Swedish musician José González is known for stretching musical boundaries over his 18-year career. 

José González’s 'Local Valley' mixes sounds from West Africa, from the Sahel to Ghanaian highlife

Over his 18-year music career, José González has tapped into sounds from three continents: Brazilian bossa nova, Swedish hardcore punk, and now, West African styles.

The World

Swedish musician José González is known for stretching musical boundaries over his 18-year career. 

Hannele Fernström/Courtesy of the artist

Over his 18-year music career, José González has tapped into sounds from three continents: Brazilian bossa nova, Swedish hardcore punk and now, West African styles.

The Swedish musician is known for stretching musical boundaries over the span of his career. His music taps into inspiration from three continents, from Brazilian bossa nova that his Argentine parents played at home to hardcore punk heard as a university student in Sweden.

Now, in his long-awaited latest album, "Local Valley," González leans into styles from West Africa.

With new tunes like “Swing,” an upbeat, intentionally carefree song, González said he wanted to mix in sounds from Mali, Ghana and the Congo — music he first heard 10 years ago.

"I've been trying out the guitar riffs that sound like the music by [the Malian band] Tinariwen, the music from the Sahel desert. With this album, I allowed myself to do the looped guitars and also had the drum machine to have a bit more danceable music," he said.

In the song called “Visions,” from his new album, González takes listeners to a happy place. He draws inspiration from "effective altruism,” a philosophical and social movement focused on answering a single question: How can we best help others? 

This time, with “Visions,” González focuses on global health with a spotlight on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was listening to talks about pandemics, and how we're not really prepared on these topics. And [‘Visions’] was my aim at writing a type of ‘Imagine,’ by John Lennon, that type of song, but with these thoughts in mind,” González said.

González has earned platinum records in the UK and in his Swedish homeland, as well gold in Australia and New Zealand. He has also packed venues from Sydney, Australia, to Tallinn, Estonia, Berlin, Barcelona, London and Rio De Janeiro.

Now, the global artist has an extensive tour lined up for the rest of 2021 and into 2022, including performances in the US, headlining with American Canadian singer and songwriter, Rufus Wainwright.