Now in their sixth year, the Songlines Music Awards celebrate the wealth of musical talent from around the world. Here are this year’s nominees, as voted by you. The winners will be announced in our 100th issue, on sale April 25. Words: Alexandra Petropoulos
For Mortissa on Asphalt Tango Records
Istanbul-born Aslan, the lead singer of the party-loving klezmer band She’Koyokh, strikes out on her own for her solo debut, Mortissa. Meaning ‘strong, independent woman,’ the album revisits classic 1930s Greek rebetika and its Anatolian cousin, smyrneika. With her dark, silky voice, Aslan expertly treads the fine line between tradition and innovation, resurrecting the love songs from smoky emigrant cafés.
For Sketches of Ethiopia on Jazz Village
With a nod to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, Mulatu Astatke’s latest album highlights and celebrates the cultural diversity of Ethiopia, his home country. Looking more to Africa, composer and vibes player Astatke creates a triumphant mix of jazz and African music while still allowing for the effortless creative freedom that has seen him dubbed as the father and ultimate master of Ethio-jazz.
For Sibérie M’était Contéee on Because
Rocker Manu Chao never had much time for the language of his homeland, and for years he refused to sing in French. And yet, here he is with 23 tracks of full-on French song. The album, originally released in 2004 but unavailable outside France until now, nods to the world of chanson and musette while keeping the iconic playfulness that has made Manu Chao a world music superstar.
Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni ba
For Jama Ko on Out Here
Malian ngoni star Bassekou Kouyaté returns with a new line-up. Here he is joined by his two sons Madou and Moustafa and a few special guests, including co-producer Howard Bilerman of Arcade Fire fame. Recorded in Bamako just as Mali descended into chaos and turmoil in 2012, Jama Ko became Bassekou’s political manifesto to his distressed country.
For Nádúr on ARC Music
It has been a while since we have heard from Irish group Clannad, fronted by singer Moya Brennan. Their last album came out in 1998 but their big return with Nádúr came just in time to celebrate the 40th anniversary since their debut release. The album, whose title means ‘nature’ in Irish Gaelic, is very much rooted in their home county of Donegal and sees the original family quintet together once again.
For Dos Amantes on Enkalador Records
Los Desterrados delve into the Ladino music of the Spanish Jews, breathing new life into this largely-forgotten repertoire. They dip into a wealth of influences, including North African, Balkan, Gypsy and flamenco. Assisted by percussionist Guy Schalom on several tracks, the London-based group provide a vibrant glimpse into the influences hidden within Sephardic repertoire.
For Na Vschod on Karrot Kommando
Since their debut in 2011, Polish punks R.U.T.A. have made their name with their wild folk-inspired music played with raw power and anarchic vocals. Their second release, Na Vschod (To the East), sees them looking in that direction for inspiration and collaborators. There are songs from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia here, and with things recently kicking off in Kiev, the R.U.T.A. revolution seems to be spreading quickly.
For Chatma on Glitterbeat
The young Touareg rockers’ third album, whose name means ‘sisters’ in Tamashek, is dedicated to Touareg women, and as such features the outstanding vocals of Wonou Walet Sidati, the group’s only female member. Produced by Chris Eckman, Chatma sees Tamikrest stand out from the Touareg crowd with more variety to their sound, including psych-rock, indie, dub and funk mixed among the iconic desert rock.
Dizraeli & the Small Gods
For Moving in the Dark on ECC Records
Bristol-based Dizraeli and his merry band connect the dots between the seemingly distant worlds of hip-hop and folk, highlighting both genres’ democratic nature – “a music of the people with a strong oral tradition, music that isn’t afraid to tell everyday people’s stories,” says Dizraeli. Moving in the Dark is full of honesty and wit, weaving clever tales that are at times dark and others playful.
Fanfara Tirana meets Transglobal Underground
For Kabatronics on World Village
For this project, Albanian brass band Fanfara Tirana team up with the masters of global fusion, Transglobal Underground. London-based TGU mix in beats, samples and a slew of instruments to underpin the punchy horns, while Fanfara Tirana are given plenty of time to shine in all their brassy glory. The match-up makes for an entertaining album and a killer live show.
Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita
For Clychau Dibon on Astar Artes
Both Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita are no strangers to fusion, each having worked on various projects in the past. However, it is with this collaboration that they’ve made musical magic. So perfectly blended, it is often impossible to distinguish where harp ends and kora begins. There is a wonderful harmony to this meeting of Celtic and Mande traditions.
For The Village on Riverboat Records
Monoswezi is made up of Zimbabwean vocalist and mbira player Hope Masike, a trio of Scandinavian jazz musicians and Mozambican vocalist Calu Tsemane. While mostly based on traditional Zimbabwean song, there a jazz sensibility that lifts it above and beyond mere tradition. Fuelled by Masike’s incredible voice and delicate mbira, Monoswezi offer a fresh new take on both Zimbabwean music and Scandinavian jazz.ezi
For Family Atlantica on Soundway Records
Fronted by Venezuelan Luzmira Zerpa, Londoner Jack Yglesias and Nigerian/Ghanaian Kwame Crentsil, Family Atlantica ambitiously delve into the wealth of the music on either side of the Atlantic with their Latin/African fusion. Very much a product of multicultural London, they unite with music of the African diaspora with unparalleled joy, enthusiasm and charisma.
For Grippy Grappa on Monsieur Doumani
This trio of Cypriot musicians – Antonis Antoniou on the bouzouki-like tzouras, Angelos Ionas on guitar and Demetris Yiasemides on wind instruments – have been updating the local repertoire since they formed in 2011. Their debut features confident reworkings of local songs, providing a fresh and inventive take on tradition. Peppered among the traditional songs are a few excellent originals.
For A Cut Above on Lulubug Records
Harmonica virtuoso Will Pound shows off his stuff on his solo debut. Taking the instrument on an epic journey through varied repertoire, Pound’s playing ranges from delicate to frenzied. For A Cut Above, he taps into the bluegrass repertoire, morris dance tunes and even a bit of gospel. But this isn’t just an exercise in range, it’s his consistent musicality that makes this album something truly special.
We Banjo 3
For Roots of the Banjo Tree on We Banjo 3
Just as the album’s title implies, We Banjo 3 – Enda Scahill with brother Fergal, plus brothers Martin and David Howley – explore the journey of this often under-appreciated instrument, from bluegrass to traditional Irish music. Joined by several guests including five-string banjo whizz Leon Hunt, they offer an homage to the great players of the past with some top-notch playing.