Be it Indonesian dangdut, psychedelic Arabic electronica or Northern European experimental folk using, yes, actual human bones as instruments, 2022 has been a stellar year for new music.
WHAT A TUNE presents the best non-English language albums and EPs of 2022 from around the world.
Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti
Spotify’s most streamed artist for the 3rd year running, Bad Bunny released his 4th album in May. This seismic release is the first Latin album to reach 10 billion streams and deservedly so. The album paints a scenic journey through the Caribbean, where hazy indie pop sits alongside reggae, bomba, dembow and mambo. Bad Bunny highlights the spectrum of Latin talent, such on the reggaeton zinger Party ft. Rauw Alejandro and Ojitos Lindos featuring electro-cumbia band Bomba Estéreo.
Best track(s): Ojitos Lindos, Moscow Mule, Tití Me Pregunto
BlackPink – Born Pink
The biggest girl group on the planet prove themselves worthy of their crown. Born Pink is a perfectly orchestrated masterpiece of boundary-breaking production and slick performances. From the Europop-influenced Yeah Yeah Yeah to the daring hip-hop lead single Pink Venom, South Korean superstars Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa put themselves head and shoulders above their peers.
Best track(s): Pink Venom
Heliung – Drif
Part performance art, part research project, German-Danish-Norwegian folk band Heilung delve into the rich history of primordial Northern European civilizations. Over the hypnotic soundscape of instruments made from animal skins and human bones, is the otherworldly growl of throat singing. Incorporating trance-like chanting and ritual drumming, their latest album has a haunting and timeless appeal that stays with you long after the final track. Their lyrics are drawn from Bronze age runes and other ancient texts, for instance Anoana is based on divinations found on gold coins dating from the 5th century.
Best track(s): Anoana, Nikkal
Imarhan – Aboogi
The first recording from their newly built studio in Tamanrasset, Algeria, Aboogi captures the lush warm colours of their surroundings. Imarhan take their cues from Tinariwen’s groundbreaking desert blues ‘assouf’ music and features contributions from the band’s guitarist and vocalist Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni. As well as their love for Tamanrasset, the band also touch on the hardship of living there, including lack of economic opportunities and government oppression.
Best track(s): Achinkad
Gwenno – Tresor
The latest release from Welsh singer-songwriter Gwenno is written predominantly in Cornish. Nominated for the 2022 Mercury Prize, Tresor (Treasure) weaves together the local and the personal, touching on isolation and nature in its psychedelic and bewitching soundscape. NYCAW (Nid yw Cymru ar Werth, translation: Wales is not for Sale), the only track written in Welsh, is an urgent call to help communities suffering during the housing crisis.
Best track(s): Tresor
Orkes Malam Jumlat – Mampus Kau Dikoyak – Koyak Dangdut
Indonesia’s six-piece dangdut band Orkes Malam Jumat (Friday Night Orchestra) channel unfiltered enthusiasm and chaotic energy on their debut EP. Lead single Dendie ( Dedek Indie ), is an undeniably catchy and feel-good tune. Meanwhile, Ulah Halu is a warm blend of tabla beats, shimmering guitars and lilting melody lines.
Best track(s): Dendie ( Dedek Indie ), Ulah Halu
ROSALÍA – MOTOMAMI
MOTOMAMI (which translates to Biker Chick) is a bold and experimental treasure trove that showcases the Spanish artist’s incredible versatility. She keeps to her word as per the opening track SAOKO, “yo me transformo”, where grungy synths switch into jazz piano in a surprising twist halfway through. The rest of the album is a psychedelic trip via whip smart hyper pop, reggaeton and sugar sweet ballads.
Best track(s): Mala Fama, SAOKO
Sebastian Yatra – Dharma (+)
The Colombian singer-songwriter’s Latin Grammy award-winning album is pop perfection. Although the album boasts a stellar list of collaborations with Rauw Alejandro, Daddy Yankee and Jonas Brothers, the standout track is the solo number Tacones Rojos; an addictively catchy track made for the dance floor.
Best track(s): Tacones Rojos, Pareja Del Año
Stromae – Multitude
One of the biggest comebacks of the year, Belgian artist Stromae’s first album in almost a decade was released in March. Multitude draws on a diverse musical palate, from the swaying cumbia rhythms in Santé to sweeping orchestral arrangements, courtesy of the National Belgian Orchestra, in Pas vraiment. His songwriting touches on the plight of the downtrodden but hits the hardest when personal, such as the deeply affecting L’Enfer, which chronicles his struggles with depression.
Best track(s): L’Enfer
TAXI KEBAB – Visions al 2ard
French duo Leïla Jiqqir and Romain Henry draw on Leïla’s Moroccan heritage and fuse it with acid electronica on their hypnotic debut EP, Visions al 2ard (Visions of the Land). Describing themselves as “psyché désoriental”, Leïla sings in the Darija language and plays the buzuq (lute), while Romain’s rippling synths meld with North African tonalities.
Best track(s): Leyla