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

Gwyneth Glyn: Tro

Gwyneth Glyn’s elegant songs have more layers than a mille-feuille. Her images and subtexts rotate clear and dreamlike, overlaid with lyric tones of light and shadow. She touches on homecoming, remembrance, insomnia, protection and defiance—always circling back to the wonder and vulnerability of love and intimacy. Glyn sings, primarily in Welsh, in a softly commanding voice. On Tro (Turn), her songs, mostly new compositions, have a gorgeously … More Gwyneth Glyn: Tro

Mary Ann Kennedy: An Dàn – Gaelic Songs for a Modern World

Just as construction cranes on a city landscape signal renewal, so do new songs indicate the vitality of a language. Mary Ann Kennedy, an architect of the Scottish Gaelic Renaissance, builds toward the heavens not with stone and steel but with words and music. Daughter of a musical dynasty from the Isle of Skye, she grew up … More Mary Ann Kennedy: An Dàn – Gaelic Songs for a Modern World

Khamoro Budapest Band: Hungarian Gypsy Music

One of the most commonly used Romani loan words in English is “pal”—a fraternal takeaway reflecting the solidarity that binds a wandering people. A powerful byproduct of that solidarity is music that breaches social barriers the Roma themselves have often been unable to penetrate. They planted flamenco in Spain and gave manouche jazz to France; further east, the Roma sound is routinely viewed as synonymous with Hungarian … More Khamoro Budapest Band: Hungarian Gypsy Music

Elemotho: Beautiful World

Elemotho’s Beautiful World is a jewel with facets that reflect topographical and human landscapes. The Namibian singer-composer traces his songwriting to childhood memories of storytelling around campfires in the Kalahari and uses forthright lyrics to turn ignorance toward understanding, loss toward hope and to find beauty in unexpected places. Singing traditional and new works in English, Setswana and other Namibian languages, he works with … More Elemotho: Beautiful World