Best World Music of 2017

Best World Music Songs of 2017

by Jacob on December 19, 2017

I listen to a lot of music. According to Spotify’s annual summary, I listened to over 41,000 minutes of music in 2017. And that was not passive listening, meaning I don’t usually just put music on and let it roll in the background. When I listen, I don’t do other things. I scan songs, skipping many of them if they don’t grab me, and mark the ones I like for future projects. I skipped over 8000 songs this year, at least that what Spotify tells me.

These stats don’t include all of the music I listen to on other platforms such as Soundcloud, YouTube and Bandcamp, or on physical discs (sometimes I’m amazed what still isn’t available digitally), or live. I figure I must spend at least half of my waking hours listening to music in some form or another.

I do this because it is my job as a researcher for Putumayo World Music and global music producer, consultant, writer and lecturer, to stay on top of new music being released around the world. And in that role, I’m a completist: I try to listen to as much new music as I can. There’s nothing I hate more than not being aware of a great song that would have worked well on a particular project.

But even though I call myself a completist, I’m also a specialist, even though that’s a contradiction. I don’t listen to much mainstream, commercial American music (just what my kids make me listen to in the car). I’m not listening to the latest hipster indie band, the biggest rap hits, country radio staples or even much music that falls under the jazz or classical designations. You will find very little crossover between the artists on my best songs of the year list with those in most publications in the US.

I’m trying to listen to what the world listens to, to expand my horizons and listen to music from many different cultures, in many languages, many unique local styles, instruments, rhythms and flavors. Yet, I’m also looking for music that will appeal to people outside of that country or culture…something that resonates with people who don’t speak the language, don’t know much about the history or the traditions…but they like what they hear, and hopefully they will want to learn more.

In 2017, I added nearly 3000 new songs I like to my database. Of those, I chose these tracks as the ones that stood out for their catchy melodies, infectious rhythms or unique emotion. Turns out, I do actually like pop music, just not much American pop music. It also turns out, I don’t like a lot of stuff that other music reviewers seem to like.

There are songs from Sweden, Tahiti, Estonia, South Africa, Peru, Lebanon, Brazil and more. Some of these artists are famous in their home countries, some are unknown and I stumbled across them in random ways. You may notice some of the songs or videos came were released before 2017, but I included them because the albums they ended up being featured on were released in 2017, so I did cheat a little bit. I guess that compensates for all of the songs I discovered in 2017 that I chose not to include because the albums they were featured on came out in 2016. You can find some of those on a playlist I created latest year.

They are in no particular order in terms of preference or ranking, but the sequence moves from a mellower vibe to more mid tempo tracks to the more upbeat, danceable tracks at the end. As I was writing the supplemental info for this playlist I was amazed to see how many of the songs had music videos, some of which are truly fantastic.

In addition to including the videos in the article below, I’ve created a YouTube playlist here with most of the songs.

Also, not every one of my favorite songs of 2017 can be found on Spotify, so I’ve included some “bonus tracks” at the end of this post which includes a few songs that you will have to seek out in other ways.

I hope you enjoy them, and want to share this playlist with others. I’d love to hear what songs you think I missed. As you may have noticed, there’s not a lot of media in the US covering music from outside our mainstream, and while this playlist won’t do a lot to change that, hopefully, it will do at least a little.

as selected by Jacob Edgar

Laroz Camel Rider – Laila Laila

Laroz Camel Rider is a project led by Israeli producer and DJ Laroz Haim. This song has roots in Sudan. Thanks to my friend Makuto Kubota from Japan for hipping me to this track, which also has a lovely video for a more acoustic version of the song.


Bongeziwe Mabandla – Ndibuyile
South African singer and songwriter Bongeziwe Mabandla composes songs in the Xhosa language that mix elements of folk, indie pop and electronic music. His second album was released this year and features the haunting song “Ndibuyile”. Here’s a nice video of a live version of this song:

Kari Bremnes – Rim sin stemme

I spent a lot of time traveling in Scandinavia and the Baltics these past two years, and along the way I discovered a lot of excellent new music. Kari Bremnes has been performing for many years and is well known in Norway. “Rim sin stemme” has a cool downtempo flavor that would be the perfect soundtrack to a cold Norwegian winter’s day.

