With the new year approaching, Diaspora host Terry O provides a compilation of favorite music from 2016.
In no particular order:
Abbar el Hamada – by Aziza Brahim – Glitterbeat label
A stunning album of gorgeous songs that come from Brahim’s experience being born and raised in a Sahrawi refugee camp. “El canto de la arena” and “Los muros” are two of the best sings of the year.
Monistic Theory – by Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate – Cumbancha
Wonderful music full of uplifting feelings and words. “Tokira” is by far the best ‘get up and start movin’ tune I’ve heard all year. “Batafa” and the title track are full of welcome vibes to counterbalance a tough year.
The Both – by Eli West (w Bill Frisell) – Eli West
Great folk music pushed to another level by the tasty addition of the incomparable jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. The whole CD is terrific and the tracks with Frisell are superb. Start with “If I Could Make You My Own” and the Carter Family classic, “Give Me Your Love and I’ll Give You Mine.”
Lunar Love – by Mop Mop – Agogo
Offbeat Italian group comes up with another enchanting collection of unusual sounds and songs. Nobody sounds like Mop Mop. Start with “Plato” and “Alfa”. Anthony Joseph’s guest vocals on “Spaceship: Earth” are delightful.
Leyenda – by Ana Alcaide – ARC Music
Wide ranging collection of musics and instruments from the adventurous Ms. Alcaide. Check out “Elinion”, “Tlalli”, and especially “La mujer muerta” for starters.
Né So – by Rokia Traoré – Nonesuch
Every new CD from Rokia Traoré is a delight. The title track on this one is a haunting reminder of the human costs of war, but the words won’t trouble you if you don’t know French.
Boots #1 – by Gillian Welch – Acony
An interesting collection of outtakes, demos and cutting floor versions. It’s wonderful to hear these songs in different forms and settings.
Racines – by Tiken Jah Fakoly – Barclay
This is the First Tiken Jah Fakoly CD sung all in English. More straightforward reggae than his previous releases, but just as poignant. Check out “Fade Away” and especially the powerful, “Is It Because I’m Black?”
Arclight – by Julian Lage – Mack Avenue
I’ve seen Julian Lage live three times and every time I’m more amazed. He is playing is eloquent & understated, effortlessly fluid and quick. His selection of songs really seals the deal. His arrangement of the 30s tune “Nocturne” is lovely. “Persian Rug”, “Presley”, “Ryland”, “Motor Minder”… He’s incomparable. Don’t miss this one.
Secular Hymns – by Madeline Peyroux – Verve
In an unusual concept, Ms. Peyroux takes a variety fo tunes and brings a little sacred glow to each one. Favorites are, “Trampin'”, “Hello Babe” and Linton Kwesi Johnson’s “More Time.”
Eros – by Paolo Fresu & Omar Sosa – Bonsai
A meditative album of horn and piano, augmented with guest stars like Natacha Atlas, Peter Gabriel and Massive Attack. Listen to “Teardrops”, “My Soul, My Spirit”, and “Fradelo.”
Birdwatching – by Anat Fort Trio & Gianluigi Troversi – ECM
Lovely music, very much in the ECM mold. Fort is a pianist from Israel and Troversi is a reed man from Italy. The natural place to start now is “Meditation for a New Year”, but “Sun”, “The Dance” and “Song of the Phoenix I” are also fine.
Damar – by Amira Medunjanin – World Village
Sevdalinka purists will probably turn away from this non-traditional album of Bosnian singer Medjunjanin, but her voice is evocative and expressive and the arrangements are fresh and engaging. Favorites are, “Moj Dilbere”, Ah Sto Cemo Ljubav Kriti”, and Pjevat cemo stan nam srce zna.”
Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz – World Music Network
There’s a lot of compilations released every year and I love them for the chance to hear new music, but rarely does one dish up a full disk of equally tasty selections. Start with “The Homeless Wanderer” but don’t miss “Be Kibir” or “Firma Ena Wereket”