A Global Playlist: International Artists to Add to Your Library This Year


by Nada Alturki

As the globalization phenomenon continues to spread across pop culture in an attempt to make the world a more lenient and accepting place, we, as millennials and beyond, are no longer intimidated by the meaning of “different” and all that it entails. From collaborations between Western and Eastern artists, we find that compilation, instrumental and vocal styles can be extremely interchangeable. Through the ever-growing popularity of genres such as K-pop and German EDM, we are starting to integrate different areas of the world through art, and most naturally through music. Some amazing artists have accomplished just that through their innovative and multi-inspired sound. Here is a list of 5 captivating international artists you should add to your library this year:

(WARNING: this list does not include Bjork.)

1. Mashrou’ Leila

Mashrou’ Leila is a Lebanese alternative indie rock band, formed in Beirut. Their name translates to The Leila Project. The band has stated that the initially named the band Mashrou’ Layle, which translates to “a one-night or overnight project,” inspired by their lifestyle. They were asked to do their first show at the American University of Beirut, leading them to come up with a name on the spot. It later transitioned to their current name, Mashrou’ Leila. They first started out as a college band, aiming to perform at local spots as a way of relieving the stress of the high-demanding everyday life of a college student. After gaining prominence in the Lebanese underground music scene, they slowly but surely rose to fame as one of the rare bands that performed their own original compositions, while others usually did covers. They gained a reputation as a controversial artist. However, the acclaimed band has been a pioneer in the Arabic indie-rock genre, composing their lyrics based on Arab culture, particularly Lebanese, politics, love, and sexuality. They are known for featuring the violin quite innovatively over the their predominantly western instrumentations. Although their lyrics are in Arabic, their tone and style give them a sense of universality, making them an intriguing listen no matter where you come from. They have released 4 studio albums, as well as a deluxe version (2017) of their last album Ibn El Leil (2015). They are currently on their European tour, performing in 10 different locations, including sold-out shows in Holland and Belgium.

Recommended Tracks: Fasateen, Inni Mneeh, 3 Minutes

2. Fatoumata Diawara

Fatoumata Diawara is a West African singer, musician, and actress from Mali. After establishing herself in the theater and film scene in her teens and 20’s, the singer took up the guitar and started her songwriting career. She released her first album Fatou in 2011. Her earthy tones and raw vocals distinguish her from any other artist on the spectrum. She identifies as a Folk and Wassoulou artist, which is a genre of pop music native to West Africa, usually performed by women. She is noted as one of the most prominent Wassoulou singers of her time, while also incorporating international music into her sound. She has collaborated and performed with some of the greatest international artists, including three-time Grammy Award-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Electronic duo Disclosure. Diawara maintains a mellow but vivid sound throughout her three album releases, integrating Western instrumentals, such as the electric guitar, with West African instruments such as the djembe drum and the kamalen n'goni harp. She is now on tour and will be coming to Boston on April 5th of this year.

Recommended Tracks: Nterini, Kanou, Alama

3. Mimi Bay

Mimi Bay, or simply Mimi, is an up and coming alternative indie artist, who had her start posting music and cover songs on YouTube. One of her most famous covers,a rendition of La Vie en Rose, gained over 400,000 views. The Swedish artist debuted her singer/songwriter skills through her first EP I Will Be Okay ‘s release in 2017, which primarily featured the ukulele instrumentals. Her second “single” release featured two songs, which were curated in a much more intricate manner when it came to composition. Her music can be described as a cross between The Marias and Gabrielle Aplin’s earlier work. The artist writes and produces all her music solo, and, interestingly enough, sings all the lyrics in English. The 17-year-old just put out a new song on Spotify called in your neighbors garden on Jan. 18, and still shares some of her music on SoundCloud. 2019 will surely be a big year for this young artist.  

Recommended Tracks: Afraid, Someday, in your neighbors garden

4. Yasmine Hamdan

After leaving her days on Beirut’s Soapkills, one of the first indie/electronic pop bands in the Middle East, she decided to start a solo career, releasing her first album Ya Nas in 2013 and a deluxe edition in 2014. She had already established a name for herself being a part of the duo and went on to further impress her audiences with the releases. Her music style is unlike any that the Arab region had ever seen. She often uses distorted voice-mixers along with revamped Middle-Eastern instrumentals. She is Mitski, Lana Del Rey, and The xx’s long lost Arab lovechild. She cannot be defined by one genre as she blends traditional Arabic influences with pop, electronic and folk sounds. The Lebanese artist released her second album Al Jamilat (2017), and soon after released a reprise of some of her songs on the album, including remixes by Cubenx and Matias Aguayo. She often writes about her experiences with love, everyday relationships, and society-- particularly Lebanese culture, all sung in Arabic.  

Recommended Tracks: La Chay, Iza, Beirut

5. Christine and the Queens

Christine, born Héloïse Letissier, is a French singer/songwriter and producer. What makes Christine unique is that she incorporates French and English lyrics into her music. Her first album, Chaleur Humaine, was released July of 2014 in French. Consequently, she released her album Christine and the Queens in 2015, rewriting all of her songs in English to appeal to her western audience. Some tracks, however, still kept their original French lyrics in some verses, like her most popular song to date, “Tilted”. Chris released her third album titled Chris in September of 2018. Her sharp and controlled vocals, as well as her 80s inspired instrumentals, make her unmistakable when she’s played on the radio. The title “Christine and the Queens” came from her encounter with a group of drag queens when she was in London, who continued to tour with her as backing vocals. She will be starting her international tour in March of this year.

Recommended Tracks: Tilted, 5 dollars, The Walker

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