World Music Fest: TOC's top picks
With 60-plus acts hitting town Thu 14–Sept 21, the 2006 World Music Festival is one of the most extensive—and impressive—we’ve seen in years. Below are a few of the artists we’re most excited to see; for more about the festival, see “Rhythm nations,” page 22. Turn to Listings for additional World Music Fest events, and see Venues for addresses and transportation to the various locations. For more information, visit www.cityofchicago.org/worldmusic.
Sat 16: Old Town School of Folk Music. 8pm, $12.FREE Mon 18: Millennium Park, Pritzker Pavilion. 6:30pm.
The Belgian-born vocalist made a name for herself as a proponent of “fourth world” fusions, working with the London outfit Transglobal Underground in the 1990s to combine Arabic swirl with DJ flow. Her latest CD, Mish Maoul, continues to mine her North African roots, and features the Golden Sound Studio Orchestra of Cairo.
FREE Sept 21: Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Café. 9:30pm.
Santa Cruz, California, would seem an unlikely seedbed for Saharan cultural pride, but the existence of Aza argues otherwise. The six-piece band features Moroccan vocalists Fattah Abboo and Mohamed Aoualou, backed by banjo, bass, drums and reeds—as well as traditional oud and lotar.
Sat 16: HotHouse. 10pm, $12.FREE Sun 17: Borders (Michigan Ave). 2pm.
Dubbing her recent project The Shrine of Dried Electric Leaves, the singer lets you know she likes her music switched-on and more than a tad psychedelic. Bossa nova and electronica collide happily in her songs, delivered in both English and tantalizing Portuguese.
Fri 15: Empty Bottle. 10pm; $10 advance, $12 day of show.Sun 17: Martyrs’. 8pm, $12.
Cheesy yet irresistible, the six-piece act from Los Angeles may be America’s foremost exponent of Khmer Rock. And, at least, lead singer Chhom Nimol is an actual native speaker (and already a star in her home country). The music on its sophomore release Escape from Dragon House pays homage to 1960s Cambodian pop so fancifully it’s hard to tell the difference.
Mon 18: HotHouse. 9pm, $12.Tue 19: Empty Bottle. 10pm; $10 advance, $12 day of show.
The Cuban expatriate got a bold start in America, helping to launch the New York musical collective Yerba Buena, and now he’s even bolder. He makes music that sounds like an explosion of styles, rooted deep in Afro-Cuban sources and Santeria culture, but buzzing with hip-hop and pan-Caribbean rhythms, and lots of crazy urban chatter.
Mamadou Diabate Ensemble
FREE Sat 16: Borders (Hyde Park). 2pm.FREE Sat 16: Symphony Center. 5pm.FREE Sun 17: Clarke House. 2pm.Sun 17: Logan Square Auditorium. 8:30pm; $13 advance, $15 day of show.
Master of the kora, a 21-string West African harp, Diabate hails from a long line of griots whose name is synonymous with the instrument. Not to be confused with his cousin Toumani, Mamadou now makes his home in the United States, and often collaborates with jazz and blues musicians such as Randy Weston and Taj Mahal.
FREE Sat 16: Garfield Park Conservatory County Fair. Noon.FREE Sat 16: South Shore Cultural Center. 7pm. FREE Sun 17: Borders (Lakeview). 1pm.
Sun 17: Martyrs’. 8pm, $12.Enthusiasts and scholars of the Kenyan benga music—a speedy, guitar-driven sound crackling with rhythm—members of Washington, D.C.’s Extra Golden have collaborated with Kenyan musicians on this project, which includes the new Thrill Jockey album, Ok-Oyot System, and a tour that features Onyango Wuod Omari of Nairobi’s Orchestra Extra Solar Africa. See Clubs, Previews.
Tue 19: Empty Bottle. 10pm; $10 advance, $12 day of show.Wed 20: HotHouse. 9pm, $12.
The name means “flame” and “fog,” and this Italian quartet evokes both as it adapts traditional sounds from the nation’s northern regions to electronic rhythms—and even features a local version of the bagpipe called piva Emiliana. The Celtic tinge expands the palette behind the women’s voices that drive the group’s songs, which reference female choirs of another age.
Steve Gibons’ Gypsy Rhythm Project featuring Nicolae Feraru
FREE Sept 21: Chicago Cultural Center, Preston Bradley Hall. 9:45pm.
Chicago jazz violinist Gibons teams up with Feraru, a master of the gypsy cimbalom, in this special ensemble, which explores Romanian music through the prism of modern jazz. The band features guitarist Mike Allemana, bassist Dan Delorenzo and percussionists Omar Al-Musfi and Tim Mulvenna.
Wed 20: Martyrs’. 8pm, $12.FREE Thu 21. Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Café. 7pm.
Finns with a strong affinity for Norse mythology and ancient ice epics, the members of this quartet have been performing since 1994, reinvigorating Scandanavia’s lyrical folk traditions—including medieval ballads and waltzes—with fetching vocalist Jenny Wilhelms front and center. Valhalla? Holla!
FREE Fri 15: Millennium Park (Peristyle). 12:15pm.
Well-traveled and versatile, the guitarist is a virtuoso in both jazz and classical forms, moving with ease between the nightclub and the concert hall. Born of Pakistani and Chilean heritage, Haque may sound exotic, but he actually got his training at Norah Jones’s alma mater: North Texas State University. Today he’s joined by Indian violinist Kala Ramnath.
Fri 15: Sonotheque. 10pm, $10.FREE Sat 16: Garfield Park Conservatory County Fair. 1:30pm.
Chicago percussion legends and lifelong friends Adam Rudolph and Hamid Drake are the core of this polyrhythmic enterprise. The duo deploys a variety of instruments—notably, the Udu clay drum—from various African cultures, including dusun’goni, sintir, thumb pianos, harmonium, batajon, talking drums, dumbeks and flutes. Producer Carlos Nño mans the turntables.
