Bombino: Deran– This Nigeria-based musician (aka Omara Moctar) brings a meditative and earthy attitude to his songs, along with a touch of Deep South trance-blues. It has a psychedelic rhythm with a twang that is similar to John Lee Hooker, with furious drums make this album catchy and entrancing.
Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo – The Malian’s second solo album that translates as “something to say” is smooth and classic. It explores an impressive amount of musical range from Afro-pop to more gentle blues. The lyrics are mostly in Bambara, with the occasional English phrase here and there, and tackle everything from the general theme of African identity to the more poignant demand to end the ban on marriage between different ethnic groups.
Seun Kuti and Egypt 80: Black Times – Seun Kuti executes his fourth album with his father’s Egypt 80 ensemble to create an album that pulses with protest. His inspirations include the bluesy, wavering guitar of Santana to the former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. This declaration of resistance is stirring and evocative.
Soweto Gospel Choir: Freedom – The Soweto Gospel Choir is an impressive group mixing African gospel with traditional hymns, Jamaican reggae, American pop, and spiritually themed secular songs to form powerful and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Their universal message of love, unity, and hope is heart-warming and awe-inspiring.
Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II – During WWII a group of scholars led by Moisei Beregovsky discovered songs written by Jewish Red Army soldiers, refugees, and victims and survivors of Ukranian ghettos, people who were overlooked in history. This album serves as a time capsule of how the Jewish population fought against fascism coupled with jazzy brass notes and sharp piano work.
Who Will Win:
Bombino. His eclectic sound is intriguing as it is familiar. Along with his impressive touring career, he has also recorded a cover of the Rolling Stones classic “Hey Negrita” alongside Keith Richards and Keith Watts.
Who Should Win:
Yiddish Glory. The backstory of this album is fascinating along with the old fashioned harmonies of old Yiddish music acts as a time capsule to WWII eastern Europe.
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