The 50 Greatest World Music Albums of the Last Five Years (Part 3)

Posted on August 23rd, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .

Editor Jo Frost and editor-in-chief Simon Broughton choose their favourite albums from 2012…


Duncan Chisholm


(Copperfish Records)

It’s a rather special album that manages to stop you in your tracks and make you just sit and listen, especially when it’s played in the noisy environs that is Songlines HQ. But that’s what the opening track ‘An Ribhinn Donn’ of Scottish fiddler Duncan Chisholm’s latest release managed to do. The final part of his Strathglass Trilogy, it certainly lives up to the two previous offerings (Farrar & Canaich). Chisholm’s violin is intensely deep and rich, evoking misty glens and the rolling Highlands. He’s probably best known for being in Julie Fowlis’ band and Wolfstone, but on evidence of this, Chisholm will go far as a solo player. JF 



Caroline Herring


(Signature Sounds)

The Southern American folk singer was part of 2011’s Cecil Sharp Project which is where I first came across her. Listening to Camilla is akin to having a sociohistorical lesson about the American South – songs such as ‘Black Mountain Lullaby’ about the tragic death of a child caused by mountaintop removal, or ‘White Dress,’ about an African-American civil rights activist who rode on the segregated buses during the 60s. The one thing missing from this beautifully illustrated album (by English artist Alice Pattullo) is notes explaining the tales behind these songs, but you can read these online. Alternatively go and see Herring perform live and prepare to be captivated by her compelling performance. JF 




Cinéma el mundo

(World Village)

Incredible to think this collective of musicians, based in the south-west of France, have been going for 30 years and yet their latest release – their tenth – sounds as fresh and intriguing as ever. Every Lo’Jo album offers up an enticing assortment of musical influences and styles and this is no exception. It starts off with the gruff spoken words of Robert Wyatt and continues with the familiar vocals of the El Mourid sisters and the ever-present, deeply enigmatic poetry and singing of Denis Péan. This release will delight die-hard fans and newcomers alike. JF 





Rising Tide


The music of Zimbabwe tends to get overshadowed by the powerhouse that is West Africa and so the arrival of this debut release was much anticipated. Mokoomba are a young band from Victoria Falls, who won a Southern African music contest back in 2008. The album is an impressively polished affair, thanks in part to Manou Gallo from Zap Mama who produced it, but also due to the joyful, energetic playing by the band. But the most striking feature is lead singer Mathias Muzaza whose voice has a potency and rawness that defies his outwardly shy demeanour. After their recent hit live dates in the UK, plus a much coveted spot on BBC’s Later… with Jools Holland, the band look set for a bright future. JF 






Seeing the panpipes, log drums and massive bamboo thong-ophone on stage at WOMAD and hearing the storm of sound was a thrilling endorsement of Songlines’ championing this group. We get few chances to hear music from the Solomon Islands, so it’s great to find a band like Narasirato devoted to their local traditions, but able to impress at festivals like WOMAD and Glastonbury and make a compelling album like this. With lead singer Aloysius Mauhana and his formidable array of musicians behind him, the music is sometimes haunting, sometimes punchy, full of an ethereal breathiness and an earthy energy that has a distinctive island feel. Aside from the exuberance, there’s also a strong message about safeguarding the culture and natural environment. SB 



Punch Brothers

Who’s Feeling Young Now?


String groups don’t get much more exciting or dynamic than this. Individually, they’re all virtuoso musicians with their own successful solo careers (Chris Thile on vocals and mandolin, Gabe Witcher on violin, Noam Pikelny on banjo, Chris Eldridge on guitar and Paul Kowert on double bass), but collectively they sure pack a punch. From the frenzied, rock-like opening of ‘Movement and Location’ to the joyous instrumental cover of ‘Flippen’ by the Swedish band Väsen and their take on Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’, the playing by these young bluegrass experimentalist hotshots is superb. They’re setting a new benchmark when it comes to their live shows which are consistently thrilling and intense. JF 



Malick Pathé Sow & Bao Sissoko



These days, when the predominant trend is to mix everything together into a sort of soup, or what Lucy Durán calls KWOMUBA! (Komposite World Music Band Afrika), it’s refreshing to hear two master musicians exploring their own rich musical culture. Both from Senegalese griot families, Malick Pathé Sow and Bao Sissoko, now resident in Belgium, have produced a sublime album of acoustic roots music. Sow is the vocalist and plays guitar and hoddu (lute), the Senegalese version of the ngoni, while Sissoko plays kora. The contrasting textures of the dark, leathery hoddu and light silvery kora weave a magical spell, along with female vocalist Talike Gelle. This is a gem of traditional West African musicianship. SB 




Staff Benda Bilili

Bouger Le Monde!

(Crammed Discs)

The first disc by Kinshasa’s Staff Benda Bilili was a spectacular success, but was it partly down to their story – a band of largely disabled street musicians gaining worldwide recognition? The triumph over adversity back-story can hopefully be discounted for their second album and we can really listen to and enjoy the music. The splendid opener ‘Osali Mabe’ is danceable Congolese music at its best with fluid guitar playing and fabulous Congolese drumming from Montana – a new member of the band. The fact that it was recorded in the old Kinshasa Renapec studio gives it a warm bloom and endorses the amazing work that producer Vincent Kenis has done both for this band and Congolese music over the years. SB 



The Other Europeans


(Ethnomusic Records)

The Other Europeans bring together Jewish and Gypsy music and get their name from the fact that both groups have been marginalised – or worse – by the nations of Europe. But they also explore the way klezmer and Roma lautari musicians worked together in Bessarabia (now Moldova) before WWII. The project is led by American pianist and accordionist Alan Bern and includes Christian Dawid (clarinet), Matt Darriau (winds), Martin Bunea (violin), Petar Ralchev (accordion), Kalman Balogh (cimbalom) and Guy Schalom (drums). This live album features largely unknown repertoire, unlike so many klezmer discs which recycle the same tunes (read Bern’s fascinating notes online: Every time I listen to this, I’m impressed by the music and the exceptional instrumental playing. SB 



Various Artists

Songs For Desert Refugees

(Glitterhouse Records)

It’s been a tragic year for Mali – the coup in March, the MNLA annexation of Azawad in the north and the takeover by Islamists. Sharia law has been imposed, music banned and over 500,000 people have fled to refugee camps. This CD is in support of those desert refugees. But this is a lot more than a fund-raising compilation, it’s a brilliant collection of largely Touareg desert blues. It opens with an unreleased track by the Touareg rockers Tinariwen, made for their 2007 album Aman Iman. With its powerful oscillating bass, jangling guitars and soulful vocals, I have no idea why it went unreleased. But then there’s lots more by artists known and unknown, including Tamikrest, Terakaft, Tartit and guitarist Bombino. A superb collection to assist those suffering in the region and remind us of what’s at stake. SB

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