The magic in The Wizard of Oz begins when a tornado wrenches Dorothy from her home in sepia-toned Kansas and drops her into a Technicolor universe. Something similar happens with Couleur (Color), Dobet Gnahoré’s sixth album, an exploration of women’s empowerment that emerges not from a fictional whirlwind but a worldwide crisis. Gnahoré, the first Grammy winner from Côte d’Ivoire, has spent the better part of 20 years commuting … More Dobet Gnahoré: Couleur
Iko Iko is a much-covered song about the collision of two Mardi Gras Indian tribes. On their second album, the Haitian ensemble Lakou Mizik reworks it as Iko Kreyòl, leaving the cryptic chorus intact but applying new verses about pride in the Creole heritage that also stamped both New Orleans and their own land (video 1). It’s part of an electrifying collaboration of the acclaimed roots band with an illustrious roster of Big Easy musicians … More Lakou Mizik: HaitiaNola
Idan Raichel reshaped Israel’s music landscape, integrating Middle Eastern, Ethiopian and Latin sounds and taking his band, the Idan Raichel Project, onto the world stage. He has notably performed at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington and with Palestinian singer-qanun player Ali Amr in New York. Raichel has written more than … More Idan Raichel: And If You Will Come to Me
Though recognizable by his dreadlocks and turban, Idan Raichel often seemed to hide in plain sight. Concerts of his Idan Raichel Project feature up to 15 artists at a time on stage, no one commanding the spotlight and the self-effacing maestro—as pianist, composer, lyricist, singer and producer—always at stage right. To date, he’s made six albums with the Project, a rotating assembly representing Israel’s diversity, with artists singing in Amharic and Arabic alongside Hebrew, plus guest performers from Africa … More Idan Raichel: Piano • Songs
Bob Dylan warned the Establishment that a raging battle would “soon shake your windows and rattle your walls/For the times they are a-changin.’” Five decades later, If I Was President, the signature protest track from Las Cafeteras’ new album, is likewise animated by the idea that anyone can imagine the power to repair the world: “Mr. President, I’ve come to make clear/That I don’t have the papers to work over here,” it begins, proceeding to a priority … More Las Cafeteras: Tastes Like L.A.
Francesca Blanchard’s debut album is rich in the contrasts on which art thrives—connection/solitude, wisdom/experience, anxiety/uplift. As for the form/content duality that animates critics, she offers a soft and stunning voice and incisive lyrics, carried aloft by a blend of folk and French chanson, accented with jazz, country and pop touches. At the album’s heart, the two visions—more complementary than contrasting—reflect the tension and creativity of Blanchard’s bilingual life (French … More Francesca Blanchard: Deux Visions
Nothing compensates for losses from war or disaster, but tragedy can generate compassion, medical advances and transformative art. Lakou Mizik, a collective of nine musicians formed after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, performs to lift a nation’s spirit. Founded by singer-songwriters Steeve Valcourt and Jonas Attis, the group draws from a luxurious sound palette of voodoo ceremony, rara parade, carnival beat, racine (roots), French café and folk music, all sung in Haitian Creole. After … More Lakou Mizik: Wa Di Yo
Amonafi (Once Upon a Time) is a collection of stories by a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter. Born in Mauritania, raised in Senegal and transplanted to France, Daby Touré has fashioned the strands of his life and musical influences (Afrobeat, folk, pop, soul, jazz) into a sparkling panorama of African identity, exile and migration, sorrows, dreams and—above all—women. His songs are bittersweet and playful, carried by his rich voice, variously described … More Daby Touré: Amonafi