Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Listen to a new CD of soulful Portuguese songs, watch tiny tough butterflies migrate south, see the president's flying office Air Force One from the inside, and more.

soulful songs

Music of the broken heart is how some describe fado, the melancholy melodies of old Lisbon. Now their haunting strains are about to wash onto US shores with the release Jan. 27 of Terra, the fourth album of Portuguese singer Mariza, the new queen of fado. Almost single-handedly, she has revived the traditional form, while adding jazz and flamenco twists to create a new sound. "Beijo de Saudade" ("Kiss of Yearning") is one of the most beautiful songs in an album full of them.

Travel with monarchs

Every November, thousands of monarch butterflies migrate from Canada to Mexico. The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. on PBS NOVA, follows their poetic precision as scientists attempt to plumb the depths of these elegant creatures' navigational expertise. It examines the delicate balance between man and nature as the researchers try to grasp what these tiny but tough beings need to survive.

ageless a cappella

The simplicity of their harmonies – even if the language is unfamiliar – makes Ladysmith Black Mambazo loved the world over. The South African a cappella group is captured here in a 2008 concert in Akron, Ohio, singing with their familiar layered richness and energy. The DVD, Ladysmith Black Mambazo Live, (on sale Jan. 27) includes a gentle interview with founder Joseph Shabalala, who says, "The music itself is our home" and sums up the group's message as "only one thing: love."

Africa's answer to Joni Mitchell

On her exquisite new album, Tchamantché, Mali's Rokia Traoré creates an impression of echoing space through bluesy ripples of her electric guitar. Often trancelike in feel, the album marries the traditional (the taut pluck of an n'goni) with the contemporary (a human beat box) to create something timeless. But it's Traoré's voice that pulls one into the musical vortex. Though she sings in Bambara and French, you won't need a translator to discern the joy and ache in her voice.

Flying Office

Come aboard Air Force One, the Oval Office in the sky, as the National Geographic Channel takes an unprecedented journey into the president's flying command post. On Jan. 25 at 8 p.m., camera crews reveal the inner workings of this extraordinary craft and how then-President Bush adapted to new security and travel demands following Sept. 11. On Board Air Force One is followed at 9 p.m. by "On Board Marine One," a look at the presidential helicopter fleet, including Bush's final trip from the White House.


Join the ever-beleaguered Charlie Brown as he tries to master motocross in this DVD release of the Emmy award-winning You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown (available Jan. 27). Peanuts creator Charles Schulz drew heavily on his own life for his characters – this edition includes a featurette detailing how his son's love of dirt bikes inspired his creation.

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