It haunts, inspires, shakes, rattles, and rolls. No, it's not from Memphis. Try Pakistan, Africa, and Cape Verde.
What is it about music from faraway places that, as Dan Storper—founder of the world-music label Putumayo—says, "makes you feel so good"? Perhaps it's the buzz of rhythms and vocals unlike any you've heard before—the way you're transported to a place of vibrant new sounds and experiences. Or maybe it's the pleasure of discovering that someone halfway around the world articulates just how you feel. Whatever the reason, world music has a way of lifting the spirit almost instantly. The following artists (including one chosen by Oprah) are our picks of the world's best. Whether you're drawn to the energetic beats of Africa or the languid love songs of Cuba, you can find these albums in stores and through Web sites such as Sonicnet.com (Putumayo's compilations are also available at Putumayo.com). Most liner notes now include English translations of the lyrics, but according to Mel Puljic of Tribal Soundz, a world-music retail and educational center in New York City, you shouldn't be put off if an album doesn't. "Not being able to understand the words is often the best way to listen to the music," he says. "The rhythms tell stories all their own."