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A few recordings you’ll want to look out for in 2010:Razia Said’s “Zebu Nation” – when Razia returned to her native Madagascar after several years away she was moved to create this recording in response to the deforestation and environmental devastation that had become so prevalent in her absence. This is a melodic, heartfelt collection of original songs sung mainly in Razia’s first language, Malagasy. Beautiful package all the way around. (release date: 2/23/2010)

Arctic Paradise” – the annual survey of Finland’s best folk music from the Helsinki-based Finnish Music Information Center. Generous liners, detailed notes on the songs and artists (with English translations), and of course – great music.

Angelique Kidjo’s “Oyo” – ‘eclectic’ is a fair description of the latest release from Benin’s Angelique Kidjo. The songs range from African folk tunes to originals by Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, and Sidney Bechet. Never content to rest on her powerhouse voice and reputation for uncomprimising artistry, Kidjo offers both an adventurous and highly personal effort in Oyo with songs that have all influenced her in one way or another. This is an interesting recording with a lot of appeal on a lot of levels. (release date: 2/9/2010)

Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars’ “Rise and Shine” – one of the most anticipated releases of 2010 (and recent years), Rise and Shine is the second release from the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, and it’s been four years in the making. How does it sound? Well it turns out that a world tour and international celebrity (among music and indie film audiences) haven’t done a thing to diminish the All Stars’ hallmarks of straightforward observations and messages all delivered with catchy tunes and those soulful, pure vocals. Rise and Shine was partly recorded in Free Town (Sierra Leone) and partly in New Orleans, where it was also produced by the noted egineer Steve Berlin. Is there any town in the world whose own history is more aligned with Sierra Leone’s cycle of disaffection and personal redemption through music, than New Orleans? Yes, the Crescent City has worked its magic on the All Stars’ new release. Wait ’til you hear the results. This will likely be one of my favorites of the year. Check out “Living Stone”, an advance track from the disc. (release date: 3/23/2010)

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