The Top 5 Non-English CDs
Paying attention to the rest of the world is cool again
1. Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars
On this staggering side project--featuring unrealistically multicultural Gypsy brass played by wandering klezmorim--Klezmatics trumpet London shows his mad-genius side. A freelance cultural theorist who believes in carnival as a revolutionary concept, London's also a bandleader with a knack for mixing the raw and the cooked. His guys, gals and guests can play. But just for fun, sometimes they make like they can't.
2. Various Artists
Where Rough Guide's 1999 bhangra comp was historical, this one is almost all club music. Anyone who's danced her ass off to Panjabi MC will find just enough variety and also just enough familiarity in this disc's hectic vocal- and synth-enhanced beats.
3. Tom Zé
The odd man out of the tropicália movement that produced Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Zé has never been much for flow. His jumpy beats stop and go, and few pop musicians anywhere feel deeper avant-garde proclivities. The libretto for this "operetta" probably won't help you understand its exposé of samba sexism and class prejudice. Zé may not fully grasp it himself. But he made sure it was both fascinating to ponder and stimulating to hear.
4. Various Artists
There are only 200,000 Garinagu people in and around Belize. But whether they're constructing percussion instruments from turtle shells or taking their natural Afro-Carib mix Latin, their culture, called Garifuna, generates a lot of music. This buoyant label sampler showcases the Garinagus' folkloric paranda style. It's winning and warming, with a homemade feel.
The African record of the year: A male-led, woman-dominated group of Saharan Tuaregs, Tartit were conceived by Belgian record men and sound more Arab than African, though they really just sound Tuareg. This new album hops up the drones and chants of 2000's Ichichili with faster tempos and the occasional Western rhythm instrument. Eerie proof if you need it that Islam and its music comes in many forms.
Rolling Stone, Dec. 28, 2006