Koum Tara, Yungchen Lhamo and More

Our spotlight on global music listens to Koum Tara, Yungchen Lhamo and a various artists compilation from Putumayo.

Koum Tara - Baraaim El-Louz - (Odradek Records)

Like many recordings being released these days, the latest from Algerian group Koum Tara was recorded while the world was on lockdown. It's only fitting then that the album, whose title translates to mean "The buds of the almond tree," is about renewal and fresh beginnings. A bit of a French-Algerian supergroup, Koum Tara features two violinists, viola and cello players, a player of the double bass, a keyboards player, a percussionist who uses instruments like cajon, bendir and derbouka, and vocalist Mohamed Hamam, familiarly known as Hamidou. The sound they achieve is a delightful melding of jazz and Algerian chaabi and you don't have to understand Hamidou's Arabic vocals to dig opening groove "Kifech Nensa;" his phrasing creates irresistible hooks galore as he sings over music that is both exotic and Continental. The strings add an air of mischievousness to "Corona Chitana" while a raucous violin barrage begins "Ana Aandi Qalb;" the cut ends up being understated though as Hamidou delivers the song's words delicately. Hamidou plays banjo on "Istikhbar Raml Maya" and the way he plays it makes the song one of the most exotic sounding on the album. One listen is all it takes to fall for this amazing album and the CD package includes a booklet with more information about the players who created it.

Yungchen Lhamo - One Drop of Kindness - (Real World Records)

Maybe you could keep this in mind when listening to this seventh album from Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo, who says that she, "Sings to help transform people's minds and make them better human beings." And listeners can have that experience here, perhaps in the same way they once did listening to acts like Pink Floyd, or Kate Bush. On "Awakening Through Sounds" haunting vocals sung in Tibetan and a modern groove combine to very much recall the stylings and eccentricity of Bush. Once that connection is realized it is hard to compare Lhamo to any other Western artist and like with Bush, listeners can go on spiritual trips with delightful tunes like "Dream Song," the stripped-down "Perfect Compassion" which offers one of the album's best showcases of Lhamo's voice and the mesmerizing "Sound Healing" where the buzz of digeridoo adds to the exotic sound. As transformative as the listener allows it to be, One Drop of Kindness goes way beyond global music and will be the delight of many hipster get togethers.

African Yoga: A Peaceful Soundtrack for Yoga & Relaxation - Various Artists - (Putumayo World Music)

Putumayo has released numerous yoga-centric compilations in the past and this one offers up a dozen mellow tracks geared to the yoga practitioner or anyone seeking to relax in other ways. As the album title indicates, most of the artists here are from Africa although some of the performers are groups that also have members from Europe or Asia. One such act is Ballake Sissoko from Mali and Vincent Segal from France who offer opening instrumental cut "Mako Mady," a very downbeat melody that they play on kora and cello respectively. Of course everything here is quiet; that is the idea. Some of the highlights include the delicate vocal number "Ndikhawulele" from Zimbabwe's Berita, the somewhat haunting "Na" from Guinea-Bissau's Kimi Djabate and the sung in French "C'est La Vie" from Cameroon's Henri DiKongue. Artists from The Gambia, South Africa, Uganda, Senegal, Egypt and Eritrea also represent on this set of soothing music.

Share this article

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Pin it Share on Reddit email this article