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World music in the spotlight

New CD releases highlight turning points in Caribbean, Middle Eastern, African, and NuYorican music.

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Record label samplers are often a wise investment, offering a crash course in musical worldliness for spare change, and this is superior fare. Highlights include The Idan Raichel Project, an intrepid band boldly fusing Israeli and Arabic instrumentation and vocal styles, and Ska Cubano, a wacky and irresistible blend of Cuban pop music and Jamaican ska. Edgar Jacob, formerly employed by Putumayo to assemble mellifluous world music compilations, created the Cumbancha label to present musicians at a turning point in their careers when they're just starting to flirt with global commercial acceptance while still wishing to please the hometown folks.

MARIA TERESA: ERA UMA VEZ UM JARDIM (Le Chant du Monde, $18.99)

Fado is Portugal's 20th-century contribution to what is globally understood as torch songs drenched in a blues sensibility, a kind of Portuguese sung poetry not originally intended for export. Fado's stars have been largely women vocalists performing in Lisbon, making few concessions to listeners in New York or Madrid. So there's a great deal of sheer nerve in this Fado release by a gifted French vocalist born to Portuguese parents in that she tackles songs of the Portuguese diaspora (Brazil and Angola). While her voice lacks the passion of Mariza, today's Fado queen, there's a light buoyancy in her vocals, set against restrained acoustic guitar, suggesting an emergent talent with chutzpah and panache to spare.


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