World Hood — “Indigenous 808!”
Estella Sanchez began a center called Sol Collective in downtown Sacramento for low-income kids whose parents couldn’t afford art and music classes. If you follow California politics, and US politics in general, you may know that public schools have increasingly eliminated arts education in an effort to conform to budget cuts. Sol Collective houses printmaking classes, curanderismo workshops and, of course, a recording studio where this track was laid down.
Sanchez and her husband, Anand Parmar, began hosting DJ events at night, and while they still had a babysitter, would retreat into the studio to experiment with music. “It became audio documentation of my husband’s and my upbringing as children of immigrants, growing up in California in the ’80s,” she says.
Karol Conka — “Boa Noite”
Brazilian hip-hop sensation Karol Conka takes things to a new level with this song. Whenever it comes on through my headphones while I’m on the train, I can’t help but start to dance a little, much to the horror of San Francisco techies.
But like, really, I want to get to whatever party she’s headlining in her home city of Curitiba.
La Lá — “Animales”
Inspired equally by soft jazz and Andean instruments like the charango, this track is pure delight. La Lá is an up-and-coming Peruvian artist with an eye toward those remote and sensitive nights of the soul we all have once in a while.
Trey Songz — “Na Na”
I want you to trust that I always got your back when it comes to bringing things back to basics. My goal is to get you dancing low and slow.
I was floored when I heard this Fugees cover by Producer Trey Songz (Tremaine Neverson). Damn, he’s got talent. The song feels entirely reimagined in his own musical phrasing, so much so that it could pass as a different entity.
Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen — “I Will Fall”
I can get a little lonely living almost 3,000 miles away from DC, my hometown, and the American South, where I spent a lot of my childhood. It’s the little things, the extra “honey” or “sweetie” from a waitress, people holding doors open, and of course, the twang.
To cope, I watch the show Nashville. I confess it to be true, although it’s rare I cop to thoroughly enjoying predictable melodrama. But what I’m addicted to is the sense of place it evokes. Love or hate the show, but the soundtrack is produced by T Bone Burnett, and this song is just downright beautiful.
Sonora — “Mercedes Sosa”
Some Matadorians have a special connection to Southern Argentina, the land of lakes and a bastion of pastoral bliss. One of my favorite Christmases ever was spent sleeping in an indoor tent in El Bolsón, eating fresh-roasted lamb with Spaniards who spoke of impromptu trips to Morocco.
This song captures the energy of that moment for me, remixed by San Antonio-based DJ Sonora, one of my sonic heroes.
ChocQuibTown — “Pescao Envenao”
ChocQuibTown is my favorite group from the troubled and culturally rich province of Chocó, in Colombia. And yes, they’re the only group I know of from Chocó.
The departamento is majority Afro-Colombian — around 80%. Rich in natural resources and biodiversity, Chocó has one of the lowest standards of living in Colombia. It’s an unfortunate reality that is, in part, probably responsible for the band’s innovative approach to traditional Latin American styles. Of course, the band grew up listening to Michael Jackson and Puerto Rican salseros, which didn’t hurt either.