• A collection of islands off the east coast of Africa, Comoros combines Arabic, Malaysian, indigenous African and French cultures. Its history is a harried one, with a former coup leader recently elected to president and a slew of economic problems. Yet its natural beauty, full of aromatic flora and unique animals such as the coelacanth, gives life to many a song. Here are five artists from the Comoros you need to hear.

     

    Imany

    Welcoming freedom fighters and bleeding hearts, the joyous “There Were Tears” sounds like a Tracy Chapman and Florence Welch duet. Imany (whose name means “faith” in Swahili) possesses a no-nonsense voice that serves as an instrument for progress. “The outcome is always beautiful at the end of the tunnel,” she assures her fans on her official website. (Thank you to DiscoveringAfricaNetwork for the suggestion! Lead image by Eddy Berthier/Creative Commons.)

     

    Elisouma Trio

    Traditional Comorian instruments such as the gambusi and rounded percussion interweave with call-and-response vocals in the Elisouma Trio. The splendid guitar work of Eliasse Ben Joma, the calm confidence of multi-talented Mwegne M’Madi and the madcap reverie of lead singer “Soubi” Athoumane Soubira have earned the threesome international acclaim. (Thank you to Muziekpublique for the info.)

     

    Nawal

    Here’s an artist who transcends myriad boundaries within mere stanzas. She considers her music “Afro Sufi roots,” drawing on tribal storytelling, rhythms from the Indian subcontinent and an earthy spirituality. To Nawal, the art form is a celebration, her songs giving thanks to an ancient feminine energy. She is the subject of a 2015 documentary detailing her creativity and lifestyle. (Thank you to Worldly Rise for the suggestion.)

     

    Halid & Abou

    Getting their start in the 1980s, this pop-driven duo have become two of the biggest names in the Comoros. Daniel Halid, in particular, has put the islands on the musical map, fusing reggae, acoustic soul and chants. He preaches “Rasta Tolerance” in his songs, according to his Facebook page, and cites Bob Marley among his greatest influences.

     

    Salim Ali Amir

    Another longtime purveyor of Comoran music, Amir uses his fluid tenor to soothe the senses. His voice is like the vanilla and jasmine scents that waft through the islands, a gentle and comforting spirit. He is especially noted for his dedicated studio production, often playing all the instruments himself on his albums. He dabbles in zouk, a Caribbean genre full of buoyant rhythms and gleeful lyrics.

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