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Siddhartha Mitter's top world albums of 2009

Globe critics name their top 10 list (and a surprise)

By Siddhartha Mitter
Globe Correspondent / December 20, 2009

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BURAKA SOM SISTEMA “Black Diamond’’ From the immigrant suburbs of Lisbon comes the flagbearer group of kuduro, the wildly fun dance music with roots in Angola now rocking international clubland.

OTTO “Certa manhã acordei de sonhos intranquilos’’ A deeply personal masterpiece from a leading light of the Recife scene in Brazil, where rock, electronic, and potent local rhythms meet in an enchanted blend.

STAFF BENDA BILILI “Très très fort’’ Great new Congolese music with a classic feel and a remarkable backstory: The lead musicians are disabled, the others are kids they rescued from the Kinshasa streets.

KAILASH KHER “Yatra’’ A most welcome debut international release from Kher, a huge star in India who has brought Sufi mysticism - at once humble, playful, and full of love - to Bollywood.

KHALED “Liberté’’ A purist’s album from Algeria’s raï superstar, who steps away from fusion pop for a more orchestral Arabic feel that showcases his voice to perfection.

OUMOU SANGARÉ “Seya’’ The great Malian singer offers her most complete album, full of inventive arrangements that give her room to roam and show her emotional range.

BUIKA “El Ultimo Trago’’ The Spanish singer pairs with pianist Chucho Valdes on this program of rancheras in honor of Mexican icon Chavela Vargas. As always with Buika, it’s immense and intense.

BLK JKS “After Robots’’ Textured, driving, psychedelic rock from the Johannesburg foursome - a thrilling illustration of the vibrant South African arts scene, just in time for the 2010 World Cup.

ASA “Asa’’ Quiet, sometimes fragile, always moving soul from a young Nigerian singer who works in the tradition of Tracy Chapman and Erykah Badu, only in Yoruba as well as in English.

FRANCO “Francophonic Vol 2, 1980-1989’’ Two discs of fundamental music from the later years of Congo’s - and arguably the continent’s - most important bandleader.

BIGGEST SURPRISE
Inventive, relevant hip-hop is flourishing: by African rappers, in French, English, Wolof and more. US releases are few (K’Naan is the exception), but YouTube and mixtapes are filling the gap. Look for Awadi, Wagëblë, Youssoupha, Yeleen, Baloji, Mokobe, Sway . . . and surf around for more.

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