Today begins one of the last big music festivals of the season: World Music Festival Chicago. This is the 12th year of what is perhaps the country's best global musical feast.
This evening kicks off with India Calling
; a night of Classical Indian music featuring master tabla player Zakir Hussain. But that's just the beginning. Radio M host Tony Sarabia shares some of his picks for this year's extravaganza.
Consider these numbers: 100 artists"¦33 countries"¦28 venues"¦10 days. There's certainly no dearth of choices. If anything you might become a bit frustrated as you begin to highlight the festival grid because you'll find that some of your choices overlap. Ah, the dilemma.
But the folks behind the event- Mike Orlove and his team at the Department of Cultural Affairs- do there best to make sure you cover your bases. Some of the bands play a few times- on different days and at different venues. So if you're not a night owl there's a good chance you'll still get to see you favorite band at an afternoon weekend all ages show; that's right, bring the kids.
This year's fest is no less varied than the 11 that have come before. There's benga music from Kenya, Hindu Vedic chants, roma dance music straight from Bucharest, DJ's from around the globe, female praise singing with a dose of desert blues from Timbuktu and a band from the Basque region that plays an instrument that was once outlawed by Spain's Generlissimo Franco.
So I thought I'd help you out a bit by listing some of my picks for this year.
Friday September. 24th: Mahala Rai Banda( Romania): Martyr's 8PM
Perhaps you got your first taste of Roma music- or what is commonly called Gypsy music- from the Sasha Baron Cohen movie Borat. Well if you did, you know that it's and infectious, beautiful and normally energetic sound. One of the bets practitioners these days is Mahala Rai Banda from Bucharest. The band provides the perfect mix of the roma sound: violin, brass, accordion and passionate vocals. This is there US debut and a not to miss show. The show is part of the annual World Music Festival Radio M remote broadcast.
Saturday September 25th: Kinobe & Soul Beat (Uganda): Old Town School of Folk Music 8PM
It's not often you get to see and hear a band from Uganda so this will be a rare treat. Kinobe is a multi instrumentalist and songwriter who's been plying his craft since the age of 10. This is soul music with one foot firmly planted in Ugandan tradition and the other in Western music.
Sunday September 26th : Khaira Arby (Mali) : Reggies' Rock Club 7PM
A recent Newsweek article listed Mali as the best country in the world for music; I agree. This West African country is landlocked with a small population relative to its size. But its influence on American music is colossal. Play a tune by Ali Farka Toure, Bassekou Kouyate or Oumou Sanagre and you'll hear blues, jazz, soul and r&b. Yes it seems Mali has a direct line to those genres. Add to the list Khaira Arby. For her, music is a family affair; she's a cousin of the late guitarist Ali Farka Toure. She too is an artists who has a wonderful presence; with a soaring voice that sings about religion, pride, struggle and history of her country.. She brings back the tradition of praise singing; which is normally performed by Malian women. Her vocals weave in an out of the signature "˜desert blues sounds' with its sinewy guitar licks, thick bass and traditional instruments like the ngoni and calabash.
Monday September 27th : Selim Sessler (Turkery): Martyr's 8PM
I'm a sucker for the clarinet and I trace it to the great New Orleans deep woody sound of Barney Bigard. I'm also a lover of Turkish music so this is one that caught my eye immediately. Sessler is of Roma heritage from Northwestern Turkey and he's become quite well known for updating traditional Turkish folk songs. He's a master improviser who plays some of the best traditional roma wedding music.
Tuesday September 28th : Deolinda ( Portugal): Chicago Cultural Center 7PM
Portuguese fado is essentially blues music: mournful melodies with stories full of lament. But Deolinda is a young band that puts the genre on its head. They use fado a musical inspiration and a foundation but then go off and have some fun. Their sound is light hearted and the lyrics contain a bit of humor, but there is lots of soul in what the young band creates.
Wednesday September 29th: Oreka tx( Spain): Instituto Cervantes 7PM
The txalaparta is a Basque percussion instrument that loosely resembles a xylophone. The instrument is made up of two to five thick wooden boards and is played by two people who are called txalapartariak. They use wooden sticks about 10 inches long and an inch and a half in diameter to hit the boards following a set of rules for rhythm. The sound can sound like galloping horses. After the Spanish civil war the txalaparta was almost lost; it was censured by Franco. Oreka tx take the instrument to places it perhaps has never been: Mongolia, India and Lapland. The result is cross cultural fusion that ranges from pop and folk to the avant garde.
Well there you go; just a few acts from what promises to be another fantastic World Music Festival Chicago. Grab the link to the schedule, map out your grid and hopefully you'll not only discover sounds you never know existed but will come away happily exhausted but looking forward to WMF Chicago 2011.
Hope to see you at some of the shows.