This diverse selection of gems from some of the world’s most remarkable female musicians begins in celebratory fashion with the golden voice of Indian singer Anandi Bhattacharya whose ‘Jai Ganesh’ is a joyous invocation to the elephant-headed god. She is joined by fellow Indian musician Jyotsna Srikanth, a virtuosic performer whose sublime violin playing on ‘Annapoorne’ unlocks the beauty of Carnatic classical music. Equally enchanting is the musical tradition of West Java, with Indonesian diva Neng Dini Andriati inviting us into this rich and mysterious world as part of the Sambasunda Quintet.
Translated as ‘A Girl On The Road’, ‘Po Drum Mome’ is taken from Eugenia Georgieva’s widely acclaimed 2018 album of the same name, in which she expresses the joys and sorrows of Bulgarian folk song. Crossing the border into Turkey, Olcay Bayir’s songs unfold ancient stories of Anatolian love and mystery. Of Turkish-Kurdish origin, Olcay’s classically trained voice delivers a wonderful rendition of the mystical ‘Benim Yarim’. Also from Turkey, Çiğdem Aslan is joined by the UK’s finest Klezmer band She’Koyokh on the rip-roaring ‘Bağa Girdim’. Moving into the cultural crossroads that is the Middle East, Shireen Abu-Khader is the founder and lead vocalist of Jordan-based group Dozan, an innovative acoustic ensemble celebrating Arabic folk culture. With its soaring vocals and unique harmonies, the haunting track ‘Ya Mo’ is deeply influenced by Sufi mysticism and spirituality. Sarah Yaseen aka ‘Sarah The Sufi, is one of the lead singers in Rafiki Jazz, a remarkably cosmopolitan band who explore ancient musical heritages far and wide. Inspired by her father Sufi Muhammad Yaseen, Sarah’s Punjabi vocals reach out to your very soul on ‘Jhooli Laal Qalandar’ a classic reworking of the landmark traditional Qawaali song ‘Mustt Mustt’.
Led by the charismatic singer Fadimata Walet Oumar known as ‘Disco’, Tartit are a female fronted band, originally created in refugee camps to safeguard Tuareg traditional music. ‘Afous Dafous’ meaning ‘Hand In Hand’, is a song inspired by a children’s game that encourages unity and solidarity in the fight to preserve a Saharan culture under attack. In predominantly male dominated societies, music is one of the most powerful means by which women can express themselves. Madagascan singer and campaigner Lala Njava is a leading example whose songs talk of the deep sense of responsibility she feels towards improving women’s rights and the welfare of children in her Malagasy homeland, beautifully illustrated by the heartfelt ‘Sweet Lullaby’. Hope Masike is another torch-bearing musician from Zimbabwe, who accompanies her vocals with the historically male-dominated instrument the mbira (thumb piano) on ‘Nyuchi’, where she is joined by fellow members of African-Nordic jazz alchemists Monoswezi helping wind things down to a closure.