Sara Tavares – Coisas Bunitas

Sara Tavares, who lives in Portugal and has Cape Verdean roots, is one of my all-time favorite singers. She has been off the scene for many years…I think she just got burned out by the music biz. Happily, she is back with a new album, Fitxadu. While it is not as strong as her earlier work, it is still wonderful, and the video is fantastic as well. It has been viewed over a million times, so yeah, she’s popular.

Curly Strings – Miks sa murrad mind
I had the opportunity to present a private concert in Tallinn with this Estonian band recently, and they were full of energy and positive vibes. Inspired heavily by both American bluegrass and Estonian folk music, Curly Strings deserve much wider international recognition. This song, sung from the point of view of a flower, is from their 2017 album Hoolima.

La Lá – Bebés
La Lá is a singer from Lima, Peru who mixes soft, folky sounds with jazz, bossa nova, Afro-Peruvian rhythms and more. Nothing fancy, just very pretty and moving.

Vaiteani – Ua Roa Te Tau
I don’t come across a lot of new music from Tahiti, so I was excited to stumble upon the music of this Franco-Polynesian duet. Vaiteani won a big contest in France and thanks to a slow roll out of singles and music videos with exotic settings, they have developed a solid following in France.

George Dalaras & Miltos Pasxalidis – Sta tragoudia tha me vreis

There is no bigger music icon in Greece than George Dalaras, who has been a superstar at home since the late 1960s. He has long been inspired by traditional Greek music, but also writes popular songs that millions of Greeks know by heart. Still going strong, Dalaras has added to his roster of over 70 albums under his own name with the lovely 2017 release Pesto Gia Mina.

Danay Suárez & Idan Raichel – Closer Now
Danay Suarez is a rising star from Cuba and Idan Raichel is the biggest name in Israeli music (full disclosure, Idan is signed to my Cumbancha record label). After meeting and performing together, Danay decided to record and cover Idan’s song “Closer Now,” which originally appeared on his 2013 album Quarter to Six. Danay gives the song an extra boost with her laid back Spanish rapping, turning an already beautiful melody in a sublime cross-cultural, cross-genre mix.

Bubbi Morthens – Sól bros þín

Bubbi Morthens is Iceland’s most famous and beloved singer-songwriter. A household name in Iceland since the early 80s, when he was punk rocker, Bubbi is practically unknown outside of the country. But ask any Icelander who is Iceland’s most beloved musician and they will probably say Bubbi, not Björk, Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men or any of the other groups that are known internationally. I became a Bubbi fan when I was a foreign exchange student in Iceland in 1986-87, and I think his recent work is as good if not better then his early work.

Natalia Doco – Le temps qu’il faudra

Originally from Argentina and now based in Paris, Natalia Doco sings easy-going songs in Spanish, French and English. I preferred her 2014 debut album Mucho Chino to 2017’s El Buen Galicho, but both offer good rainy-day songs with a Manu Chao-like lilt.

Luz Pinos with Paquito D’Rivera & Luisito Quintero – Mozo

Singer and songwriter Luz Pinos is originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador and is now based in New York City. Jazzy and lighthearted, her songs are sweet and pleasant. The music video for the song “Mozo” is also a lot of fun.

Perotá Chingò – Peguei uma Chuva

Perotá Chingó is the duet of Lola Aguirre and Julia Ortiz, who both hail from Rio de la Plata, Argentina. They mix a lot of flavors into their sound, from electronic music to reggae, samba, Venezuelan joropo and more. They’ve built a large following on social media platforms and their audience is growing massively.

Gwyneth Glyn – Os na wela’i di

I love the new album Tro from Welsh singer Gwyneth Glyn. Her songs in the Welsh language are gentle, haunting and moving. I was walking through the rain in Bordeaux, France earlier this year when I first listened to this album, and it was the perfect soundtrack for a lonely walk through the mist. Glyn told me the song “Os na wela’i di” was written after her grandfather’s death. He would have turned 101 on the album’s release date.

