02 December 2010

20 Best Global Albums of 2010

Cover of "From New York City to Addis Aba...
It's that time of year...the time when the spiders disappear to parts unknown, media outlets try to guilt you into spending thousands of dollars on gifts, and eggnog lattes show up at drive-through espresso stands. Which means it's time for the annual SoundRoots / Spin The Globe review of global music over the past year.

2010 wasn't the biggest year. Wars here and there, the Winter Olympics, tsunamis and volcanoes and mine collapses and earthquakes. Wikileaks, elections, and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Neither was it a big year for most of our favorite names in world music. No new albums from Youssou N'Dour or Oliver Mtukudzi, Fanfare Ciocarlia or Susheela Raman, Baka Beyond or Antibalas.

The good news is that without big-name-artist releases hogging the limelight, the year was open to new artists -- artists such as Ethiopian-Israeli rappers Axum, NYC-bhangra troupe Red Baraat, and the mysterious sounds of Norwegian group Jienat.

Use this as a shopping list for your global-music friends and family, or as a starting point for your own further exploration of modern world music sounds. Each album links to a review or a site where you can hear song samples and/or purchase the album. The list is in no particular order, and is a combination of fact (airplay, listener response, emails, comments) and my own tastes. I spelled out my criteria in an earlier post:
The best global albums ... should first of all be ones that you turn to again and again. They should have some global impact, perhaps spawning imitators and spreading certain rhythms. And they should have clear roots in their local culture, have a message that's rooted in that culture but is also universal. Finally, they should simply hit you where it counts.
Here are the top 20 albums of 2010 that hit SoundRoots where it counts:

Most of these have been reviewed previously on SoundRoots, so dig around and enjoy the music. You can also catch selections from every album on this list on the Dec. 3 episode of Spin The Globe. Happy exploring, friends!


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