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Spin the Globe's Best World Music CDs of 2004

Lila Downs - One Blood / Una Sangre


The smoky-voiced Mexican-American chanteuse gently incorporates electronica and hiphop touches on her newest CD, and it works beautifully. Reviewed July 2004

Tinariwen - Amassakoul


The history of this band of former rebel fighters and their Taureg people is as compelling as the music. Reviewed October 2004

Enzo Avitabile & Bottari - Save the World


Enzo and the tub-thumping, sickle-scraping Bottari have a CD that was a shoe-in for STG's top albums of the year. Reviewed July 2004

Various Artists - Lullabies from the Axis of Evil


The humanizing power of lullabies, of the fundamental connection of a mother and child, is given voice on this CD. Reviewed August 2004

Antibalas - Who Is This America?


Antibalas continues the hard work of carrying Afrobeat's torch in the true spirit of Fela, simultaneously speaking truth to power, raising unsettling questions, and making you want to dance. Reviewed August 2004

Vakoka - Introducing Vakoka


Vakoka brings together thirteen of Madagascar’s most talented musicians to explore diverse traditions and push the boundaries of Malagasy music. Reviewed June 2004

Youssou N'Dour - Egypt


The Afropop superstar explores the Arab roots of Senegalese Sufism as well as its unique expression in West Africa on his newest album. Reviewed June 2004

Mercan Dede - Sufi Traveler


Montreal-based Sufi world-electronica musician Mercan Dede (AKA DJ Arkin Allen) spins new sounds into ancient music. Interviewed 23 July 2004

Angelique Kidjo - Oyaya!


On Oyaya! Kidjo follows West African spirituality to the Caribbean. Reviewed May 2004

Daara J - Boomerang


"Boomrang" toys with the musical formulae of hip hop, ragga, R&B, and Cuban music, respecting the rules of all the genres, while escaping the boundaries of them. Reviewed November 2004

Izaline Calister - Krioyo


Calister creates natural, organic music blending jazz and traditional island sounds. Reviewed October 2004

Ozomatli - Street Signs


Horns, beats, scratching, samples, and tight, tight arrangements await the intrepid traveler, with vocals soaked in culture and politics. Reviewed May 2004

Mory Kante - Sabou


This time Kante has recorded an acoustic album dominated by traditional West African instruments like the kora and balafon, most of which he plays himself. But he has retained his mass-market appeal, and the best songs match his soaring vocals and impressive multi-instrumental work with the rhythm section at times galloping away with the songs.

Radio Tarifa - Fiebre


Darbuka player Fain Duenas sums up Radio Tarifa's sound up as "a meeting point between all the cultures that have passed through and continue to come through" Tarifa, the southernmost point in Spain. Reviewed October 2004

Rokia Traore - Bowmboi


Traore, the daughter of a diplomat, may owe her accessible sound to her vocal style as much as experience gleaned from her global wanderings. Reviewed September 2004

Te Vaka - Tutuki


The New-Zealand based pan-Pacific band has another winner, bubbling with positive cultural and social messages wrapped in upbeat music. Reviewed July 2004

Autorickshaw - Four Higher


This Canada-based group pushes "Indian fusion" in a new direction, blending North and South Indian classical music, funk, and jazz. Reviewed November 2004

Gangbe Brass Band - Togbe


It's like Ladysmith Black Mambazo meets the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in West Africa. This boisterous group of young jazz musicians from Benin takes African music in an entirely new direction. Reviewed July 2004

Ojos De Brujo - Bari


Sure, they were on last year's Best CDs list as well, but their US release came in 2004, and it's good enough to repeat. Reviewed December 2003

O-Maya - O-Maya


The Bay Area band's self-titled CD drips with cool and a kind of musical adventurousness that defies marketing labels. Reviewed July 2004


Best World Music Compilations of 2004

More Fine World Music CDs that Didn't Quite Make the List:


For some other folks' thoughts on the best world music of 2004, check out:

  • The 2004 KORA All-Africa Music Awards (somewhat oriented toward commercial music, but authentically African nonetheless. Winners announced 12 December 2004. Web site is lame.)
  • BBC3's World Music Awards (nominees include STG favorites Tinariwen, Rokia Traore, Lila Downs, Ojos de Brujo, Mercan Dede, Youssou N'Dour, and others. Winners are announced 22 January 2005)
  • The 2005 Grammy Awards (see the world music, reggae, and Latin categories. Winners are announced 13 February 2005)

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