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Listen: Five 2017 world music albums to check out

From the ethereal to the weird, this year has already produced an interesting array of global sounds

Ibibio Sound Machine by Uyai.
Ibibio Sound Machine by Uyai.

It is one of the most controversial music descriptors, precisely because it was born out of a commercial imperative.

The term world music is linked to 1982 festival World Music Day held in France. However, it gained popularity within the industry following Paul Simon’s wildly successful 1986 album, Graceland, which featured his collaborations with African musicians.

With the release of more eclectic releases by the likes of Peter Gabriel and Johnny Clegg, world music has steadily moved away from specialist music retailers to occupy its own space in major CD stores, and record labels were established to meet demand. While the title remains somewhat wishy-washy, the world music genre continues to deliver great surprises from the sensuous and thrilling, to the cool and slightly bonkers.

Here are five world music albums released this year to get a hold off:

1. Elwan


Having dazzled us with their guitar pyro techniques in their last few releases, the grizzled Malian bluesmen turn inwards for their eight international release. With their homeland remaining a hotbed of terrorist attacks, the five-piece band recorded a majority of the new songs in the Moroccan oasis town of M’hamed El Ghizlane, near the Algerian border. Themes of home and dislocation pervade the deeply effecting collection. “Many have died battling for twisted ends,” Ibrahim Ag Alhabib croaks over the haunting Ténéré Tàqqàl.And joy has abandoned us, exhausted by all this duplicity.”

2. The Rough Guide To Bollywood: The Psychedelic Years

Various Artists

This one is a treat with headphones. Bollywood’s Golden Era may have been in the 1950s, but some of its most interesting moments came a decade later when composers – always with a keen eye to what’s happening in the west – started incorporating psychedelia into their compositions. This two-CD collection consisting of 27 tracks features stars such as Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeskhar, not to mention the supreme yodeller Kishore Kumar, paired with washed out guitars, groovy synthesisers and baroque like orchestrations.

3. Ethiopia

Teddy Afro

The biggest star from his homeland, Ethiopia’s sizable diaspora allowed Afro’s latest release to top the Billboard World Music Chart last month with over half a million album sold. Ethiopia is also a great introduction to Afro with his blend of pop, afro-jazz which is anchored with those syncopated Ethiopian rhythms.

4. Uyai

Ibibio Sound Machine

The London-based collective, led by fierce frontwoman Eno Williams, is jukebox of eclectic global dance sounds ranging from Nigeria’s afrobeat and Ghanaian highlife to South African Jazz and Cameroonian makossa. Your house party should reach peak coolness with this of this soundtrack.

5. Self-titled


The Puerto Rican rapper has burned up the world music charts this month with his latest album going straight to the top. Residente’s brim with pure energy with sounds raging from straight hip-hop, reggaeton and indigenous Latin American elements. But for those who know their Puerto Rican Spanish, beyond the sonic bluster lies a social conscious artist concerned by the plight of Puerto Rico’s poor and indigenous .

Updated: July 10, 2017 04:21 PM



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