The 10 best global music albums of 2021


Meetings are always at the heart of music. Sometimes taking place between individuals or groups, and sometimes entire nations, it is through contact with humans that we learn to play and listen. We combine old ideas; new ones are emerging. Just about anything registered for the commercial market today could be hybrid, but no less genuine for it.

When speaking of music as a whole, it is even more critical to understand movement as part of it. The albums on this list are all products of worldwide musical dating. Some of these encounters are transnational, with artists crossing land and sea borders to record together. Guy Buttery crossed the Indian Ocean to do One morning in Gurgaon with Mohd. Amjad Khan and Mudassir Khan, and the chance meeting of Lakou Mizik and Joseph Ray at a concert led to the electro-roots sounds of Leave the bones. Many are intergenerational and contemporary expressions of long-standing practices often superimposed on more contemporary popular styles, such as Gájanas’s prog joik on. ihkkojuvvon or Farhot’s sampling of vintage Afghan media on Kabul Fire Vol. 2.

Others feature artists building movement-based sound art in more local environments, like that of Satomimagae. Hanazono or that of Ani Zakareishvili Mtirala. Many are a combination: Yndi’s Black brazil appeals to his Afro-Brazilian ancestry, Toumani Diabaté and the London Symphony Orchestra give birth to lineages in space and time in Kôrôlén, and the Kasai Allstars’ Black ants fly together, a bracelet makes no sound is the culmination of decades of intercontinental collaboration while being specific to the Congolese pop aesthetic in new ways. Yet others speak of the vestiges of the meeting in times of isolation, as with the austere steppe melodies of Yat-Kha. We will never die.

In 2021, the question of movement has arisen as people relearn which dating is safe, healthy and useful. Music models for its audience the rewards of coming together across geographic and genre boundaries.


ten Guy Buttery, Mohd. Amjad Khan and Mudassir Khan – One morning in Gurgaon [Riverboat]

The spontaneous collaboration produces dreamlike melodies on One morning in Gurgaon, a recording of a single session between Guy Buttery, fingerstyle guitarist from Durban (and mbira player on the track “I Know This Place”), tabla master Mohd. Amjad Khan and sarangi player Mudassir Khan. Transcontinental streams of popular, folk, and classic styles fuel a harmonious mix, all mostly done in one take to save time. They are nimble players who negotiate back and forth melodies on tracks like the melancholy “December Poems”, then split up and reunite again in the modal pools of the long improvisations “Raag Yaman” and “Raag Kirwani”. They embrace structures of upbeat verses and choruses on “Bakithi” with just as much virtuosity. The chemistry between the three is crystal clear and a joy to see throughout this uniquely inspirational recording. One morning in Gurgaon is truly international music that awakens the imagination and delights the senses.


9 Toumani Diabat̩ and the London Symphony Orchestra РK̫r̫l̩n [World Circuit]


Toumani Diabate and the London Symphony Orchestra - Korolen

Recorded in 2008 at the Barbican Center in London, Toumani Diabaté’s film Kôrôlén is a suite that combines traditional Mandé music and classical Western sounds in a sublime and unprecedented way. A kora player from a long line known for his many inter-genre collaborations, Diabaté brings with him the vital voice of the late Kassé Mady Diabaté and the balafonist Lassana Diabaté. Nico Muhly and Ian Gardiner work with them to arrange the London Symphony Orchestra (here under the direction of Clark Rundell). Together, they represent modern continuities of ancient musical forms – “kôrôlén” means “ancestors” in Mande – because they bring cinematographic and theatrical touches to radical compositions. Kôrôlén is serene but still exciting, happy for its rolling rhythms and the cascading strings of Toumani Diabaté. It is not a surprise ; every musician involved is an accomplished professional, playing with soft and skilled hands. Kôrôlén is dynamic from start to finish, passionate, pastoral and a vibrant example of the freedom of even the most complex art music.


8 Satomimagae – Hanazono [RVNG Intl./Guruguru Brain]


Singer-songwriter Satomimagae does neo-folk with bitter delicacy on Hanazono, his first album on the psych-rock label Guruguru Brain. Each element seems ephemeral: foggy background hums, vaporous electric and acoustic guitars, bird songs and whispered voices create a concrete sound garden that is both haunting and heartfelt. The progression from the overture and the strange (“Hebisan”) to the melody of the noise (“Uchu”) is so gradual that it is easy to forget how deep the difference is from the beginning to the end of the song. the album. It’s a masterfully produced arc that sets this album apart from the discographies of its most distinguished stylistic peers, artists like José González and Nick Drake. The intensity that Satomimagae brings to Hanazono, as with all of his albums, is most powerful for his subversion of the sweetness so often associated with similar acoustic projects as he embraces quivering tensions. Hanazono is an exquisite piece of dynamic stillness, and Satomimagae firmly rooted in the Eye of the Sonic Storm.


seven Ani Zakareishvili – Mtirala [CES Records]


Ani Zakareishvili - Mtirala

Named after a national park in western Georgia, Mtirala is the debut album by young Tbilisi producer Ani Zakareishvili, an album that samples local folklore ensembles to paint a sonic portrait of the park’s falls and mountains. In resonance with experimental electronics, Mtirala is modern sound art awash in morning dew. Amid evocative soundscapes, Zakareishvili knows precisely when and how to shake his listeners with a scorching sun or electric crackles. In a ghostly “Overture”, Georgian bagpipes pierce a soft fundamental melody. Later, “Babo” cuts out vocal samples to match markedly minimal beats. The calming cadence of “Nanaskani” lyrics belies a background dissonance that leads to the smooth pebbles and buzzing synths of “Last Path”, culminating in the colorful string lines of “Lutra Lutra”. Among the CES Records crowd, Zakareishvili’s work for the label so far, as heard on the showcase album Sleepers Poets Scientists, was one of the most daring. Nevertheless, Mtirala is an exciting freshman outing that exceeds expectations.


6 Farhot – Kabul Fire, Vol. 2 [Kabul Fire]


Farhot - Kabul Fire Vol.  2

Hamburg producer Farhot is fully involved in the second hip-hop part of his Kabul fire series. The structure of the album is proven: lyrical pieces, autonomous instrumentals and more interstitial experiments. Everything comes together to build a world of stories, different voices coexisting in the same kingdom. In this case, the domain in question is an Afghanistan Farhot pieced together from an archive of stories captured in the form of words, movies and songs and a repertoire of personal experiences that inform her creative choices to probe her legacy. . This album recognizes the diversity of Afghan culture, going beyond Euro-American media representations of Afghanistan as a nation defined by war. Instead, he searches for stories on the ground, drawing samples from local media and other migrants, among others. Kabul Fire Vol. 2 is an endless stream of different artfully put together viewpoints, and Farhot is a vital creative voice.