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From Bollywood Disco To Yemeni 45s, 5 Must-Hear International Albums

Singer Alsarah, whose life has taken her from Sudan to Yemen to Brooklyn and who is part of The Nile Project.
Courtesy of the artist
Singer Alsarah, whose life has taken her from Sudan to Yemen to Brooklyn and who is part of The Nile Project.

After what seems like a bit of a dry spell in the world music scene, Fall 2013 is hitting hard. A raft of great albums from emerging artists and some very deep groove reissues are on the way.

There are exciting projects from young musicians whose own cultural backgrounds are hard to sum up and who are impossible to pigeonhole: a singer from Turkey, but with Kurdish roots, who sings mostly in Greek; an Iraqi-American bandleader from Indiana whose mother's family has been in the U.S. for 12 generations; and a brand-new group of 18 musicians who span the 4,000-plus miles of the Nile.

And then there are the reissues. Take a listen to very rare, raw and absolutely hypnotic 45s culled from dusty bins in little-understood Yemen. Or if the dance floor is more your speed, try some vintage Bollywood with a twist of ... is it Switzerland? Or Colombia? How about a bit of both? And why not? As this season's crop indicates, any and all cultural hybrids are possible — and very welcome.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
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