With the Olympics beginning soon, we're all probably about to hear a lot of bossa nova and samba. But let's head instead to Paraiba, in Brazil's Northeast, for the band Cabruêra and their wistful song "Beira Mar" (Seashore), in which they layer rock with percussion and accordion that bear a local accent. This animated video, with its trippy concept and supersaturated color scheme, is just dazzling.
And if you're in New York this coming weekend, you can catch Cabruêra during the Brasil Summerfest — just in time to get you in the mood for Rio 2016.
Sometimes, all you need in the summer is a song that transports you somewhere else — and "Palermo Hollywood" by French singer/songwriter (and actor and record producer) Benjamin Biolay provides just that thing. Hardly a newcomer, Biolay likes to immerse himself in a particular theme or soundscape for each project. For his latest, he takes listeners to Buenos Aires, whose Palermo Hollywood neighborhood provided the name for both his latest album and its title track.
Some of the other songs on "Palermo Hollywood" bend more toward Latin inspiration, including several tunes co-written with Uruguayan/Argentine musician and actress Sofia Wilhelmi. The title song, however, is a melange of ideas and influences, between Biolay's darkly Serge Gainsbourgian vocals, a gritty bass guitar riff and lush strings.
The next Sia or Rihanna? That's how singer Era Istrefi is being pitched to an international audience. With more than 119 million page views as of now on YouTube, her smash "Bonbon" — sung mostly in Albanian — came to the attention of Ultra Music, and the label has been busy having her remake the song in English and German as well. But Istrefi, a Kosovar Albanian, isn't the only pop star right now who speaks (at least some) Shqip; Rita Ora's family left Kosovo when she was a baby.
As with some of Istrefi's earlier regional hits, like the reggae-soaked "Mani për Money" (Crazy for Money) — which features patois-style lyrics that some may well find startling and even objectionable, especially coming out of Istrefi's mouth — the dancehall-based "Bonbon" owes a significant debt to Caribbean music.
I've had my eyes and ears on the Korean group Jambinai for a few years now. Their mix of traditional Korean instruments and an aesthetic steeped in noise, metal and hardcore is incredibly intense and bracingly new. And their driving, pummeling energy is in plain view on their new album, A Hermitage, and on this song, "They Keep Silence." It's post-rock by way of Eunyong Sim's geomungo (a long zither), Bomi Kim's haegum (a bowed fiddle) and vocals and guitar by Ilwoo Lee (who also plays a traditional Korean bamboo flute called a piri on the album), rounded out by bass and drums, played respectively by Jihoon Ok and Jae Hyuk Choi.
As Lee recently told Vice, the inspiration for "They Keep Silence" is an expressly angry response to the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014, in which 304 people died. "The people in the government did wrong," Lee said, "and those who know are keeping silent about it."
Finally, one more pick that features a very sweet moment in a summer when tempers are at a boil. When the Haitian band Lakou Mizik, now touring the U.S., got stuck on a flight out of Chicago that was delayed for nearly six hours, they decided to serenade the other passengers. Not only did their fellow travelers respond to their impromptu gig with cheers, but the Facebook version of their video has been picked up by outlets from Mashable to ABC.
Lakou Mizik has a strong sense of community in any setting. This nine-member group, ranging in age from their 20s to late 60s, came together in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti.