Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal

In 2010 a sponsored three-day celebration of Indian culture allowed Chicago’s World Music Festival to expand from seven days to ten, and even without that extra bump, its 13th annual edition is eight days long. Given how diminished many of the city’s other music fests have been by budget cuts, it’s an impressive accomplishment, even considering that the first day’s programming consists of just one show—a free set by Chicago’s Occidental Brothers Dance Band International at Summer­dance.

Of course, the crippled economy has affected the World Music Festival’s bookings. This year there are fewer Chicago premieres and more artists who’ve played earlier iterations of the fest—and sadly, one of the most exciting repeat visitors, Romany singer Esma Redzepova, had to cancel to due to visa problems. (So did the amazing Congolese street band Staff Benda Bilili, who were supposed to headline Pritzker Pavilion on their first stateside tour.) But plenty of excellent artists are still scheduled to play, and a few—including Malian singer and guitarist Sidi Toure and eclectic Italian ensemble Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino—are making their local debuts.
The WMF is also presenting four acts in cooperation with the new Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements festival, this weekend in Eckhart Park: Toure, Bomba Estereo, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Fool’s Gold.
(See more on Brilliant Corners.) And Benda Bilili, a new documentary about Staff Benda Bilili, premieres in Chicago with a free screening in the Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater at 1 PM on Sunday, September 18.

World Music Festival shows take place at 22 venues around the city (addresses and other info are on page B29), and except where noted they’re free and all-ages. Bills are listed in chronological order, with openers first and headliners last. Advance tickets to events with admission fees are usually available from the venues; for details see worldmusicfestivalchicago.org. Considering the vagaries of international touring, last-minute schedule changes are always a possibility; updates will be announced on Twitter and Facebook. The fest also has its own free Android app, but iPhone users are out of luck.

As usual the early weekday performances at the Claudia Cassidy Theater will air as part of Continental Drift on Northwestern University’s WNUR (89.3 FM). The festival once again closes with “One World Under One Roof,” a free evening-length extravaganza that transforms the Cultural Center into a minifestival, with overlapping sets in three different halls inside the building. —PM

Thursday, Sept. 15

7:30 PM | Spirit of Music Garden

Occidental Brothers Dance Band International Led by guitarist Nathaniel Braddock, this local combo plays infectiously sunny pan-African dance music with deadly serious dedication, and it got a big bump last year by beginning a collaboration with the great Samba Mapangala, who sometimes steps in as lead singer. For tonight’s set guitarists Braddock and Antonio Carella, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, bassist Joshua Ramos, and drummer Makaya McCraven will be joined by a newer ringer: Congolese vocalist Jonal, who sang in the Soukous Stars as well as one of the last versions of Franco’s OK Jazz. —PM

Friday, Sept. 16

5:30 PM | Navy Pier


Cafe Antarsia Locals
Cafe Antarsia dress up their story-songs with facile flourishes of eastern European and cabaret music and heaping helpings of theatrical overkill. —PM

6:30 PM | National Mexican Museum of Art


Citlalli Castellano & Mariachi Nuevo Jalisco
This local singer performs with a traditional mariachi band. —PM

7 PM | Brilliant Corners of Popular ​ Amusements, Eckhart Park | $20


Bomba Estereo
Acts like Bogota’s Bomba Estereo are a big part of the reason so many fans of electronic dance music—which has long been divided into a staggering number of subgenres—have finally thrown up their hands and just started referring to anyone doing anything with a drum machine as part of a global “bass culture.” Take for instance Bomba Estereo’s recent single “Ponte Bomb” (Nacional), which combines the vocal melody of Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” (with new Spanish lyrics), a beat halfway between Puerto Rican reggaeton and Colombian cumbia, synths emulating vintage acid house, and a sexualized bump that’s obviously indebted to Brazilian favela funk. Have fun figuring out where to file that one. —MR

7:30 PM | Spirit of Music Garden


Joaquin Diaz
Though he left his native Dominican Republic more than two decades ago to settle in Montreal, accordionist and singer Joaquin Diaz hasn’t lost his touch with his homeland—or with merengue, its most famous musical export. Rather than the genre’s hyperactive, chintzy modern iterations, he plays something more rustic and traditional—merengue tipica, more or less. In keeping with the romantic theme of his most recent album, Mi Corazon (Nuits D’Afrique), Diaz breaks up the upbeat numbers with a few boleros for the slow dancers—but most of the record is wall-to-wall rapid-fire rhythm, a lattice of grooves that come together unfailingly for accents on the one and the three. —PM