Clea Vincent – Samba

The French have long loved Brazilian music and samba and bossa nova have blended seamlessly into the work of many popular French musicians over the years, from Henri Salvador to Laurent Voulzy. A relative newcomer on the French music scene, Clea Vincent manages to be both eclectic and original while drawing on sixties French ye-ye, 80s New Wave and modern Parisian electronica. I like that she doesn’t take herself too seriously and has a lot of fun in the video for “Samba“.

Sigrid Moldestad – Finne meg ein topp

For reasons I can’t fully explain, of all the music I have come across over the past two years, Norwegian singer Sigrid Moldestad is my favorite discovery. I was exploring Bergen, Norway with my family in 2016 when I saw a poster for an upcoming Moldestad concert and there was something about it that struck me, so I checked out her music and fell in love with it. She blends Norwegian folk music with sophisticated pop arrangements, and her melodies and voice move me deeply. While none of the songs on her 2017 album Vere her are as hauntingly powerful as her older songs “A kjaeraste” and “Brevet,” there’s plenty of Norwegian folk-pop gems here.

Julie Fowlis – Dh’èirich Mi Moch Madainn Cheòthar

Scottish singer Julie Fowlis has one of the world’s great voices, plus she’s a wonderful person and an important figure in the preservation and promotion of traditional Gaelic music. I’ve had the pleasure of presenting her numerous times on National Geographic ships, and she never fails to endear audiences with her gorgeous songs, stories and winning personality. On her new album alterum she sings in Galician and English, but its her Gaelic songs I still love the best. The video below is for a different song on the album, but it is such a fantastic song and video, I’ve included it here as a bonus.

Yasmine Hamdan – Douss

I’ve been entranced by Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan since I first saw her perform back in 2004 in Essen, Germany with her defunct duet Soapkills. Since then, her audience has grown tremendously and she was featured in the 2014 Jim Jarmusch vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive. Hamdan sings with incredible restraint and purity, and her music is full of mystery and mystique.

Cuca Roseta – Balelas

Portuguese singer Cuca Roseta got her start in pop music before deciding to devote herself to fado, the dramatic ballad form that developed in the brothels and bars of Lisbon’s Alfama distract back in the 1800s. Roseta has always tried to bring fado to wider audiences, and while she respects tradition, she is far from a traditionalist. On her new album Luz, Roseta explores a variety of styles and flavors that will surely outrage fado purists, but I’m sure the public will love it just fine. I’ve presented Cuca Roseta a couple of times on Nat Geo ships, and she really is a fantastic person and multi-talented artist. Did I mentioned she has a blackbelt in tae kwan do and won the Portuguese version of Dancing with the Stars a few years back?

Alex Cuba – Todas las Cabezas Están Locas

Despite having lived way up in the remote regions of British Columbia, Canada for many years, Alex Cuba maintains strong musical connections to his Cuban homeland. I’ve loved his music since back before he was a solo artist, when he was in a band called the Puentes Brothers with his brother Adonis. Not only is he fantastic musician, singer and songwriter, Alex also has the best sideburns in music since Elvis. His 2017 album Lo Único Constante is filled with lovely and infectious acoustic songs.

Mallu Magalhães – Linha Verde

Both Brazilian singer Mallu Magalhães and Justin Bieber were discovered on the internet, but that’s about all they have in common. Magalhães got her start on MySpace, where she posted covers of English language songs. Her gentle, sweet voice earned her a wide following, and since then she is a legit star with tons of fans worldwide. She has also started singing in Portuguese, which I prefer. The fado-flavored “Linha Verde” is from her 2017 album Vem.

Lisa Ekdahl – När alla vägar leder hem

Swedish music is much more than ABBA, Ace of Base and heavy metal. Sweden also has a strong folk and singer-songwriter scene, and Lisa Ekdahl is one of the best known local singers. She has a distinctive, child-like voice and you don’t even need to speak Swedish to enjoy her songs.

