Latitudes: International Music You Must Hear
What's new to keep us chugging along after what was — at least in New York — a punishingly long and bleak winter? High-energy music that feels like a jolt of desperately needed sunshine.
This month, we've got five tracks that are all about joy, from a teasing Trinidadian soca tune from to sheer jubilation from an unlikely source: a young nun dressed in full black habit and orthopedic shoes.
Khaled: 'C'est la Vie' [That's Life]
First released in 2012, this anthemic, feel-good collaboration between Algerian rai legend Khaled and Moroccan-Swedish producer and kingmaker RedOne (who has produced for everyone from Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez) is still huge. Its melody is so catchy that last year, Marc Anthony covered it as a salsa tune called "Vivir Mi Vida" (Live My Life) — which promptly earned a Latin Grammy for Record of the Year.
Machel Montano: 'Ministry Of Road (M.O.R.)'
Carnival season has just wrapped up, but this infectiously high-energy tune from soca legend Machel Montano — with its tongue-in-cheek petition demanding more road to dance in — was one of the big hits of the season, and very well might propel Trinidad and Tobago, and other soca-loving Caribbean nations, straight into summertime.
Sister Cristina Scuccia: 'No One'
Bonus track for this round comes in a very particular kind of culture shock: a cover of Alicia Keys' "No One," performed by a seemingly mild-mannered, 25-year-old Sicilian nun on Italy's version of The Voice. Bonus points to Suor Cristina for apparently making the heavily tatted guy (a rapper dude known as J-Ax) cry, starting at about 2:05.
And she's going on in the competition: She won her first battle of the season.
Blitz the Ambassador: 'Success'
The Ghanaian-born, Brooklyn-based rapper Blitz the Ambassador has been gearing up for major glory for a while now. His transcontinental journey was well documented on his last album, Native Son, and in the media (including here on NPR Music). Now he's deemed it time to savor all that hard work he's put into carving out a space for his artistry, in a video shot in Japan: "And living as an immigrant was hard to endure/Now we wakin' up to 20,000 people on tour."
With a track that's already a hit across much of Africa, the Atlanta-born Nigerian musician Davido charms with this song about a poor farmer who falls hard for a well-born young woman. The juxtaposition of the video's rural setting and Davido's modern, Auto-Tuned vocals provides a striking new twist on a mythic trope.