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Best of World Music - 2021

screaming kid
It's time for some Best of selections of World Music (Photo: Pixaby)

Call it the end of the year to do list. You know, all the things you rush to do before time moves forward and people forget. 

In scrambling to juggle both newsroom duties and world music show production, I sometimes miss out on writing up some really fun and hopefully helpful things. So, here's my resolution before next year comes our way: I’ll try harder.

However, here’s what you may have missed. Here’s my ‘Best of’ 2021 list – which, if you turned in, stretched out over two weekends just before Christmas. The list below is only a smattering of some of my picks because there was so much great music. If you want to see all the artists I featured, head over to my playlists and search out the last couple of weeks. This selection also showcases some artists you might have missed from other World Music “Best of” lists. 

And lastly, these are in no particular order because it’s too hard to pick a number one.


Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Sebastián Yatra - Llorar (Big Tears) 

In case you missed the handful of shows in which I pretty much went through, track by track, the amazing reworking of Elvis Costello’s landmark album “This Year’s Model,” then you’re in for a treat. Elvis came up with the idea to redo this album entirely in Spanish–but with a twist. He, along with producer Sybastian Krys, went through the master tracks and removed Elvis’ voice, but kept The Attractions sound intact. Krys also tweaked and pumped up certain instruments too. It’s an amazing feat. So, there’ll be two tracks from this featured on my “Best of” list. Plus, I’m not going with the usual track “Pump it Up,” because though it’s great, I love so many of the others, like Big Tears. Yatra brings a swagger to this song that is just incredible.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Cami - La Chica De Hoy (This Year's Girl)

Though, my absolute favorite is “ [Yo No Quiero Ir A] Chelsea ((I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea)”, there’s no video for that. But I’m still stoked about this version, done here by Cami, who brings a powerful voice to this iconic song. Plus, channeling Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” with flashcards is cool. And yes, I know these are two tracks from the same album – but it’s so, so good and I’m a huge Elvis fan.

Balkan Taksim — Lunca 

The Romanian band Balkan Taksim's debut album 'Disko Telegraf' is a psychedelic trip filled with earthy grooves mixed with electronic beats. The track “Lunca” is mesmerizing and is just great to listen to.

Jungle - Talk About it 

You’ve maybe heard this upbeat, dance-infused track on other stations. But I just love this UK band’s song so much that I wanted to include it in my best of. The track is infectious and danceable.

Bomba Estéreo - Deja 

The Columbian band who brought the world the fantastic anthem “So Yo” waited a good long while – something like four years – before releasing their latest album Deja. And like they say, all good things are worth waiting for. The duo slowly released tracks until finally releasing the entire album. All the tracks set a mood and tone (centered around elements) that firmly keep you in place. 

Sofi Tukker & Amadou & Mariam - Mon Cheri 

Released as part of the latest from the Red Hot label (the folks who brought you “Red Hot and Blue'', “Red Hot & Rio 1 and 2”), this track is also an infectious groove that keeps you locked in and bopping your head for more. 

Fely Tchaco - Tile Tete  

Hailing originally from the Ivory Coast but now planted in San Francisco, Fely Tchaco’s voice is like a drug – she just keeps you hooked and wanting more. 

Belcirque - Locura 

The Belgian band Belcirque mixes jazz swing, folk and even nostalgic barbershop-style vocals, all  combined with African-inspired rhythms and American folk pop. The track comes from their new album “La Grande Fête.”

Dobet Gnahoré - "Yakané"       

Gnahoré comes from the West African country of Côte d'Ivoire and both her style and voice are strong and demand attention. Just a joy to watch and listen to.

CHAI - IN PINK (feat. Mndsgn) 

The four females in the Japanese band CHAI really know how to get your feet moving. Their vocals whisk you along and make you smile and bop your head and just forget about everything. I first heard of them from NPR, of course. 

Syssi Mananga - Mopepe 

Maybe there’s something about the West African country of Côte d'Ivoire because they’re producing some amazing singers. Mananga sings in Lingala, French and English, and like many of the singers highlighted here, she just swoops over you and brings you into her world. Enjoy the stay.

Well, there you have it--just a few of the many musicians who made my "Best of 2021" World Music list. Again, go check out my playlists from two weeks before Christmas to see everything I played. Happy 2022!


Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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