Tito Paris – Mim Ê Bô

A legend of Cape Verdean music, Tito Paris has not been very visible in recent years. Like many great artists, he has always been better at music than navigating the music business. It has been a long time since I’ve heard an album of new material by Tito Paris, and his 2017 release Mim Ê Bô is a welcome return.

Paris Combo – Je Suis Partie
One of my favorite Frenchy groups, Paris Combo, released the new album Tako Tsubo in 2017 and after 20 years they are still going strong. Lead singer Belle du Berry and her Australian trumpet-player husband David Lewis are joined by Django Reinhardt reincarnate Potzi on guitar, Francois Jennin on drums and Benoît Dunoyer de Segonzac on upright bass plus some piano and tuba elements on their catchy song “Je Suis Partie.”

Julio Pereira – Praça do Comércio
A few months ago I was visiting a fantastic guitar shop called Porto Guitarra in Porto, Portugal looking at cavaquinhos, braguinhas and other varieties of Portuguese guitars. I picked up a few CDs there, including a beautifully packaged album (112 page booklet!) called Praça do Comércio by Julio Pereira, who was unknown to me. This was a fantastic stumble-upon-find and one of the best albums of the year in my opinion. Pereira is a wizard on the Portuguese cavaquinho, which is different than its Brazilian and Cape Verdean cousins, and the braguinha, a small four-string guitar that is the ancestor of the ukelele.

Criolo – Menino Mimado
Imagine if Lil Wayne decided to record a traditional zydeco album with old legends of the genre and you might get a sense of how unexpected Brazilian rapper Criolo‘s new album Menino Mimado is. One of my favorite things about music in Brazilian is that young people still think traditional music is cool and worthy of respect and enjoyment. I remember going to a concert by veteran samba singer Jorge Aragao in São Paulo once that was filled with teenagers singing along with  every song. You’d never see that in the US at a blues concert, unless it was the Black Keys or something. So Criolo proves that he’s got the vocal chops for samba and the self-confidence to diverge from his usual genre on this lovely album.

Idir – La corrida – Takurida
Idir is originally from Kabyle, a culturally distinct region of Algeria where they speak a Berber language and have unique music, traditions and beliefs. His 1976 debut album A Vava Inouva was a hit in France, where he remains a big star. His latest album, Ici et Ailleurs, features duets with major French stars such as Francis Cabrel, Patrick Bruel, Charles Aznavour and others, but my favorite track on the album is this moving Berber language version of “La Corrida,” a song against bullfighting that was originally recorded by Francis Cabrel with the Gypsy Kings in 1994.

Elkin Robinson – Creole Vibration
I first saw Elkin Robinson perform in Bogotá, Colombia a few years ago and I was instantly enchanted by this singer and his band. They come from the small Caribbean island of Providencia, which is part of Colombia, but much closer to Nicaragua. English is the main language, not Spanish, and the music is more closely related to Garifuna, Trinidadian and Jamaican music than Colombian music…but it has something unique that makes it very enticing. What’s not to love about this upbeat and irresistible party song from Robinson’s debut full-length album Sun a Shine?

Nidia Gongora & Quantic – Muevelo Negro
The music of Colombia’s Pacific coast is truly magical. The typical instrument, the marimba, is used to play complex interlocking rhythms with a strong African flavor. British producer Quantic lived in Cali, Colombia for many years and one of his big discoveries is singer Nidia Gongora who released her first solo album this year. She has been touring and recording with Quantic for many years, (and is featured on one of my all-time favorite songs and videos “Un Canto a Mi Tierra“), so it’s great she gets her moment to shine on the album Curao.

