … More Rachel Magoola: Resilience – Songs of Uganda

Afrika Mamas: Ilanga / The Sun

Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Shakira, Nicki Minaj—voices embodying women’s empowerment have revolutionized popular music over the past half century. But as superstars rouse millions of women, they also highlight art as an individual pursuit. Transformative group vocals are more readily found in communal-oriented societies—and there is no finer example than Afrika Mamas, six single … More Afrika Mamas: Ilanga / The Sun

Black Umfolosi: Washabalal’ Umhlaba / Earth Song

The Zimbabwean ensemble Black Umfolosi takes its name from a river in South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, whence the group’s ancestors migrated almost 200 years ago. And though the zigzagging riverbed has been mostly dry in recent years it remains a wellspring of identity and memory inspiring the gentle cadences and sparkling harmonies of its distant sons and daughters. Over the course of … More Black Umfolosi: Washabalal’ Umhlaba / Earth Song

Otava Yo: Do You Love

There’s more than a touch of Gogol in the Russian ensemble Otava Yo: There’s humor, symbolism and archetypal characters that serve as anchors for artistic brilliance. Group leader and co-founder Alexey Belkin explains that the band’s work reflects “not so much folklore as a twenty-first century attitude toward folk music,” brought to animation in layers of respect and self-parody, with instruments that run from traditional zithers and pipes to worldly violin … More Otava Yo: Do You Love

Catarina dos Santos: Rádio Kriola

The subtitle of Catarina dos Santos’ second album is “Reflections on Portuguese Identity,” a subject as big as the ocean that touches Portugal, Africa and Brazil and as small as the working-class town where she grew up. Facing Lisbon across the Tagus, Barreiro is home to families from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea, Mozambique and inland Portugal. From an early age, Dos Santos—whose father … More Catarina dos Santos: Rádio Kriola

Afrika Mamas: Iphupho

A common symbol of Zulu culture is the cowhide shield, ever present in images of the warrior-king Shaka and also the centerpiece on the official crest of KwaZulu-Natal, the South African province that is the heartland of the Zulu people. But as history merges with herstory, it’s evident that societies are shielded not only by warriors but also by strong women. And no group embodies the idea of protective Zulu women more than the a cappella ensemble … More Afrika Mamas: Iphupho