8 PM | Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements, Eckhart Park | $20


Sidi Toure
Malian singer and guitarist Sidi Toure got his start in 1976 with the Songhai Stars, a regional orchestra in Gao, and he’s worked as a professional musician ever since—but despite a career nearly four decades long, he didn’t release his second album under his own name, Sahel Folk (Thrill Jockey), till early this year. (The first, Hoga, came out in 1996.) The new record is billed to “Sidi Toure & friends,” and though he sings and plays acoustic guitar on every tune, more often than not he yields the spotlight to one of five different accompanists—a modest approach that might help explain why Toure isn’t better known. He’s definitely running the show—he wrote most of the beautiful, cascading melodies and all the lyrics—but the casual conviviality of the recording sessions, held at his sister’s house, allow the album to reflect the communal feel of nonprofessional music making. For his first U.S. tour, Toure will play with two of the musicians from Sahel Folk: Jambala Maïga on kuntigui (a traditional one-string guitar) and Douma Maïga on kurbu (a three-string lute). —PM

8 PM | Old Town School of Folk Music | $10 suggested donation


House of Waters
The hammered dulcimer is a very versatile instrument, and Max ZT of House of Waters spends both his band’s CDs, Elsewhere and Peace the Coats, demonstrating that. Sometimes sounding like a mandolin, sometimes like a harp, sometimes like a kalimba, sometimes like a pizzicato violin, the dulcimer provides the trio’s backbone with its delicate, almost liquid notes. Bassist Moko Fukushima (who has roots in jazz) and percussionist Luke Notary (who’s studied with a djembe master in Senegal and toured with Cirque du Soleil) pitch in to create a sound that’s mostly calm and graceful, dominated by resonating strings. The music could use a little more dynamic range, and the players have assimilated their Indian and African training and influences so smoothly they almost disappear—but it’s hard to argue with the loveliness of their performances. —MK

DikandaCredit: Marcin Grzegorczyk


Dikanda
This mostly acoustic Polish fusion band brings an air of mystery to its first American tour—as its website explains, “Most of Dikanda’s songs is written in Dikandish language. The written form doesn’t exist. For this reason, below we are publishing lyrics of some traditional songs only.” This is accompanied by translations of Serbian, Macedonian, and Hungarian tunes—and Dikanda sure travels with a full bag of those. Formed in 1997 by singer and accordionist Anna Witczak, the group plays a mix of Balkan and other eastern European music, spiced liberally with Turkish, Persian, and Arabic elements. It’s both restlessly exuberant and unabashedly romantic, as if Loreena McKennitt’s band got into the same slivovitz as Gogol Bordello and they all started falling in love with one another . . . and singing serenades in a made-up language. You might think you’re too jaded for such foolishness, but there’s a good chance that feeling will rub off on you. —MK

8 PM | Reggie’s Rock Club | $12, 18+


L’Orchestre Super Vitesse
This local instrumental group, led by Occidental Brothers guitarist Antonio Carella (also a former member of Chicago Afrobeat Project), pays homage to the Cuban-influenced music produced in the late 60s and 70s in west African countries like Guinea, Mali, and Senegal, evoking that era accurately and elegantly. —PM


Toubab Krewe
This jam band from Asheville, North Carolina, started out six years ago playing an improbable fusion of heavy southern rock and west African music. On their latest, TK2 (Nat Geo), they’ve improved their reach—”Mariama” has flourishes of something approximating stride piano, and “Carnvalito” szounds like Manu Chao—but not necessarily their grasp. —PM

8:30 PM | Navy Pier


Primitive Percussionist
John Yost of “rhythm based events organization” Rhythm Revolution leads a glorified drum circle. —PM

9 PM | Mayne Stage | $15, 18+


Natural Information Society
On last year’s Natural Information (Eremite), the record that gives this band its name, Joshua Abrams opens with a solo piece for processed and multitracked hammered dulcimer called “Mysterious Delirious Fluke of the Beyond.” With its mesmerizing permutations of brief phrases, all circling within a single chord, it sets the tone for the album—Abrams favors the indefinite harmonic suspension that’s common to ritual trance music all over the world. He plays bass on two of the six tracks and guimbri (a three-string north African lute) or donso ngoni (a six-string west African harp) on most of the others—those instruments not only have respectable lower registers but traditionally use unfretted drone strings. The current version of the Natural Information Society consists of Abrams on guimbri and MPC, Emmett Kelly on guitar, Lisa Alvarado on harmonium, and Mikel Avery on drums. —PM


