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World Music Fest 2006 Preview

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 14, 2006 8:00PM

2006_09_WMF.jpgLong before there was a League of Chicago Music Venues or a Hawk Winter Music Festival, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs (under the guidance of program director – and fellow Lane Tech grad – Michael Orlove) was bringing together the city’s club scene via the World Music Festival.

After seven years, the festival has earned a place beside both Blues and Jazz Fest as one of Chicago’s premier music showcases. WMF is also one of the few city festivals that incorporates the entire city. From Rogers Park to South Shore; Millennium Park to the Humboldt Park Boathouse, the festival encourages people to leave the comfort zones of their own neighborhoods, explore parts of the city with which they might be unfamiliar, and visit venues that don’t solely program rock or pop music. As one of the few festivals to utilize clubs, many of these shows also have a cover charge. But they aren’t steep; the ceiling on admission prices is capped at $15. For the price of admission, you get an energetic double bill.

The festival has had its rough patches, from cuts in funding to navigating increasing amounts of Homeland Security red tape in this era of “the war on turr” (that’s Texan for “terror”, for the uninitiated). Still, the festival manages to find a breakout artist every year, like the Brooklyn-based Antibalas, disciples of Afrobeat godfather Fela Kuti; Academy Award nominee and Frida Kahlo look-alike Lila Downs; Serbian trumpet player and brass band leader Boban Markovic; Malian bluesman Boubacar Traore, and Afro-Peruvian songstresses Eva Ayllòn and Susana Baca. The depth of styles featured are such that one wishes such a general term as “world music” wasn’t used to corral them all together. We’re in good company here; David Byrne hates the term “world music”, as well. Certainly, it’s much more than flutes and bongos, as a fellow Chicagoist staffer intimated.

Following the jump are some preview highlights of the festival, along with a brief description of the artist.

2006_09_cibelle.jpgCombining electronics and samples with bossa nova and samba melodies, the London-based Brazilian singer Cibelle will draw a diverse audience of hipsters, club kids, and local Brazilian expatriates. Her latest album, The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves (available as a download at eMusic), is a confident effort that finds her in fine vocal form and in total control of her musical direction. The songs take their time developing and leave their impression on your synapses for days to come. Cibelle gets help on the album with featured cameos from Spleen, Seu Jorge, and Devendra Banhart, who's actually tolerable here. Cibelle plays Saturday at HotHouse, with the Reader's Peter Margasak spinning songs after the show ($12 cover); Sunday afternoon at Borders on Michigan Avenue (2 p.m., free); and a 10 p.m. show - with DJ Rikshaw spinning Brazilian dub records - Sunday night at Sonotheque.

2006_09_tuku.jpgBefore the music dies at Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ is hosting a weekend "World Dance Party" at the Logan Square Auditorium (9:30 p.m. Saturday, 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Cover: $13 in advance, $15 at the door, each night). Sunday night is the stronger bill. Hailing from 700 years of Malian griots (storytellers), Mamadou Diabate has a direct bloodline to Sunjata Keita, the conqueror of the Malian empire. He learned to play the kora (a 21-string, long-necked West African harp) from his father, and today tours North America and Europe extensively, bringing the musical traditions of his homeland to eager audiences. His music also borrows some elements of contemporary jazz. Headlining the evening is Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi & Black Spirits (pictured, right). Like his Zimbambwean countryman, Thomas Mapfumo, Mtukudzi includes elements of South African pop music and traditional Shona music in his list of influences. However, where Mapfumo mines the rhythms and melodies of reggae, Mtukudzi draws extensively on classic blues. In concert, he's a searing guitarist, capable of firing off amazingly inventive solos. Rounding out the bill is the locally based Occidental Brothers Dance Band International.

2006_09_SSP.jpgThe New York Times calls the music of Slavic Soul Party "brash and strong as slivovitz." Their music, a mash-up of gypsy brass, klezmer, and hard funk, is tailor-made to help you dance off at least ten pounds of water weight. Think Mucca Pazza without the anarchic choreography, and you have a general idea of what to expect, musically. They'll play a free show at Borders Uptown at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by a 4:30 p.m. show at Symphony Center, as part of the Macy's Day of Music.

2006_09_LME.jpgIf you're in the mood for klezmer and Sephardic music, check out the double bill of The Klezmatics and La Mar Enfortuna (pictured, right), Sunday at Park West (7:30 p.m., $15 cover). We've been fans of the Klezmatics ever since Jews With Horns. They just released Wonder Wheel, their take on the songs of Woody Guthrie. La Mar Enfortuna is the side project of Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow of Elysian Fields. In this guise, the reinterpret 11th to 15th century Sephardic music, sung in english and Arabic, with a nod to rock, folk, jazz, and torch music. La Mar Enfortuna also opens for Belgian singer Natacha Atlas, Saturday at the Old Town School of Folk Music (8 p.m., $12).

2006_09_dbueno.jpgCuban-born guitarist Descemer Bueno was one of the founding members of the New York-based Latin party funksters Yerba Buena. His solo debut, Siete Rayo, is an infectious combination of West Coast hip-hop and Cuban rumba. Men attending this concert might want to hope Bueno takes his shirt off during the show; once the girls see his glistening abs, they'll want ON, and if you're nearby, you might just get the bonus plan. If you aren't grooving to this, you're clinically dead. Descemer Bueno performs Monday at HotHouse, with Rob Curto's Forro For All opening (9 p.m., $12) and Tuesday, with Fiamma Fumana opening, at Empty Bottle (10 p.m., $10 advance, $12 at the door).