"World music" can mean pretty much anything. French club tracks. Field recordings captured on remote Pacific islands. Bollywood soundtracks. Argentine tangos. Or, for that matter, pop, traditional, classical or religious music from anywhere on the globe — as long as the lyrics aren't sung in English and the instruments aren't "Western" (unless they are). Admittedly, I've assigned myself a quite wide (and ultimately frustrating) purview over nearly 20 years of covering world music for various outlets.
But I like to see the positive repercussions of tagging art in such impossibly vague ways. It means that I have all the more good music to dig into, even if I never hear a fraction of what's out there and worth hearing. So I invite you to consider this list of 10 albums I've really enjoyed this year as simply a jumping-off point for discovery — and please tell me what I've missed via Twitter, on Facebook or in the comments section here.
And be sure to check out all the great international picks on NPR Music's other year-end lists, from our 50 Favorite Albums to our 100 Favorite Songs. Needless to say, there's plenty of globalismo in the year-end picks offered by my friends Jasmine and Felix over at Alt.Latino — so go check out their excellent list. I was delighted to see that we had only one point of intersection, which means there's just that much more for me to hear in 2014.