Malika Zarra
Though she was born in Morocco, vocalist Malika Zarra left when she was three and grew up in France. After moving to New York in 2004 she began to explore her musical heritage, but anyone hoping for her to dig deep into those roots on the recent Berber Taxi (Motema) will be disappointed. She’s fashioned a slick jazz-pop fusion with Moroccan flourishes (an occasional clatter from the metal castanets called krakebs, a thwack on a bendir or frame drum) and some Berber and Arabic lyrics—it sounds like a mix of Zap Mama and Esperanza Spalding. Zarra is a wonderful singer, but neither her sound nor her songs can yet equal her voice. —PM

9 PM | Martyrs’ | $12, 21+


Andreas Kapsalis & Goran Ivanovic Duo
This long-running local acoustic-guitar duo injects lots of improvisation and jazz-wise harmony into everything from flamenco and bossa nova to Balkan dance music. —PM


Kultur Shock
I’m always happy to see Kultur Shock come back to Chicago, and this show should be great—these Seattle-based Balkan punks’ new seventh album, Ministry of Kultur (produced by Jack Endino), is their best so far. The protest metal and working-class punk in their sound never steamroll the folkloric flair of its melodies (much of which is derived from the traditional music of Bosnia, where front man Gino was born), not even when the time signatures get extra crazy and Gino’s voice goes all death-growly. Violinist Paris Hurley and drummer Chris Stromquist function as flawless melodic and rhythmic foils, anchoring the band’s flights of fancy in fierce, danceable beauty. —MK

Saturday, Sept. 17

Noon | Dock at Montrose Harbor


Joaquin Diaz
See Fri 9/16.

1 PM | Navy Pier


House of Waters
See Fri 9/16.

1 PM | South Shore Cultural Center


Blitz the Ambassador
This Ghanaian rapper moved to the U.S. in 2001 to study at Kent State, and after ten years here the only real trace of his homeland in his music are its smart lyrics, which focus on African social and political issues. —PM

3 PM | Navy Pier


Kutumba
The six young men of Nepali band Kutumba are all committed to the traditional music of their home country, and the wonderfully informative liner notes of their album Utsarga (East Meets West Musicbox) provide explanations of song types from various regions and excellent pictures of the instruments, a few of which are quite rare. Kutumba’s music consists of beautiful semi-improvised versions of classic folk songs; airy and elegant and melodic, they’re sparse and straightforward but nonetheless full of rich textures. Fans of Mongolian music (as well as Tibetan, Indian, Pakistani, and Afghani music) will hear some similarities, but because different regions of Nepal have evolved distinct styles due in part to the isolation enforced by the rugged terrain of the Himalayas, these songs stand apart as not exactly like anything else, anywhere. Highly recommended. —MK

3 PM | Margate Park


Tsukasa Taiko Students Recital
The youth ensemble of Tsukasa Taiko, Chicago’s best-known traditional Japanese drumming group, performs under the direction of bassist Tatsu Aoki. —PM

3:15 PM | Edgewater GRalley Festival | $10


Dikanda
See Fri 9/16.

5:45 PM | Edgewater GRalley Festival | $10


Malika Zarra
See Fri 9/16.

6 PM | Navy Pier


Chai Found Music Workshop
This group from Taipei performs traditional and contemporary classical music from Taiwan and China. —PM

7 PM | International House | $8, $5 students


Arooj Aftab
Arooj Aftab, a Berklee College of Music student from Lahore, Pakistan, has posted covers of sad and meditative Western tunes like “Comfortably Numb” and “Hallelujah” online as she works on her debut album, but the roots of her own compositions run deep in qawwali and other forms of Sufi song—when she talks about her spiritual mentors in interviews, she sounds utterly, raptly starstruck. Her beautiful voice is more than capable of the ever-climbing ululation that lifts listeners into trance states, and though she’s probably still too young to have developed the depth that qawwali demands, she’s a talent to watch. —MK


Alsarah & the Nubatones
Sudanese expat Alsarah leads this compact New York combo in traditional songs from her beleaguered country, as well as some original tunes that explore similar sounds. —PM


Wust El Balad
This popular Egyptian group wouldn’t sound too terribly out of place on Lite FM, except for the traditional Middle Eastern instruments (oud, hand percussion) and consonant Arabic singing. —PM

7:30 PM | Spirit of Music Garden


Bulgarika featuring Nikolay Kolev
This nimble Bulgarian group, which includes onetime Ivo Papasov accordionist Ivan Milev, plays the high-octane Romany folk music of its homeland. —PM

8 PM | Old Town School of Folk Music | $10


Sidi Toure
See Fri 9/16.


Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal
Malian kora player Ballaké Sissoko, a deep well of Mande tradition, has worked with bluesman Taj Mahal and Italian minimalist pianist Ludovico Einaudi, but the recent Chamber Music (Six Degrees)—a collaboration with French cellist Vincent Segal—is his most successful and simpatico cross-cultural effort yet. The kora’s circular grooves and sweetly unfurling cascades of notes dominate the proceedings—the cellist mostly seems to be finding his way among them—but even on the three pieces Segal wrote (the other seven are Sissoko’s) there’s no disconnect between their individual styles. A few tracks feature excellent guest contributions—the vocals of Awa Sanagho, the balafon of Fassery Diabate, the ngoni of Mahamadou Kamissoko—but Sissoko and Segal are engrossing all on their own. —PM

8 PM | Navy Pier


Blitz the Ambassador
See above.

8 PM | Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements, Eckhart Park | $20


A Hawk and a Hacksaw
With the recent Cervantine (LM Dupli-cation) A Hawk and a Hacksaw have ditched the training wheels—they’re ready to show off what they’ve learned from the master Romany musicians they’ve rehearsed, recorded, toured, and drank with. Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, who lead this New Mexico-based group, immersed themselves in Romany music while living in Budapest in 2007 and 2008, but rather than meticulously re-create those sounds, they’ve begun to incorporate other influences—they add mariachi horns colored with Balkan brass, borrow new European elements like rembetika, and use postproduction tricks (courtesy of engineer Griffin Rodriguez) to turn the recordings into something more than simple documents of performances. It’s their best album yet, and hints at exciting developments down the road. For this tour Barnes and Trost are joined by trumpeter Samuel Johnson (of Chicago’s Mucca Pazza), percussionist Aaron Moore (Volcano the Bear), and drummer Jesse Hasko. Barnes explains via e-mail, “The drummers are not playing kits, it’s more of an Ottoman Empire drum line.” —PM

10 PM | Martyrs’ | $15, 21+


Mad Professor
The sound of dub reggae first cohered in the 1970s, but outside of Jamaica it’s only ever been appreciated by fringe audiences. But its continued influence on hip-hop and dance music—basically any scene where you’ll find samplers and remixes—means that it never sounds out of date. Mad Professor was something of a dub classicist when he came up in the early 80s, and since then he’s stayed true to the sounds and techniques of the old school while applying them to remix work for a wide range of artists, including Massive Attack, the Beastie Boys, and the Kills. —MR


Toubab Krewe
See Fri 9/16. Mad Professor (see above) will give the band’s set a live dub mix.

Sunday, Sept. 18

1 PM | Navy Pier


Opposition Party
Chicago’s Opposition Party gigs at a wide variety of local venues, but it should feel especially at home in front of a World Music Festival audience. You might guess that a band calling its jammy pan-African sound AfroFunkDubJazz would specialize in provoking crowds into constant sweaty motion, and you’d be right. The Opposition Party just self-released a live CD, Live at Primitive, and though it’s mostly covers—Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Burning Spear, Herbie Hancock, Thomas Mapfumo, Mulatu Astatke—the group’s ballsy to play a few of its originals alongside them. The Opposition Party’s songs—mostly by keyboardist Joshua Siegal—acquit themselves well enough, but the band’s horn section and percussionists own the show. —MK

2 PM | South Shore Cultural Center


Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal
See Sat 9/17.

3 PM | Preston Bradley Hall


Friends of the Gamelan
This long-running gamelan—the finest such ensemble in the city, and to be honest the only one—plays the entrancing, polyrhythmic Indonesian traditional music of the same name, dominated by the distinctive sound of metallophones. —PM

4 PM | Navy Pier


Bulgarika featuring Nikolay Kolev
See Sat 9/17.

5 PM | Spirit of Music Garden


Sergent Garcia
When I first heard Sergent Garcia more than a decade ago, I was charmed by their unself-conscious mix of reggae, dancehall, and salsa, which front man Bruno Garcia called “salsamuffin.” But this French band’s latest record, Una y Otra Vez (Cumbancha), marks the endpoint of a subsequent slide into world-in-a-blender mediocrity. It’s like Komar & Melamid conducted a horrible experiment to see what the entire Putumayo catalog would sound like compressed into a single album. —PM

6 PM | International House | $5


Kutumba
See Sat 9/17.


Chai Found Music Workshop
See Sat 9/17.

