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The Reader’s guide to World Music Festival Chicago 2022

The term “world music” has never been adequate to the task we’ve set it—even in its most benign reading, it implies a division between the listener and the rest of the world. And if that listener is in the United States, our country’s global hegemony in popular music colors the term’s meaning too.  Americans don’t […]

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Sidi Wacho sing of a revolution that will be danced

Fronted by French-Algerian rapper Saidou and Chilean rapper Juanito Ayala, Sidi Wacho unite rebelliousness on both sides of the Atlantic (specifically, Northern Africa and the global south) through activist rap in French and Spanish. Accordionist Jeoffrey Arnone, trumpet player Manel Girard, and drummer Christophe Demazeux accompany the group’s heartfelt, powerful lyrics with dance rhythms from […]

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Pascuala Ilabaca weaves the perfect party soundtrack for citizens of the world

Chilean singer-songwriter, accordionist, and pianist Pascuala Ilabaca offers endlessly unpredictable sonic pleasures. On six albums and one EP, she builds upon a foundation of Andean folkloric music while incorporating sounds inspired by her time and studies in Spain, India, Guatemala, and Mexico. At this Martyrs’ show, she’ll be accompanied by her longtime band, the saxophone- […]

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Juana Molina’s folktronica is perfect for tumbling down a rabbit hole to wonderland

To experience a Juana Molina concert is to be swept away in a most particular sort of rapture. In the late 80s and early 90s, the Argentine singer-songwriter had a successful career in television and comedy before changing gears to pursue music. An early proponent of combining South American folk music and electronica, Molina introduced […]

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Best concert for a cause

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, the Old Town School of Folk Music’s third annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day Concert shook the rafters of the auditorium with Opliam’s rock-tinged blues, Huguito Gutierrez’s Andean pan flute, and the NuFolk Rebel Alliance’s mishmash of folkloric music, acoustic Americana, and tropical punk. Artist and activist Opliam (aka Liam McDonald, who’s […]

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Singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada conquers heartache on her debut Marchita

On her exquisite debut album, Marchita, Mexican singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada dissects the many bruised facets of a breakup in 11 intimate, elegant tunes. Estrada colors her compositions with her experiences growing up in a family of classical musicians and luthiers as well as her jazz studies at the University of Veracruz. On Marchita, she traces […]

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Helado Negro shares the luminescence of love and survival while tapping into his Latinx heritage

The confessional, artsy electronic songs on Helado Negro’s first six records have always struck deep chords in me. Born Roberto Carlos Lange, the second-generation Ecuadorian American uses subtle musical metaphors to share mixed sentiments stemming from his Latinx heritage—hope, anxiety, and pride, in almost equal measure. On his latest album, Far In (4AD), which comes […]

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Yasser Tejeda brings the Afro-Dominican quijombo to the LatiNxt Festival

The Dominican Republic is famous for merengue and bachata, but Yasser Tejeda prefers to focus on lesser-known varieties of Dominican roots music. He reimagines centuries-old Afro-Dominican styles, especially palo, a form of music traditionally played in the countryside that involves complex call-and-response rhythms created by drums called palos and voices. His elegantly polished compositions contain […]

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Gustavo Cortiñas explores Latin American history, culture, and resilience on Desafío Candente

The third release by Gustavo Cortiñas, Desafío Candente (“Incandescent Defiance”), is an epic set of jazz and spoken word inspired by Las Venas Abiertas de Latinoamérica (“The Open Veins of Latin America”), an iconic series of historical essays by Uruguayan author and poet Eduardo Galeano. The Chicago-based drummer and composer invited more than 30 musicians […]

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Gabriel Garzón-Montano concocts a soulful pop melange with Spanglish flair

The first time I saw Gabriel Garzón-Montano in concert was at South by Southwest in 2017. His appearance had generated a lot of buzz; a song from his 2014 EP, Bishoune: Alma del Huila, had been sampled for Drake’s 2015 track “Jungle,” and the multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter had recently released his debut full-length, Jardin. Partway […]

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Ghetto Kumbé create pulsing Afrofuturistic grooves that build on the beats of Colombia’s Pacific coast

Few styles of music lift my spirits more than the drum- and marimba-driven chants born along Colombia’s Pacific coast. These ancestral grooves survived the travails of 16th-century colonization to become the musical heritage of the region’s enslaved persons who’d escaped captivity—and to my ears, they distill freedom and joy in every note. The members of […]

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El Shirota bare their postpunk soul for our weird times on Tiempos Raros

The debut album of Mexico’s El Shirota, Tiempos Raros (“Weird Times”), resonates mightily as the world convulses from the effects of America’s racist violence in the midst of a global pandemic. Founded by lead singer and guitarist Ignacio Gomez in 2013, the band went through several lineup changes before settling on their current configuration in […]