Music from around the world

The following recent releases are worth checking out for yourself and are also suggested for the musically inclined on your gift list.

“Three Mountain Pass” ( Innova) by Van-Anh Vanessa Vo, along with the Kronos Quartet, is a collection of contemporary settings of traditional Vietnamese songs which, as the liner notes suggest, definitely breathes new life into traditional instruments and music. She is a master of Vietnamese stringed instruments from various regions of the country and her global perspective includes a take on Eric Satie’s “Trois Gnossiennes.”

“Amor t’Esla” (Banda Magda), self-released on their eponymously named label, this Brooklyn-based ensemble takes a spirited and poly-vocal look (mostly sung in French) at several strains of world music—focusing on mid-twemtieth century expressions — from French Pop and Chanson to Greek folks songs and beyond. Named one of NPR’s 120 Favorite World Music Albums of the Year, it’s definitely worth checking out.

“Nomad,” (Noneusch) by Bombino, a rocking and hard driving album by the Tuareg singer and guitarist, recorded in Nashville at the invitation of the Black Keys. It’s guitar-driven, hook-laced, desert rock-blues in the tradition of many other artists from Mali, think Ali Farka Toure meets Mark Knopfler and you’ll begin to get the idea. This albums prompts many queries of “who in the hell is that?”

“Who Is William Onyeabor” (Luka Bop), issued on David Byrne’s label (as part of its World Psychedelic Classics), this album collects a sampling of the Nigerian artist’s recordings from the 1970s. Inter-locking African grooves meet synthesizer dance music somewhere out on the plains of nowhere. You could call is disco funk meets Morricone film music as well as many other things such as jumbled Afro-Pop guitars and call and response vocals mixed into a thrumming drum machine.

“Wed 21” (Crammed Discs), by Juana Molina is the most recent release by the Argentinian singer-songwriter known for her unusual arrangements which, in the spirit of trying to coin labels for everything, have been called “folktronica.” Straddling genres from the folky to the rocky, blending guitar and folk-pop sentiments with ambient electronics, her music makes for an intriguing listen.

“Aljawal” (Soundway) by Debruit & Alsarah is a collaboration between the French musical producer and the Sudanese born (but now Brooklyn-based) vocalist. Combining haunting and ethereal vocal harmonies with African and western rhythms, the duo manages—alluding to the title — to create a wandering nomadic sense of the musical sounds of the globalized twenty-first century.

We’ll take a look at other musical genres in the coming weeks.

Kirk Robertson writes about the arts in Churchill County. He may be reached at


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