6 PM | Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements, Eckhart Park | $20


Fool’s Gold
A Los Angeles-based group playing an updated take on a specific strain of pop-rock developed in the UK in the early 80s doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice for a world-music festival, but a couple of things about Fool’s Gold help this booking make sense. First, lead vocalist and cofounder Luke Top, who was born in Israel, sings much of the group’s self-titled 2009 debut in Hebrew. Second, Fool’s Gold draw on the snaking lead-guitar melodies of Nigerian highlife—and because Top and company borrow shamelessly from the playbooks of Celtic-influenced bands like Big Country, that African flavor collides synergistically with wisps of traditional music from the UK. —MR

7 PM | Mayne Stage | $15


Gerard Edery
Ensemble Guitarist, singer, and storyteller Gerard Edery specializes in the music of the Sephardic diaspora, which is no small corner to stake out. The cultures of Sephardic Jews span continents and cross oceans, and include the music and lore of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America—they’ve been especially important in liminal zones like the Middle East and the Balkans, and they’ve cross-influenced other wandering tribes like the Romany. With a guitar style touched by the fluidity of flamenco and a deep voice slightly reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, Edery brings his copious historical and anthropological research to life—he’s studied places and times like the early Argentinian Jewish community and the Jewish cultural life of medieval Muslim Spain—and in the process transports his listeners to another past in another country. —MK


Nuriya
New York singer Nuriya has an unlikely-sounding multicultural background—she’s the daughter of exiled Syrian and Iraqi Jews who grew up in Mexico City—but her music is predictable adult-contemporary pop dosed with antiseptic flamenco guitar. —PM

8 PM | Reggie’s Rock Club | $12, $10 in advance, 18+


Twilight Circus Dub Sound System
Canadian Ryan Moore got hooked on dub in the 80s, and after settling in the Dutch city of Nijmegen in 1992, he launched a career as a dub producer. He also spent much of the 90s playing bass and drums with the Legendary Pink Dots, but left the band once his own Twilight Circus project took off. —PM


Mad Professor
See Sat 9/17.

8 PM | Old Town School of Folk Music | $10


Canzoniere Grecianico Salentino
This septet from Salento, Italy, has been around since 1975, but its music still overflows with frothy, youthful energy. On last year’s Focu D’amore (Ponderosa) the current incarnation, led by the son of the band’s founder, serves up pretty ballads and wild folk dances—including the iconic tarantella. —PM


Marco Calliari
Born in Montreal to Italian immigrants, Marco Calliari cofounded a thrash-metal band called Anonymus in 1989—at that point, it would seem, he wasn’t too attached to his roots. But as the years passed, his interest shifted to the traditional music of his homeland, and in 2003 he released his first folk-influenced album. In ‘06 he left Anonymus, who soldiered on without him, and threw himself into his solo career; last year’s Al Faro Est (Casa Nostra) brings a raucous Tom Waits flavor to original songs steeped in Italian folk. —PM

8 PM | Lincoln Hall | $15, 21+


Black Bear Combo
This Chicago group brings a punkish flair and garage-band energy to Balkan brass, with fidelity to tradition instead of Gogol Bordello-style showbiz kitsch. —PM


Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm Project with Nicolae Feraru
Led by violinist Steve Gibons, this outfit has grown into one of Chicago’s go-to groups for stripped-down, old-fashioned Romany music—and there’s only one ringer in the bunch, cimbalom virtuoso and Romanian expat Nicolae Feraru. —PM


Yuri Yunakov
For decades saxophonist Yuri Yunakov has been a leading exponent of Romany wedding music—a high-speed, odd-metered style infused with the energy of rock and the instrumental fluidity of jazz. The Bulgarian government tried to suppress it during the communist era (and for several years after the revolution of 1989) as part of a campaign to cleanse the culture of Romany influence, but that just drove the music underground—for years it could only be heard at private functions like weddings. In the mid-80s Yunakov joined Trakiya, the wedding band led by master clarinetist Ivo Papasov, and they introduced the style to an international audience with two recordings made in the States—1989’s Orpheus Ascending as Ivo Papasov & His Bulgarian Wedding Band and 1991’s Balkanology as Ivo Papasov & His Orchestra. Since moving to the U.S. in 1994, Yunakov has formed his own group and recorded four terrific albums, including one that reunited him with Papasov. He and his ensemble navigate zigzagging melodies in mind-boggling unison, tearing into the music pell-mell but playing with such superhuman precision that it seems they’ve all got their brains wired together. —PM

Monday, Sept. 19

Noon | Claudia Cassidy Theater


Marco Calliari
See Sat 9/17.


