Li Robbins, our world music correspondent, gives us the lowdown on which world albums topped her charts in 2013.
And if you're looking for more, check out our full top five albums list, by genre, for 2013.
Jumbie in the Jukebox
Streaming until Jan. 19
1. Kobo Town, Jumbie in the Jukebox (Cumbancha)
Kobo Town is fronted by Trinidadian-Canadian Drew Gonsalves, who channels classic calypso that manages to sound both throwback and fresh at the same time. Jumbie in the Jukebox (“jumbie" refers to a Trinidadian spirit) does exactly what the great calypso albums of the genre’s glory days did: it shares sharp-tongued and witty social commentary in a deep bed of deceptively pleasant Caribbean grooves. But part of the “now” quality of the album is down to the additional touches of reggae, dancehall and ska, not to mention lyrics reflecting current realities. Produced by Ivan Duran, best known for his work on Garifuna singer Andy Palacio’s great 2007 recording, Watina, there’s a musical depth to Jumbie in the Jukebox that will keep you coming back.
2. Garifuna Collective, Ayó (Cumbancha)
Speaking of Ivan Duran, he also produced the Garifuna Collective’s 2013 recording, Ayó (“goodbye” in the Garifuna language). The title is a tip-off: it’s a moving farewell to Andy Palacio, who led the band until his untimely death in 2008 at the age of 47. The Garifuna Collective eventually rallied to create this soulful album that captures the joy of Garifuna music (a tradition upheld by descendants of West African slaves living in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize) with an even more modern spark than Watina.
3. Bassekou Kouyate, Jama Ko (Out Here Records)
Kouyate, descended from griots (and unquestionably the world’s most famous ngoni player), recorded Jama Ko in Bamako. He and his band were literally in the studio during the military coup that overthrew the Malian government of President Amadou Toumani Touré in 2012. That led to intense songs such as “Ne Me Fatigue Pas (Don’t tire me out),” just one of many stunning tracks on this recording. With songs in praise of beer-drinking warriors and others celebrating historic leaders who resisted oppression, the album is an immediate, visceral — and beautiful — response to the troubles in Mali.
4. Rokia Traoré, Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch)
Here’s another powerful album from a Malian artist, albeit one who, as the daughter of a diplomat, grew up travelling around the world. Rokia Traoré’s Beautiful Africa is as much informed by rock as it is by Malian music traditions. (Due, in part, to producer John Parish, who has worked with PJ Harvey and Eels, among others.) Most of the album is sung in Bambara, but there is French as well as some English, and Traoré pulls no punches with the lyrics to the title track, excerpted here: "Battered, wounded Africa/ Why do you keep [playing] the role of the beautiful naive deceived?" she asks. "Yet my faith does not know failure/ I love you, beautiful Africa."
5. Bombino, Nomad (Nonesuch)
Omara "Bombino" Moctar is truly on fire on his third album, produced by Grammy- winning producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Bombino’s guitar work on Nomad blisters in a way that owes as much to blues as to rock. Bombino’s music is also inseparable from his cultural background as a Tuareg. (After the Tuareg rebellion in 1990, Bombino and his family fled to the north, and he spent his teenage years in Algeria and Libya.) Vocally, Bombino’s voice may be less raw than his guitar playing, but it perfectly compliments the energy of his version of “desert blues.”
Top 5 rock albums of 2013
Top 5 pop albums of 2013
Top 5 electronic albums of 2013
Top 5 hip-hop albums of 2013
Top 5 jazz albums of 2013
Top 5 classical albums of 2013
Top 5 R&B/soul albums of 2013
Top 5 country albums of 2013
Top 5 Aboriginal albums of 2013
Top 5 singer-songwriter albums of 2013
Top 5 blues albums of 2013