Zakir Hussein
Zakir Hussein Credit: Susana Millman

World Music Festival Chicago 2010 gets under way on Tuesday, September 21, with a three-day minifestival called India Calling. Restricted to genres with roots on the subcontinent, the music nonetheless covers a broad range—scheduled performers include masters of Hindustani and Carnatic classical traditions, a funky “dhol ‘n’ brass” outfit descended from Indian wedding bands, and DJs spinning bhangra, Bollywood, and electronic fusion. A variety of nonmusic events—yoga and meditation workshops, Bollywood film screenings, dance performances—celebrate other aspects of Indian culture.

In addition to the programs listed below, the Chicago Tourism Center (72 E. Randolph) hosts an art exhibit (Tue 9/21, 7-10 PM and Wed-Thu 9/22-9/23, 10 AM-10 PM); on display will be photographs by Steve McCurry (best known for his famous cover portrait of a green-eyed Afghani girl for National Geographic) and paintings by Indian artist Paresh Maity. Across the street at the Chicago Cultural Center, the G.A.R. Hall and Rotunda presents a Rural Artisans Village Marketplace (Tue 9/21, 7-10 PM and Wed-Thu 9/22-9/23, 5-10 PM). In the Cultural Center’s first-floor Garland Room, there will be yoga and meditation classes as well as workshops in kirtan, mantras, and music healing by M. Harre Harren (Wed-Thu 9/22-9/23, 4-6 PM, exact schedule yet to be determined at press time).

With the exception of the art exhibit and Tuesday’s concert at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion, all events are at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington). Everything is all-ages and free. The World Music Festival‘s usual citywide deluge of shows begins Friday, September 24; next week’s issue of the Reader will include the rest of our guide to the fest. —PM


Pritzker Pavilion

6 PM Zakir Hussain & Niladri Kumar Revered tabla master Zakir Hussain and young sitar star Niladri Kumar, both hereditary musicians in the Indian classical tradition and former child prodigies, have each made a distinctive mark on the world-fusion circuit. Hussain has played with John McLaughlin, George Harrison, Mickey Hart, Bela Fleck, and several orchestras, including the CSO; you can even hear him on the Apocalypse Now soundtrack. Kumar has altered the sitar (he calls the resulting instrument a “zitar”) to create a more electric, pop-friendly sound. The music the two produce together certainly isn’t traditional, but their graceful virtuosity and elegant taste lifts it miles above the unctuous mush that more typically results when the ancient and modern collide. The Mythili Prakash Dance Ensemble opens. —MK

Randolph Cafe

8:30 PM DJ Tony Talwar & the One-Stop Dhol Crew

Claudia Cassidy Theater

8 PM DJ DhakFu


Randolph Cafe

5:30 PM Satya

6:30 PM Jazzmata

7:45 PM Red Baraat Indian brass-band music remains largely unknown in the West, but its furious polyphonic puffing and rollicking grooves are a staple at wedding celebrations on the subcontinent. New York percussionist Sunny Jain, the son of Punjabi immigrants, has an abiding interest in musical hybrids—his recent Taboo (Brooklyn Jazz Underground) is a thoughtful adaption of the ghazal form for jazz quartet—and he formed Red Baraat as an Indian brass band with a distinctly American flavor. The group combines the fizzy, exuberant melodies of bhangra—along with its propulsive dhol drumming—with the second-line funk of a New Orleans funeral, and pulls it off without insulting either tradition. The nonet’s debut album, this year’s Chaal Baby (Sinj), is as smart as it is fun, balancing busy, irresistible beats with high-level horn blowing on both sturdy original songs and bhangra hits by the likes of Daler Mehndi and Malkit Singh. The record is great, but onstage Red Baraat are even better, winding up the crowd with shouts of encouragement and boisterous audience invasions till they’ve turned the show into a dance party. —PM

Claudia Cassidy Theater

11 AM–5 PM Classic Bollywood film screenings

5:45 PM Shoba Natarajan Dance

6:30 PM Anjal Chande of Soham Dance Space

7:15 PM Kalapriya Dance presents “Natya Lila” featuring Kiran Chouhan, Sonali Mishra, and Pranita Jain

8 PM Mythili Prakash Dance Ensemble

Preston Bradley Hall

6 PM Vedic chants by priests from the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago

6:10 PM Viji Ranganathan

6:35 PM Lyon Leifer and Subhasis Mukherjee

7:40 PM Saraswathi Ranganathan Ensemble

8:45 PM Ronu Majumdar Few instruments say “meditative” like the bansuri, an Indian bamboo flute with a much deeper and more rounded sound than its Western counterpart. In the hands of a master like Mumbai-based Ronu Majumdar, it’s spellbinding—he applies his beautifully buttery tone to a sublime mix of lyric improvisation and rhythmic dynamism. On his 2005 recording A Sacred Space (Sense World Music), which includes three ragas, he uses the alaps, or introductory sections, to create impressively vast and detailed landscapes. His serene sound—all gently floating glissandos, high-register curlicues, and resonant dips—conceals the rigor in his melodies. When the percussion kicks in, Majumdar doesn’t get caught up in it—instead his playing hovers over the drummers’ rhythms, as if he knows something nobody else does. He’s joined here by the great Carnatic violinist Mysore Manjunath, tabla player Ramdas Palsule, and mridangam player Arjun Kumar. —PM


Randolph Cafe

5:30 PM Gaurav Venkateswar

6:15 PM Garba folk dancing

7:30 PM Bhangra dance lessons by Ajanta Chakraborty

8:30 PM DJ Jimmy Singh

Claudia Cassidy Theater

11 AM–5 PM Classic Bollywood film screenings

6:30 PM Natya Dance Theatre

8 PM Tapan Bhattacharya