Canzoniere Grecianico Salentino
See Sat 9/17.


Megitza Quartet
These locals play a rock-flavored mix of eastern European styles. —PM

7 PM | Claudia Cassidy Theater


Canzoniere Grecianico Salentino
See Sat 9/17.

8 PM | Martyrs’ | $10, 21+


Megitza Quartet
See above.


Marco Calliari
See Sat 9/17.

Tuesday, Sept. 20

Noon | Claudia Cassidy Theater

Abigail Washburn


Abigail Washburn
Banjo virtuoso (and Evanston native) Abigail Washburn has a voracious musical appetite. Over the past decade she’s mastered bluegrass, Chinese folk, old-timey music, and more, developing as a singer and songwriter along the way—and she doesn’t merely hopscotch from style to style but instead retains ideas from each. On her latest and best album, City of Refuge (Rounder), Washburn works with Seattle producer Tucker Martine to transform all sorts of string music—from Appalachian hillbilly songs to chamber orchestrations by Jeremy Kittel of the Turtle Island Quartet—into sophisticated acoustic pop, delivering her pretty melodies in a voice that puts me in mind of a less ethereal Emmylou Harris. A huge supporting cast contributes as well: jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, Mongolian string band Hanggai, Chris Funk of the Decemberists (on guitar and dulcimer), Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket (on pedal steel and electric guitar). Credit goes to both Washburn and Martine for making what could’ve been an overloaded mess into the hookiest, most accessible record Washburn has ever done—meticulously pitched, eloquent, and utterly lovely. —PM


DePedro
If you don’t count soundtracks, it’s been three years since Calexico has made a new record, but front man Joey Burns has kept increasingly busy as a producer. The Spanish group Amparanoia seems to have a thing for his indie-pop take on mariachi and spaghetti-western sounds: last year he worked with the group’s popular singer, Amparo Sanchez, and he’s been collaborating with guitarist Jairo Zavala (aka DePedro) for even longer. Last year’s Nubes de Papel (Nat Geo) is their second DePedro album together, and Zavala sounds very much at ease in Burns’s woozy desert hybrids—in fact, the Spaniard has played guitar in touring versions of Calexico. Zavala sings a few tunes in English (including a somnambulant cover of the Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On“), and despite his heavy accent, his atmospheric, ballad-heavy music sounds like it belongs on this side of the Atlantic. —PM


Luisa Maita
Luisa Maita is one of three sisters in her family named after songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Ana Luisa,” in her case), and perhaps predictably, samba and bossa nova figure into the music on her solo debut, Lero-Lero (Cumbancha). But this singer from Sao Paulo draws just as much inspiration from forms much less familiar outside her country’s borders—the rhythms of baiao from the northeastern state of Bahia, for instance, or the musical martial art of capoeira. She might add dub effects or funk accents or incorporate folkloric touches like the grainy rabeca on “Fulaninha,” but her gently insinuating voice is worlds away from the declamatory style of those lesser-known Brazilian traditions—it’s much easier to imagine her finessing the Jobim songbook. And when she does write a samba, she fiddles with the formula; on the title track, which recalls vintage Tom Ze, she creates an infectious syncopated pattern from staccato stabs of acoustic guitar and cavaquinho and turns the familiar rhythm inside-out. —PM

7 PM | Instituto Cervantes | $15, $10 members


DePedro
See above.

8 PM | Lincoln Hall | $15, 21+


Luisa Maita
See above.


Bomba Estereo
See Fri 9/16.

8 PM | Martyrs’ | $15, 21+


Alana Amram & the Rough Gems
On her new album, Snow Shadows: Songs of Vince Martin (Kingswood), New York singer Alana Amram—daughter of composer David Amram—covers tunes by 60s folksinger Vince Martin, who’s best known for his duo recordings with Fred Neil. Van Dyke Parks wrote the album’s string arrangements and John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful played some guitar, giving Snow Shadows a better sense of history than your typical neofolk effort. —PM


Mar Caribe
Banjo player Tom McGettrick leads this Chicago instrumental ensemble, which has spent almost five years fine-tuning a sound that overlaps pretty thoroughly with the spaghetti-western desert pop of early Calexico. On the band’s forthcoming album, The Law, the music isn’t much more original than on its previous release, but the playing is tighter and more skilled. —PM


Abigail Washburn
See above.