Elida Almeida – Bersu d’Oru
People often ask me what my favorite country for music is. While Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mali would have to be high up there, for sheer per capita production of amazing music Cape Verde wins hands down. How is possible that a remote archipelago with just over half a million people continues to churn out one incredible artist after another. The Lusafrica label has had a lock on the Cape Verdean music scene for many years and in addition to introducing the world to Cesaria Evora, they continue to develop striking young talents such as Elida Almeida. Almeida’s second album Kebrada is fantastic and her music is filled with joy and emotion. I love the video for “Bersu D’Oru” as well.

Maria Mulata – Calla
Not the first or the last Colombian artist to be featured in this list. Maria Mulata has moved beyond the traditional cumbia folklore style that launched her career. In addition to recording some great music for kids, Maria Mulata has a lovely new album called Idas y Vueltas. I almost selected another song from this album for this list, but I like the video for “Calla” so much I decided to change it to that song at the last minute. But do check out her song “Cumbia Salá” as the runner up for best song from the album.

Pietra Montecorvino – Dove sei
With her rough voice and “I could give a damn” attitude, Pietra Montecorvino is like the Tom Waits of Italian music. Her attitude is on full display on the cover for her new album Colpa Mia, which has got to be one of the boldest covers I’ve seen in some time. I know I sure wouldn’t want to expose myself in that way, and she brings that raw sentiment to her music as well.

Jane Bordeaux – כמו בהתחלה
Jane Bordeaux describes themselves thusly “We are a band from Tel Aviv, making Live-and-kicking american folk-country style music in Hebrew.” That pretty much sums it up. Their 2017 release “Ma She’Hashoov” is filled with catchy Americana songs with an Israeli twist.

Omar & Mayra Andrade – De Ja Vu
I pretty much love anything that French/Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade is involved with, so with no new album in 2017, this is the only material of hers I could include on this list. This is a soulful, slinky collaboration with British neo-soul singer Omar that was featured on his album Love in Beats.

Polo & Pan – Cœur croisé

As you can probably tell by this list, I love slinky French pop with a retro twist. The song “Cœur croisé” by French due Polo & Pan is catchy, fun and more than a little bit cheesy, but the video, with its inventive visual double-entendres a la Austin Powers, is really the icing on the gateau.

Republica Ideal de Acapulco – Atomic Lover
The brainchild of French pianist Nicolas Repac, who is known for his reinvention of classic swing and jazz with a hipster, modern vibe, Republica Ideal de Acapulco features the lead vocals of Cuban phenom Yaite Ramos. They don’t have a full album out yet, but their debut single “Atomic Lover” has a great boogaloo flavor and a cool black and white music video.

Sharon Shannon – Sacred Earth
Accordionist Sharon Shannon is very popular in her native Ireland for both her devotion to tradition and her ability to modernize it. The title track from her new album has a cool North African desert blues vibe meets Irish folk music and a hint of Cajun-flavored accordion.

Tinariwen – Nizzagh Ijbal
The pioneers of desert blues haven’t changed their sound much over the years, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Tinariwen‘s latest album Elwan doesn’t break any new ground, its just digs deeper into the seemingly bottomless well that is Tuareg music.

Marinah – Todo Es Ponerse|
While the Barcelona flamenco groove band Ojos de Brujo is no more, ex-lead singer Marinah is keeping the Ojos spirit alive with her album Afrolailo. Given that her voice was such a defining part of the Ojos de Brujo sound, listening to her album was like seeing an old friend again after a long absence. “Todo Es Ponerse” has a laid back groove with an Afro-Cuban flavor supplied by the bubbling batá drums that give it its rhythmic underpinning.

Mista Savona – Carnival (feat. Solis & Randy Valentine)
Havana Meets Kingston is a fantastic project that, as the name implies, brings together the two most musically influential islands in the Caribbean for a cool cross-cultural mash-up. Led by Australian reggae and dancehall producer Mista Savona, this ambitious album unites two great musical tastes, and yes, they do taste great together. The video for the song “Carnival” is also wonderful. It is one of my favorite albums of the year, even though I thought I could never listen to yet another version of Cuban chestnut “Chan Chan”…it turns out, I could…and enjoy it!