Tue 19: HotHouse. 9pm, $12.Wed 20: Martyrs’. 8pm, $12.
Rock & roll gypsy revivalists from Belgrade, brothers Dushan and Dragan Ristic represent for Romania, while working in elements as diverse and unexpected as bhangra beats and a Montenegran rapper into their fearless performances.
Sun 17: Park West. 7:30pm, $15.
A modern klezmer supergroup, the New York–based band marked its 20th anniversary last year, and continues to surprise. Its latest project is Wonder Wheel, klezzing up original (and unrecorded) lyrics by Woody Guthrie.
La Mar Enfortuna
Sat 16: Old Town School of Folk Music. 8pm, $12.Sun 17: Park West. 7:30pm, $15.
This homegrown act calls its sound “gypsy surf.” Oud, banjo, and dulcimer meet electric guitar, while arrangements tap into a wealth of sources, from Bulgarian folk dance to Afro-Peruvian percussion (these gypsies like to wander a bit, obviously). These musical scholars are equally smitten with Dick Dale, whose “Miserlou,” they note, is actually based on an old Greek melody.
Pablo Mayor-Folklore Urbano
FREE Sat 16: Humboldt Park. 6pm.FREE Sun 17: Navy Pier. 2pm. Sun 17: HotHouse. 8pm, $12.
Composer and arranger Mayor leads this large, New York–based ensemble, which explores highly danceable Colombian rhythms in the context of jazz improvisation.
Oliver Mtukudzi & Black Spirits
Sun 17: Logan Square Auditorium. 8:30pm; $13 advance, $15 day of show. Mon 18: Borders (Michigan Ave), solo set.
One of Zimbabwe’s great superstars, Tuku (as he’s known to his fans) blends styles such as urban mbaqanga and traditional shona music so distinctly that Tuku Music has actually become its own genre in his homeland. See “Voice lessons,” page 24.
Occidental Brothers Dance Band International
Sun 17: Logan Square Auditorium. 8:30pm; $13 advance, $15 day of show.
Led by Chicago guitarist Nathaniel Braddock, the group revives the spry guitar lines, percussive drive and punchy brass of African dance music from the 1960s, from Congolese rumba to West African highlife.
Paul Brody’s Sadawi
FREE Fri 15: Borders (North Ave and Halsted St). 6pm.Fri 15: Martyrs’. 9pm, $10.
Fans of the so-called “radical Jewish culture” movement will find a gem in this Berlin-based ensemble. The group is a vehicle for the trumpeter Paul Brody, who recombines blues and modern chamber music with Mittel European themes, realized through uncommon instrumentation.
FREE Sun 17: Chicago Cultural Center, Preston Bradley Hall. 3pm.
Classical trumpeter Amir El Saffar sets aside his horn to join his sister Dena in this quartet, which performs the traditional Iraqi vocal music maqam.
Slavic Soul Party!
FREE Sat 16: Borders (Uptown). 1pm.FREE Sat 16: Symphony Center. 4:30pm.
Brooklyn’s bombastic brass band bases its repertoire on the raw exuberance, soul-deep yearning and slippery snake-time of folk tunes from Serbia, Macedonia and other Balkan countries. Add a fat dose of American funk, some spicy ranchero influences, and a flair for bumping, grinding rhythms and you’ve got a party that spills across every border.
FREE Mon 18: Empty Bottle. 10pm.FREE Tue 19: Daley Center. Noon. Tue 19: HotHouse. 9pm, $12.
One of the top acts championing traditional Eastern European brass music, the Serbian ensemble comes with trumpets and tubas blaring and its gypsy soul unbridled. The name translates to “elephant’s ball,” and the musicians stomp hard enough to live up to it.
Erika Stucky & Roots of Communication
Fri 15: Martyrs’. 9pm, $10.FREE Mon 18: Empty Bottle. 10pm.
Nope, not a Power Point demonstration, though if it were we’d applaud just as loudly. Stucky yodels and plays the accordion—fine habits for someone who grew up in the Swiss mountains—with a trio of musicians, upending pop and folk stylings with quirky wit and Alpine flava.
FREE Thu 14: Borders (Michigan Ave). 6pm.Fri 15: HotHouse. 10pm, $12.
At 16, she was a contender in the Eurovision Song Contest, and 12 years later the Portuguese singer is one of the strongest new voices in Cape Verdean music. Her new album Balancê strives to reclaim her own cultural identity, gently evoking the island’s rhythms amid a subtly contemporary setting.
Fri 15: HotHouse. 10pm, $12. FREE Sat 16: Navy Pier. 3pm.
Mali meets the Dirty South when this outfit performs. Hailing from Asheville, N.C., the musicians might not seem the most credible apostles of the kora, but they dutifully logged serious study time in West Africa, drawing inspiration from the source, and left audiences at Bonnaroo suitably wowed.
Fri 16: University of Chicago International House. 8:30pm, $5.
The Chicago-based ensemble of second- and third-generation Croatian-Americans champions tamburitza music, which is played on a group of stringed instruments, such as the bugarija. The outfit, originally formed for the 2001 World Music Festival, marks its fifth anniversary this year.
FREE Thu 14: Millennium Park, Pritzker Pavilion. 6:30pm.FREE Fri 15: Borders (State St). 12:30pm. Fri 15: Old Town School of Folk Music. 8pm, $10–$12.
Tuvan throat singing meets classic rock in this trio, fronted by guitarist Albert Kuvezin. The band’s latest album, Re-Covers, features versions of “When the Levee Breaks” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and they are as weird and unlikely as you’d imagine—complete with solos on the Chinese zither that lends the band its name. See “Yat rock,”.