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by World Music December 23, 2020


World Music Network: Best Of 2020

It's been a year of ups and downs, but these releases have represented real high points!

This year, more than ever, we feel truly lucky to be able to release unique music from brilliant artists all around the world, to celebrate beautiful cultural intersections, and explore musical diversity through our incredibly talented artists.

Here's a little something to thank you for letting us show you the most exciting attractions in World Music.

30% off our entire collection - call it a Christmas present from us!

Simply use the code XMAS-PRESENT-30 at checkout.

In 2020 we've brought you rip-roaring klezmer, dynamic tango and gypsy jazz; a unique snapshot of today’s burgeoning Malian urban scene; re-invented Greek rembetiko, Sani music that rebels against tradition, Cape Jazz rooted in South Africa's Mother City, spiritual refrains from the heart of India, and countless other slices of musical culture from across the globe. Here are just a few:

Trio Tekke - Strovilos - Listen to the album

Trio Tekke - Strovilos
Strovilos is a whirlwind. By definition, the Greek word is used to describe a ‘twister’ or whirlwind, but it also takes on the non-literal sense of something unsettled, shifting, a restless person, being airborne.

Undoubtedly their most ambitious album to date, Strovilos sees Trio Tekke continue to re-invent Greek rembetiko in their own pioneering way. With the help of drummer Dave De Rose and other guest musicians including rembetiko guitar maestro Dimitris Mystakidis, the bands compositions are elevated to new heights in this 4th chapter of their musical odyssey.

The Rough Guide To Urban Mali LP - Listen to the album

The Rough Guide To Urban Mali
Mali has long been hailed throughout the world as a musical powerhouse due to the likes of legendary musicians such as Ali Farka Touré, Oumou Sangaré, Salif Keita and many, many more. 

Music has long been central to Mali's identity, and today’s urban Mali scene encompasses many different styles including classic rap, hip-hop, RnB, afro trap and electronic music etc. This selection of urban Malian music is an authentic snapshot of what’s going on now.

Manhu: Voices Of The Sani - Listen to the album

Manhu: Voices Of  The Sani
Hailing from the Yunnan province in Southwest China, Manhu are guardians of an ancient but living musical tradition. From raucous drinking songs to haunting ballads, Voices Of The Sani gives a unique insight into the music of the little-understood Sani culture.

It’s said that in Sani culture lovers are shy and will not directly talk about their feelings to one another. Instead they use musical instruments and codes within the melodies to express themselves. The chazi, or ‘moon lute’, is often played by girls, while the adiza is played by boys. Dance events go on late into the night with the rising of the moon being the real start of the festivities. The aptly named song ‘Moon’ asks the moon to ‘give light to the dancers… give light to the Sani people.’ This rich international debut by Manhu, who have been nurturing their sound over the last fifteen years, gives a unique insight into the music of a fascinating and little-understood culture.

The Rough Guide To Cape Jazz LP - Listen to the album

The Rough Guide To Cape Jazz
The story of Cape Jazz is inextricably bound up with the struggles of apartheid and hopes of freedom. Featuring legendary saxophonists Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee and Robbie Jansen along with the classic grooves of Pacific Express and The Tony Schilder Trio, this Rough Guide provides a unique insight into the Mother City’s musical heartbeat.

"It is a cultural music of the people of the Cape. Essentially it is blues or folk music, jazzed up, or new music composed which is inspired by the folk music of the Cape. There are common threads like the up-tempo goema rhythm of the carnival music, common harmonies in the voicing of the brass and vocals, sometimes similar to the Cape Malay choir style of singing mixed with Christian church music. [...] it has Africa in it, but the Africa of the very southern tip of the continent. The Africa of the Khoi/San tribes and of the Xhosa people with their cyclic repetitive phrases and rhythms. Like most African music it is mostly made to move or dance to.” - Mountain Records founder Patrick Lee-Thorp.

The Rough Guide To The Roots Of Gospel LP - Listen to the album

The Rough Guide To The Roots Of Gospel
Deeply rooted in the rich traditions of the African-American church, gospel music was born out of grief and suffering and has long served as a beacon of hope for singers and listeners throughout the world.

With its enduring message of comfort and inspiration, gospel music’s origins are rooted in the tragedy of African-American slavery. From the earthy recordings of the evangelist street performers to the polished sound of the jubilee quartets, this Rough Guide features many of the trailblazing artists who paved the way for what has become a global phenomenon.

Klezmer-ish - Dusty Road - Listen to the album

Klezmer-ish - Dusty Road
Klezmer-ish, four incredibly outward-looking classically trained musicians who met whilst playing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Their fittingly titled new album Dusty Road sees the band freeing themselves from the "shackles" of the rigid hierarchy of the orchestra as they explore the music of immigrants from various cultural backgrounds who left their homelands for a different life.

From rip-roaring klezmer and dynamic tango to their self-penned gypsy jazz, Klezmer-ish bring a trademark twist to whatever genre takes their fancy. Drawing inspiration from the music of bygone travellers, Dusty Road is a seamless musical journey, always on the move.

The Rough Guide To Spiritual Blues LP - Listen to the album

The Rough Guide To Spiritual Blues
Blues and gospel, the secular and sacred songs of everyday folk, are both bound up in sorrow, loss, despair, hope, redemption, resilience and dreams. Despite their conceptual differences, gospel, the Sunday morning music of the church, and blues, the Saturday night music of the juke joint, shared many of the same roots, influences and musical traits.

They flow from the same bedrock of experience, and blues & gospel music have long been closely connected. This Rough Guide features legendary artists who straddled the line between the music of worship and the blues.

Find the full collection of music featured on World Music Network here!