Latitudes: International Music You Must Hear In June

By Anastasia Tsioulcas  |  NPR

Susheela Raman, a London-based singer who draws upon her Indian roots.
Susheela Raman, a London-based singer who draws upon her Indian roots. Courtesy of the artist

Since June is the traditional month for weddings, how about we turn our ears this month to two odd-but-charming marriages and a party that devolves into a drunken episode?

The first two are oddball transcultural affairs. The first pairs the Korean hit-maker Psy with the affable Snoop Dogg, while the other is … well, let’s call it an arranged group marriage, in which savvy Japanese producers wed a trio of Japanese teens with a bevy of metal players.

From there, we’ll move on to the post-wedding revelries. First some dancing, then some fierce partying that just might be tipping into warfare, and then an finally an ode to drunkenness — if not the kind you immediately imagine.

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Latitudes: International Music You Must Hear In June

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Artist: PSY
Album: Hangover
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Psy (feat. Snoop Dogg): 'Hangover'
Artist: PSY
Title: Hangover
Album: Hangover

With a saxophone sample that sounds (again) like Balkan Beat Box, this ode to overindulging — along with its febrile video — seems to be a total odd-couple collaboration: Mr. "Gangam Style" and "Drop It Like It's Hot"? Sure. Not only are there a bunch of K-pop/hip-hop tracks around already, but Snoop Dogg was featured on another crazy-popular cross-cultural collabo last year, when he was the guest artist on Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny's "Si Al Sayed." The dapper young rapper who pops up in the middle is Korean singer-songwriter-model G-Dragon, who's worked with Missy Elliott.

Babymetal: 'Gimme Chocolate!!'
Artist: Babymetal
Title: Gimme Chocolate!!
Album: Babymetal

Speaking of bonkers mashups: Our own resident Viking coaxed me into revisiting the Japanese band Babymetal, a trio of teen-dream female vocalists who pair the candy sheen of J-pop with an equally sanitized version of, well, metal, with what seem to be single-entendre lyrics about the pleasures of sugar. (Is it true that one of the lines translates as "My weight worries me a bit these days"?) If you haven't heard Babymetal yet, you probably will. They're the opening act on a handful of Lady Gaga's "Artpop" tour dates in July and August across the U.S. Expect a sugar rush to hit America soon.

Cumbia All Stars: 'Quiero Que Amanezca' [I Want Dawn To Come]
Artist: Cumbia All Stars
Title: Quiero Que Amanezca
Album: Tigres En Fuga

A party's not a party without dancing, right? So how about the sublimely effervescent sounds of Peruvian cumbia? This track comes from some elder statesmen of the genre, recently united for the first time — kind of a Buena Vista Social Club peruana — to revisit some classic tracks. This song and its video are very charming.

Stromae: 'Ta Fête' [Your Party]
Artist: Stromae
Title: Ta fête
Album: Racine Carrée

You will have to forgive my complete obsession with this Belgian artist. In my defense: Not only did I see him perform in New York last weekend in one of the best live shows I've seen in years, but he released this killer video for "Ta Fête" June 17, just in time for the World Cup and his beloved Red Devils. (He also released an alternate, more obviously football-centric version as one of his online "Lessons" earlier this year.)

Susheela Raman: 'Sharabi' (Alcoholic)
Artist: Susheela Raman
Title: Sharabi (Single)
Album: Sharabi

The beguiling British singer Susheela Raman has long been a favorite of mine, from early albums like her 2001 debut Salt Rain, which drew upon her Tamil South Indian heritage, and the heavily jazz-flavored Love Trap from 2003. With her smoky sound and fabulous technique honed over years of South Indian classical vocal training, she's a singular artist.

For this outing, she's found three very simpatico collaborators — French cellist Vincent Segal (whom we've featured in a Tiny Desk Concert) and the Pakistani brother vocalists Rizwan and Muazzam Ali Khan (nephews and disciples of the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan). Together, they've adapted an old Sufi devotional song by Aziz Mian with its meaning of being drunk in spiritual ecstasy.