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by World Music January 19, 2021


The Rough Guide To The Best World Music Playlists of 2020

Here are our favourites from the year. Read on to hear a little more about our standout tracks, or scroll straight to the bottom to listen.

The Rough Guide To Unsung African Heroes

This playlist offers a unique insight into some of the best African music you’ve never heard by artists whose brilliance has always been slightly under the radar. 

Nuru Kane at Essakane

Nuru Kane - Niane
Nuru Kane's many-sided music is part-Moroccan, part-Senegalese, part-blues, part-whatever else he fancies throwing into the mix. Born in Senegal's hustling bustling capital city Dakar, Nuru’s track ‘Niane’ features his trademark sound of the Guimbri that forms the backbone of his pulsating live performances.

Sally Nyolo - Me So Wa Yen
'Me So Wa Yen' by Sally Nyolo is a high energy rhythmic tour de force. Sally Nyolo is an artist deeply committed to relating her music to the natural wonders of her homeland Cameroon. ‘Me So Wa Yen’ is taken from her classic release Tiger Run, an album whose message is to move people to listen closely to the world around them.

Unwired India

Our Unwired India playlist pulls inspiration from the five-hundred-year old musical history of the Sufi Fakirs of Bengal to the virtuoso musicianship of Calcutta’s guitar master Debashsish Bhattacharya and Carnatic violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, this playlist explores India’s ancient musical traditions and acoustic roots.

Paban Das Baul
Paban Das Baul

Paban Das Baul - Kon Ek Pakhi
Paban is a member of Bengal's Baul sect, whose religious beliefs focus on the genderless, nameless nature of God, and hold up the physical body as a vehicle for the spiritual. These mystics of the Indo-Gangetic plain present their music sublimely in Kon Ek Pakhi - Paban's voice has a quality of timeless knowledge and liberty. It's obvious that the music embodies the values of "Baul", which means "one who is possessed by the wind".

Zakir Hussein, Alla Rakha - Tabla Taal - Ek Taal
It is not hyperbole to say that Zakir Hussain is the most prominent and accomplished Indo-Pakistani rhythmic master ever. Indian music is fond of the musical dynasty; Hussein and his father, Alla Rakha work in tandem on this track to transport listeners to an intense world of polyrhythms and elaborate patterns that roll ever forwards.

East Meets West

This playlist features twenty classic tracks which highlight the beauty of cultural exchange between Eastern and Western musical traditions.

The beauty of collaboration and mutual musical respect shine through these classic recordings which highlight how two diverse musical traditions can be seamlessly brought together with remarkable results. From the legendary 1966 collaboration of Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin to some recent unlikely gems including Nordic Raga.

Nordic Raga
Nordic Raga - Listen to the album

Nordic Raga - Vildhonung
Nordic Raga is perhaps the perfect group with which to open this exploration of Eastern and Western music fusing together in harmony. There might be the largest physical distance between the two cultures, but Nordic Raga succeeds in bringing Indian and Swedish sonic textures together, close as ever.

David Darling & The Wulu Bunun - Lugu Lugu Kan-Ibi
This project unites singers from the Wulu Bunun people of Taiwan with the sumptuous sounds of cello pioneer David Darling, to create a striking reinterpretation of an ancient tradition. David Darling - a Grammy nominated and classical trained cellist - creates his own place within the distinctive eight-part harmonic singing of the Wulu Bunun.

Rav Shankar Yehudi Menuhin
Ravi Shankar, Yehudi Menuhi

Ravi Shankar, Yehudi Menuhin - Shankar: Swara-Kakali (Based on Raga Tilang)
It would be impossible to have an East Meets West playlist without mention of Ravi Shankhar and Yehudi Menuhin's collaboration on the album West Meets East. The friendship between the two musicians had begun in India in the early 1950s, after which Menuhin had done much to introduce Western audiences to Indian music. Their call and response on this song is intoxicating, and is a model for the interplay of their respective cultures on the album as a whole.

Listen To The Rough Guide To Unsung Heroes Of African Music Playlist


Listen To The Unwired India Playlist



Listen To The East Meets West Playlist