Orchestra Baobab – Foulo
Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab can do no wrong in my book. Their mix of classic Cuban music with African rumba is about as close to perfect as I can imagine any music to be, so of course I love their long-awaited new album, Tribute to Ndiouga Dien. One of the highlights of my life was presenting a private concert with Orchestra Baobab at Dakar nightclub Just4U for a tour group I was traveling with a few years ago. I haven’t stopped smiling since.

Amparanoia – El coro de mi gente (feat. Macaco)
2017 saw the welcome return of Spanish band Amparanoia, with their first album of new material since they essentially broke up in 2006. The single “El coro de mi gente” features another one of my favorite Spanish artists, Macaco. Throw in a great politically-timely video and this is a no-brainer for my best of the year list.

Locos Por Juana – Pal’ Caribe (feat. Akae Beka)

From Colombia, via Miami, Locos Por Juana have a great Latin reggae sound that is in full force in their powerful song “Pal’ Caribe”. The video features terrifying images of the destruction from the 2017 hurricanes and serves up a powerful tribute to the resilience of the people of the Caribbean.

Ozomatli – La Bamba (feat. Slightly Stoopid)
Another Latin reggae fusion, this time from LA-based Ozomatli whose latest album Non-Stop: Mexico to Jamaica looks for common ground between the sounds of Mexico and Jamaica. This reggae version of the Mexican folk song “La Bamba” features Southern California punk reggae stars Slightly Stoopid and gives this classic track a new flavor.

Naâman – I’m Alright
French reggae is a thing, and I’ve long been a big fan of Gallic reggae bands such as Tryo, Dub Inc., Kana, Sergent Garcia and others. You can maybe thank creepy French crooner Serge Gainsbourg for the reggae influence in French music, thanks to the album he recorded in Jamaica with the Wailers back in 1979. Martin Mussard, aka Naâman, is the latest French reggae singer to make it big, and his song “I’m Alright” is just plain fun.

Yvonne Catterfeld – Guten Morgen Freiheit
Ok, I’ll admit it…I have a soft spot for German pop music. I first heard about this song from a South African Facebook friend who was complaining because her son is featured in the video without her permission. Exploitation of children aside, I really like German singer Yvonne Catterfeld‘s funky song and upbeat Cape Town-filmed video.

Louane – On était beau
A massive star in France, Louane came to fame through the French version of The Voice…not normally an outlet I look to for global music talent. But it turns out, she really is fantastic, with a voice filled with soul and depth that belies her young age (she just turned 21 and put our her massive hit debut album when she was 18). Her second album has some great songs, my favorite of which is the African-flavored “On Était Beau.” Can we please get some American pop stars to effortlessly include African influences in their Top 40 songs too?

Mokoomba – Kumukanda
Zimbabwean band Mokoomba is known for their excellent live performances, and their albums are pretty good as well. This song is from their latest album Luyando.

Campo – Bailar Quieto
After working with Oscar-winning Argentinean composer Gustavo Santaloalla on the electro-tango project Bajafondo, and producing albums by Jorge Drexler, La Vela Puerco, No Te Va A Gustar and others, Uruguayan producer Juan Campodónico, aka Campo, mixes vallenato and reggaeton on the catchy hit single “Bailar Quieto”.

Eskorzo – La Tumba (feat. Amparanoia)
Formed in Granada, Spain in 1995, Eskorzo has been an important part of the Spanish mestizo scene for over two decades. On this cumbia rock song from their latest album La Tumba, they are joined by Amparanoia lead singer Amparo Sanchez on the title track.

Yemi Alade – Knack Am
The hip-hop, dancehall and R&B influenced pop music coming out of Nigeria and other West African countries has been dubbed “Afrobeats,” which seems like an odd name given there’s already a Nigerian genre called Afrobeat that is worlds away from the slick, commercial, Americanized modern pop sound that is hugely popular at home and abroad. Most of the Afrobeats stuff doesn’t do much for me, but one exception is Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, who seems to take herself less seriously than others in the scene.

