In a category as broad and varied as World Music, it’s impossible to keep up with every good release. Thankfully, streaming services have added more and more international content, so it’s easy to catch up with what you might have missed. Here are the best World Music albums from 2016 and 2017 that you might have missed.
Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa
If there’s one album that is sure to be on everyone’s 2017 best-of list, it’s surely Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa. The album has a miraculous origin story. In the 1980s, as Somalia exploded into civil war, the DJs at Radio Hargeisa knew their station was about to be bombed into oblivion. They grabbed thousands of cassette tapes and buried them deep enough to survive the blast. And survive they did. The best pop music of Somalia from that era has now been compiled into this release. The music surges with a mix of styles, from Arabic and Indian to Soviet and American. They feature plenty of local dhaanto, with its reggae-style beat, and it will change the way you think about Africa.
Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra
Tony Allen is regarded as one of the world’s greatest drummers. He burst onto the scene with Afrobeat in the 1960s and has been everywhere and played with everyone. Now, he’s formed his own supergroup, collecting the best musicians from Haiti, like Yizra’El Band and Lakou Mizik, for a project called the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra. Those who saw the band live said it was an amazing and beguiling experience, so no one knew what to expect from the band’s first album, which was cobbled together from rehearsals and performances. We’re happy to report that the album is terrific, with a blend of Afrobeat, Caribbean, and psychedelic sounds.
Imarhan’s eponymous debut album charts new ground in the Tuareg rock scene. The Algerian band has a more urban, warm sound than others from Algeria. The music is layered and vulnerable, yet soulful and happy. Imarhan is bound to redefine what Tuareg rock can be, adding excitement and urgency to the cool and detached palette that Tuareg artists normally favor.
If you love Nordic-tinged disco music, then Lindstrøm belongs in your rotation. His 2016 EP, Windings, a three-song release that finds Lindstrøm reinvigorated. The first track, “Closing Shot,” is a sonic boom that builds and builds into the sky. Its other two tracks form the perfect complement to this electronic dreamscape.
Terra Sangue Mare
Terra Sangue Mare translates to “the land, the blood, the sea” and it’s a fitting description for the first album of Sicilian folk songs by Michela Musolino, Michael Delia, and Fabio Turchetti. The recordings are in Sicilian, and it is steeped in authenticity. Sicily is a melting ground of cultures: in addition to its own, Middle Eastern, African and Italian sounds abound. Terra Sangue Mare’s self-titled debut has a firm grasp on all of these influences.
Marimba Del Pacifico
Rio Mira is an original band from the Pacific coast of Ecuador with a unique mission: to bring the music of slaves who were transported from Africa to Ecuador back to life. The music of the region has already been granted UNESCO cultural heritage status, and Rio Mira builds upon that legacy by giving the music a modern spin.