A Traveler’s 10 Best Musical Discoveries

Tom Swick: Contemplating and celebrating the world of travel

6. Nana Caymmi

At a record store in Rio a friend of a friend picked out one of her CDs—songs of the sea, written by her father—and introduced me to a soft and lilting soulfulness.

7. Georges Brassens

A student in France in the age of rock, I admired the way the traditional chanson was holding its own. Young people still listened to Jean Ferrat, Georges Moustaki, Léo Ferré, and Georges Brassens, whose clever lyrics—delighting in everyday pleasures, railing against puritanical values—our teacher happily taught us.

8. Madredeus

In the northern Portuguese town of Amarante, the night before a festival, an elegiac music flowed through the streets. I eventually found the source, a small storefront doubling as the festival office, where a man held up a CD showing five men and one woman dressed in black and walking across a field beneath the words: o espírito de paz.

9. Lidija Bajuk

Her songs played not in the street but in a gallery on the Croatian island of Korcula. “Who’s singing?” I asked once again (a question you never find in phrasebooks). They were like lullabies sung by an angel.


10. Beny Moré

On an “educational exchange” to Cuba in 2001, I heard so often about this singer of the ‘40s and ‘50s that I felt like the rube who arrives in America and suddenly learns of Frank Sinatra.

Tom Swick

Tom Swick is the author of two books: a travel memoir, Unquiet Days: At Home in Poland, and a collection of travel stories, A Way to See the World: From Texas to Transylvania with a Maverick Traveler. He was the travel editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 19 years, and his work has been included in "The Best American Travel Writing" 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2008.

6 Comments for A Traveler’s 10 Best Musical Discoveries

Jim Benning 03.02.09 | 11:56 AM ET

Thanks for this, Tom.

I love Madredeus and Beny Moré, but I hadn’t heard of many of the others. I’ll be exploring the artists on this list for a long time.

Julia Ross 03.02.09 | 12:27 PM ET

I’d never heard of her, but love the Nana Caymmi clip. Sounds like the Sarah Vaughan of Brazil.

airfare sales 03.04.09 | 8:51 AM ET

Bulat Okudzhava belongs to my favourite comsitors and poets :-) thanks for posting - i have never heart about Khánh Ly e.g.

Karen 03.09.09 | 7:53 AM ET

You can see many of these artists’ videos in the US on LinkTV’s World Music programs, or on http://www.linktv.com . I’ve discovered many beautiful sounds that way.

Nik 03.10.09 | 7:59 AM ET

Thanks for this inspiration Tom! Saw this yesterday and gave me the idea to come up with my own list, but slightly different :)

@Karen: excellent discovery! Thanks!

Kirsten 03.31.09 | 8:25 AM ET

Karen, excellent discovery and I also have to say that these are really great pieces of musical. Best regards Kirsten

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