Teddy Afro – Olan Yizo
The biggest star in Ethiopia, Teddy Afro‘s career was almost destroyed after he was involved in a hit-and-run accident and jailed for two years.Luckily for his fans, he has been able to reemerge and released a wonderful album in 2017 called Ethiopia.

Imarhan – Azzaman
More great Tuareg desert blues, this time from Algeria’s Imarhan. With members that are related to some of the Tinariwen crew, Imarhan brings a fresher, funkier vibe to their sound.

TootArd – Oya Marhaba
The band TootArd (which means “strawberries” in Arabic) call themselves a “mountain rock reggae” group. Based in the Golan Heights, the band considers themselves Syrian, even though they’ve never been to Syria and the land on which they live is controlled by Israel. They have started to make waves across the region and in Europe, giving voice to a new generation of politically active young people in the Middle East.


Juanes – Hermosa Ingrata
Yeah, Colombia again. This time, it’s international superstar Juanes, who manages to create music that is both poppy and rootsy, with strong influences from Afro-Colombian champeta and cumbia. The videos for the songs on his 2017 album Mis Planes Son Amarte are all chapters in a larger story that links them together.

Johnny Clegg – King Of Time
South African icon Johnny Clegg recently finished his last international tour, using it as an opportunity to possibly say farewell to his fans after being diagnosed with cancer. While most of his recent recordings don’t hold a candle to the work he recorded in his early days with the band Juluka, the title track from his latest album has a killer chorus and a lot of that great Johnny Clegg vibe that made him such a big star across the world. Here’s hoping he will be able to create more music long into the future.

Mannarino – Arca Di Noè
Italian singer Mannarino adds a Brazilian samba flavor to his slinky Italian pop song “Arca Di Noè” from his 2017 release Apriti Cielo. Mannarino got his start as an actor on Italian television before focusing on music. He brings a lot of world favors into his sound, including Roma, balkan, French, African and others.

!Dela Dap – Ring Me Up – Rejazzed
While I prefer Austrian group !Dela Dap‘s original Balkan brass meets electronica sound from their early days, their more recent focus on swing and jazz is undeniably infectious.


Sezen Aksu – Üfle De Söneyim
One of Turkey’s biggest stars, Sezen Aksu has reinvented herself as a bit of an electroswing artist on her latest album Biraz Pop Biraz Senem. Known for her dramatic, heart-wrenching vocals, she seems to be having fun on this album, which is fine by me. “Üfle De Söneyim” mixes Balkan brass with an offbeat, bouncy retro swing.

Kossi Apeson – Gazo cool catché
Technically, this song came out in 2012 but since it was just uploaded to Spotify in 2017, and because I love the song and video so much, I’m going to cheat a bit and include Togolese singer Kossi Apeson’s hit song “Gazo cool catché” on this list. A protege of King Mensah, a big star in Togo who I used to hang out with back when he lived in New York City for a few years, Apeson “cool catché” sound is a fascinating mix of modern and traditional sounds.

Nomad’Stones – Le monde danse
Based in Montreal, Nomad’Stones is a world fusion group that blends elements of Algerian, West African and Latin music. They just released their first full-length album, Et le monde danse…, which features the fantastic and funky song “Le monde danse.” There was a time when artists such as Khaled and Cheb Mami brought räi music to huge audiences, and I’ve really missed that sound, so its nice to hear echoes of it on this track. Its also nice to see some iconic Montreal locations in this video, as it is the largest major city near where I live and an under appreciated gem of a town.

Joy Denalane – Elli Lou
Yes, more German pop. I first discovered Joy Denalane when I was watching music videos on TV in a hotel in Paris and her song “Was Auch Immer” came on. I had no idea the German could sound so good! Born to a South African father and a German mother, Denalane proves that soul knows no language.

Systema Solar – Rumbera
What a great song and wild video from the Colombian electro-champeta pioneers Systema Solar. The band has always a had a great sense of humor and “Rumbera” is no exception. Like a an Afro-Colombian version of a Dove soap commercial, “Rumbera” celebrates femininity in all shape, ages and sizes.