9 PM | Hideout | $10, 21+


Movits!
At this point pretty much every musical style on earth has been crossbred with hip-hop. Movits! aren’t the first to try mixing it with hot jazz, but as far as I know they do the best job. Part of that is because this trio from Lulea, Sweden, is willing to embrace the goofiness of the combination—they perform in black tie and keep the banjos and Frenchy accordion high in the mix—but the bigger reason is that they’ve located the two styles’ shared love of raucous, bumptious rhythms and giddy racket. —MR

Wednesday, Sept. 21

Noon | Claudia Cassidy Theater


Te Vaka
It’s hardly surprising that Opetaia Foa’i settled on a fusion approach with his pan-Polynesian band Te Vaka—he himself is half Tokelauan, half Tuvuluan, born in Samoa and raised in New Zealand. (Per his liner notes he’s also an L. Ron Hubbard fan, so make of that what you will.) His 12-person crew represents many South Pacific islands, and the music emphasizes the traditions they share—the chants, the log and goatskin drums, the long history of seafaring (by which islands scattered across thousands of miles were populated), the rich body of folklore and spirituality centered on the ocean. Judging by the translated lyrics, some of Te Vaka’s songs are on sad subjects, but none of them quite sounds that way—with that many people having that much fun onstage, there’s just no way it can be a downer. The band’s pop-inflected recordings perhaps try a little too hard to be listener friendly, and lose something in the process—but their live show is an extravaganza of dance, percussion, and pageantry. —MK


Movits!
See Tue 9/20.

Boubacar Traore

Boubacar Traore Trio Though he was the first Malian to play the country’s indigenous music on electric guitar—he was making records nearly a decade before Ali Farka Toure, whose early work he sometimes engineered—Boubacar Traore is something of a hidden jewel. The recent Mali Denhou (Lusafrica) is his first studio album in six years; these days he spends most of his time growing vegetables and raising sheep on a small plot of land he owns in Bamako. When he straps on his guitar, though, he still wields all his old authority. His music is certainly similar to Toure’s, with its bluesy, insistently circling acoustic guitar, but Traore plays with a lighter touch, masterfully braiding spontaneous licks into his sturdy, looping patterns—and the tenderness in his voice is missing in the singing of most other Malian bluesmen. On the album he shares the front line with French harmonica player Vincent Bucher, but here he’s alone at the head of a trio. —PM

5:30 PM | Hostelling International


DJ Sound Culture
David Chavez, who books world music and jazz concerts under the name Sound Culture, spins records that parallel his programming choices, though with a bit more dance-club flavor. —PM

Frigg


Frigg
Heads up, fiddle fans. Sure, you know and love the Appalachian, Nova Scotian, and Scottish and Irish styles—but what about the Scandinavian traditions, perennially underrated on these shores? This young group from small-town Finland (with two Norwegian members armed with resonating Hardanger fiddles) hopes to change that. Most of the members are students of the same teacher, and on their latest album, the self-released Grannen, they harmonize beautifully to produce a fluid, almost aquatic sound, enhanced by delightful complementary instrumentation like harmonium and Estonian bagpipes. They lean toward the cheerful, carefree traditional dance music of their respective nations—and yes, such music exists even the land of the ice and snow. When you see so little of the sun in the winter, it’s only natural to want to re-create some of the feel of a summer breeze on your skin. —MK

6:30 PM | Millennium Park


Nawal Quartet
On her new solo album, Embrace the Spirit (Milan), Nawal delivers a powerful one-woman meditation that salutes the recent uprisings in the Middle East and the human desire for freedom and peace. Based in Paris but hailing from the Comoros (islands off the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean), the singer supports her own husky incantations with frame drums, mbira, and gambusi (a banjolike Swahili lute). Her most recent album with a backing group, 2007’s Aman (Nawali), features much of the same instrumentation, and the gorgeous music—more melodic, rhythmic, and celebratory than her intensely solemn solo work—reflects the complex culture of the Comoros, which feels the pull of both Africa and Asia. —PM


Boubacar Traore Trio
See above.

