Best world and folk music albums of 2022

Arooj Aftab: Vulture Prince


Arooj Aftab © Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

The 2022 version of Arooj Aftab’s album added “Udhero Na”, with shimmering clouds of sitar from Anoushka Shankar, to Vulture Prince’s mixture of Urdu poetry and Sufi dub, all still and intense as the depths of a summer night.

Jake Blount: The New Faith

Smithsonian Folkways

A person in a sparkly gold top and a black jacket holds a black violin
Jake Blount © Tadin Brego

In the depths of an ecological apocalypse, a depleted group of African-American survivors find an island refuge and celebrate with this religious service, somehow incorporating and reinventing centuries of African-American music.

The Brother Moves On: $/He Who Feeds You . . . Owns You

Native Rebel

Two people sit in the open side of a minivanl a third rests against it
The Brother Moves On © Lightfarm Client

With production and flute from Shabaka Hutchings, the Gauteng jazz collective ponder the state of the South African nation, the stylistic and lyrical echoes of the years of Struggle serving to highlight the band’s dismay at what has followed.

Cimarrón: La Recia


A woman in a black dress with a towering black veil sits in a Spanish-style courtyard accompanied by shirtless men with their chests painted with black lines

After the death of their harpist Carlos Cuco Rojas the Colombian band’s singer Ana Veydó has taken full grasp of the reins, bringing a feminist grit to their galloping joropo, the cowboy music of the Orinoco plains.

Liraz: Roya


On strings and on tar (the thin Persian lute), some of Iran’s finest musicians gathered anonymously in Istanbul to record with the Israeli singer Liraz, herself of Iranian-Sephardic heritage and her band. The result is a fiery set somewhere between the 1970s golden age of Persian pop and the dance floors of 2020s Tel Aviv.

Jasdeep Singh Degun: Anomaly

Real World

A man plays the sitar
Jasdeep Singh Degun © Adam Lyons

This debut album from the British sitarist plays games with South Asian classical music, juxtaposing northern and southern styles, while finding room to nod to the drum’n’bass of the UK’s 1990s Asian underground.

Fatoumata Diawara: Maliba

Google Arts and Culture

A woman with her skin painted white from the neck down wearing a scarlet dress and a blue headdress
Fatoumata Diawara © Aïda Muluneh

The Malian singer soundtracks a documentary about the threatened manuscripts of Timbuktu with some of her most assured songs, contemplating the importance of education and the legacy of slavery to rolling Manding grooves.

Congotronics International: Where’s the One?


Ten years ago a loose assemblage of Congolese musicians and western indie bands embarked on a mad, unrepeatable, out-of-control tour — these recordings document the collaboration at its most urgent.

Kobo Town: Carnival of the Ghosts


Four men in a chintzy room, playing their instruments joyfully: a guitar, a bass, a trumpet and a trombone
Kobo Town

Cerebral calypso band Kobo Town turn existential on their fourth album, tracing musical psychogeographical trails from the Paris metro to considerations of fate, memory and the inexorability of time — all irresistibly danceable.

Lucrecia Dalt: ¡Ay!


A shimmering, shape-shifting Colombian art-jazz cousin of sci-fi novels Stranger in a Strange Land and The Man Who Fell to Earth, the theoretical constructs of ¡Ay! are brought to life by Dalt’s singing and the lush woodwind and percussion tapestry within which it sits.