Thornato – Deux a Deux (feat. Kongo Elektro)
Thornato is the stage name of Thor Partridge, a DJ and producer who was born in Sweden to a mother from Cyprus. His family moved to New York as a child, continuing his exposure to a variety of cultures and music styles. Now he is an in-demand producer, working on Bollywood films, remixes and his own work, while also touring with electro-tribal-fusion-bellydance stars Beats Antique. This track is from Thornato’s first full-length album, Bennu on NY DJ NickodemusWonderwheel label.

Chico Mann & Captain Planet – Y Ahora Que
Chico Mann grew up surrounded by the New York area’s thriving Latin music scene (his father owned a Latin music label based in Hell’s Kitchen) and is inspired by old-school salsa singers such as Celia Cruz and Willie Colon as well as Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaata. Mann teams up with the fantastic DJ and producer Captain Planet on the album Night Visions, which includes the funky track, “Y Ahora Que”.

Renegades of Jazz – Moyo Wangu feat. Hugo Kant (Bosq Remix)

German DJ and producer David Hanke is the mastermind behind Renegades of Jazz, which has been exploring the crossroads between funk, soul, jazz, hip-hop and African grooves since 2009. Janke spent the first five years of his life in Tanzania, and echoes of that early exposure to East African music still filters into his sound. The 2017 release Moyo Zaidi is a collection of remixes of tracks from the ROJ album Moyo Wangu that came out last year. Remixed by Boston-based DJ Bosq, I love the vibe of this track.

Hawa Boussim – Koregore
Hailing from Burkina Faso, Hawa Boussim was recently signed to help launch a new major label initiative by Sony Music into the bubbling West African music scene. Boussim draws on deep African roots blended with ultra-modern production values to create a new vision of African music and culture that respects the past, present and future of Africa. The video for this track is one of the best I’ve ever seen, and Boussim will appeal to fans of Angelique Kidjo, Oumou Sangare and other African pop divas.

Sol Okarina – Sangre Nueva
Originally from Venezuela and based in Bogotá, Colombia, Sol Okarina blends the upbeat flavors of Venezuelan calipso with a hipster, indie-rock spirit. I’ve been a fan of Sol’s music for many years and its nice to see her back in action with such a great track. While this single and video was released in 2015, it is featured on her 2017 album Planet4, so that means I get to include it on this list.

Poirier, Samito – Sowia
DJ and producer Poirier, who specializes in tropical bass and urban electro music, teams up with Mozambican singer Samito on this awesome Afro-electric track. Both Poirier and Samito are based in Montreal, which has become an important epicenter for the creation, cultivation and consumption of global sounds in North America.



Éilís Kennedy – Cailín Mo Rúnsa
Hailing from West Kerry, Ireland, Éilís Kennedy, along with Pauline Scanlon, is one half of the duo Lumiere, whose song “Fill Fill A Rún Ó” is one of my favorite songs of all time, so I was happy on my last visit to Dingle, Ireland this spring to find a copy of Kennedy’s new album Westward for sale at Mazz O’Flaherty’s famous Dingle Record Shop. You can also find the album on Kennedy’s website:

Tcheka – Kassarola

Another great singer-wongwriter from Cape Verde with a new album out in 2017. Tcheka‘s album Boka Kafe is available through his Bandcamp store here.

Toto Bona Lokua – Ma Mama
The supergroup Toto Bona Lokua, made up of French singer Gerard Toto, Cameroonian Richard Bona and Lokua Kanza from the Congo, is back with a follow up album to their magnificent 2004 eponymous album. Bondeko is not officially out in the US yet, but you can order it on their label No Format’s online store here.

Moh! Kouyaté – Vivons de l’amour

The new album Fe Toki by Guinean guitarist Moh! Kouyaté is not out in the US yet, but you can check out the nice single “Vivons de l’Amour” and its great video on YouTube. I saw Moh! Kouyate perform at WOMEX in Budapest a couple of years ago and it was one of the highlights of the event. Hopefully, he’ll make it over to the US to tour someday.

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