8 PM | Mayne Stage | $15


Calypso Caravan featuring Calypso Rose, Lord Superior, and Clyde “Lightning” George
The Calypso Caravan was added to the fest after Staff Benda Bilili announced the cancellation of their first U.S. tour this Tuesday—and for a last-minute substitution, it’s pretty impressive. Calypso Rose, born in Tobago and based in Queens, New York, is one of the greatest living practitioners of her namesake style, and in recent years she’s deftly added reggae to her repertoire. Trinidad’s Lord Superior (aka Andrew Marcano) is very nearly a match for Rose in notoriety and skill, and Clyde “Lightning” George, a Trindadian expat living in Chicago, is a master of the steel drums. —PM

The Creole Choir of CubaCredit: Sven Creutzmann


Creole Choir of Cuba
This ten-member vocal group from the Cuban city of Camaguey—known back home as Desandann (“descendents”)—formed in 1994, as the island’s economy withered from the aftereffects of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Rather than embrace the familiar sound of Cuban son, as pioneering a cappella group Vocal Sampling did in the early 90s, the Creole Choir of Cuba looked to the music of their Haitian ancestors—who’d been twice wronged, first by the African slave trade and then again by their French masters, who manipulated them into a second round of servitude in Cuba after the Haitian revolution. The songs on their U.S. debut, Tande-La (Real World), which the choir sings in Spanish, French, and Creole, are raucous with fervent call-and-response vocals and driving rhythms. And the choir does more than revive old traditions—some of their lyrics address the brutal reign of “Papa Doc” Duvalier, for instance, or the crippling fallout of a simple robbery. —PM

8 PM | Chief O’Neill’s | $10 donation


Brock McGuire Band
This Irish folk quartet from County Clare is steeped in tradition, but not to the point of rigid purism: the recent Green Grass Blue Grass (Paulman Music) is a collaboration with bluegrass heavies like Ricky Skaggs and Aubrie Haynie that explores the commonalities between the two genres. —PM

8:30 PM | Old Town School of Folk Music | $5 suggested donation


Te Vaka
See above.

9:30 PM | Empty Bottle | $12, 21+


Frigg
See above.


Movits!
See Tue 9/20.

Thursday, Sept. 22

Noon | Claudia Cassidy Theater


Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole
with Shawn Pimental Twenty-seven-year-old Hawaiian singer and dancer Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole has a remarkable voice and expert pitch control; he can deliver traditional oli chants with piercing authority and strummy sing-alongs with enough gentle soulfulness to make Jack Johnson kick a stone. Unfortunately, his most recent album, 2008’s Kaumakaiwa (Mountain Apple), favors the latter—at times I thought I was listening to an Anne Murray reissue. —PM


Creole Choir of Cuba
See Wed 9/21.


Middle East Music Ensemble of Chicago
The Middle East Music Ensemble of Chicago was founded at the U. of C. in 1997 and includes a wide array of students and visiting musicians who all share an interest in the beautiful sounds of Middle Eastern music as well as the complex theory and rich history behind its various forms. Past concerts have sometimes focused on specific themes, such as Turkish folk or the Iraqi oud tradition; the ensemble has a depth and range that’s pretty astounding, considering the vastness of the territory it’s charged itself with covering. Founding director Issa Boulos has taken a job in Qatar, and he’s been replaced by Wanees Zarour, a Chicago-based Palestinian composer who plays buzuq, violin, and percussion. —MK

Noon | Daley Plaza


Sidi Toure
See Fri 9/16.

6:30 PM | Randolph Cafe


Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole
with Shawn Pimental See above.

7 PM | Preston Bradley Hall

Boubacar Traore Trio See Wed 9/21.

7:30 PM | Claudia Cassidy Theater


Frigg
See Wed 9/21.

8:30 PM | Preston Bradley Hall


Middle East Music Ensemble of Chicago
See above.

9 PM | Randolph Cafe


Brock McGuire Band
See Wed 9/21.

9 PM | Claudia Cassidy Theater

Nawal Quartet See Wed 9/21.

9:45 PM | Preston Bradley Hall


Creole Choir of Cuba
See Wed 9/21.

10:15 PM | Claudia Cassidy Theater


Bill O’Connell Triple Play with Dave Valentin & Richie Flores
Keyboardist Bill O’Connell has worked with a wide range of jazz artists over the past four and a half decades—Charles Fambrough, Nnenna Freelon, Emily Remler—but his heart belongs to Latin jazz. He got his start working for the legendary Mongo Santamaria in 1977, and by far his longest-running and most meaningful musical partnership has been with Latin-jazz flutist Dave Valentin. His band Triple Play puts that musical bond front and center: he and Valentin improvise on O’Connell originals and classics by the likes of Santamaria and Milton Nascimento. Conga player Richie Flores (a veteran of bands led by Eddie Palmieri, Papo Vazquez, and David Sanchez, among many others) deepens the clave feel, and on the trio’s self-titled 2008 debut for Savant Records, he and the front line artfully balance delicate melodies and tough rhythms. —PM