I have been trying to find some idea that ties together my list of 20 albums that stood out in 2021 — on the surface they are all so disparate. There is Arturo O'Farrill's bold Latin jazz, and Salt Cathedral's lush electronic meditation on Colombia. ÌFÉ explores ancient future spiritualism, while Roxane Amed, Sofia Reí, and Susana Baca each explore the sound of the female voice through their own cultural lenses. From The Meridian Brothers' latest avant-garde release from Colombia to IKOQWE's Angolan-Portuguese, there are so many musical paths to follow. Taking it in as a whole didn't make any sense until a wise friend suggested: "It's you. You tie it all together." He's right. I am constantly looking for a sound I have never heard before, and this year it happened more than it usually does. The expanse of creativity blew my mind, and now I wait until next year!
• Arturo O'Farrill, ...dreaming in lions...
• Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, Social Distancing
• Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita, SUBA
• Draco Rosa, Sound Healing 1:11
• Roxana Amed, Ontology
• Berta Moreno, Tumaini
• Xenia Rubinos, Una Rosa