You really can´t go wrong at the World Music Festival – every performance is bound to be outstanding in some way. The following ten acts (in no particular order) are artists bringing sounds to Chicago that are particularly special either because they are true virtuosos in their genre, or are risk-takers that are creating fusions of musical traditions that we hardly could have previously imagined. Check out the WMF schedule for times and locations.
The reigning queen of Malian song, Khaira Arby, hails from the mythical environs of the city of Timbuktu. Arby´s soaring voice as well as lyrics often about sensitive social issues, are framed in a bluesy desert groove powerfully driven by electric guitar, violin and drumming.
This spirited ensemble with members from the U.S.A. and Brazil create compositions which blend the music from southern United States and maracatú, a lively genre from northeast Brazil. Driven by the vocals of Brazilian Liliana Araujo, the band transitions easily from southern bluegrassy rock-a-billy to Brazilian funk, and occasionally throws in a bit of hip-hop for good measure.
Singer/songwriter/accordionist Rana Santacruz, from Mexico City, now based in Brooklyn, creates music that is quite hard to define, although words such as “Irish mariachi” often get bandied about. His artfully crafted pieces are passionate, lovely melodies that tell lyrical tales, all deployed within rhythms that reference not just folk and popular music from Mexico, but The Pogues and Tom Waits.
Liber Terán´s unique sound folds in traditional Mexican genres from northern Mexico, which is where his family came from. Whether it´s incorporating the accordion riffs of traditional norteño (the south of the border Tex-Mex or Tejano music) or mashing-up banda´s super-percussive horn-ridden rhythms with Balkan Beats and rock and roll, Terán´s creations are totally fun. And irresistible.
From Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, D.J. Toy Selectahñs isuper-danceable mixes never lose sight of an unmistakeable Latinidad, yet are comfortably at home in urban riddim-seeking clubs around the world. On the same bill, Argentinean duo Frikstailers, as members of the artists´s collective ZZK Records, take tropical sounds and cumbia into minimal electronica, dancehall, reggaeton and dub territory,
The musicians of Cimarrón are masters in all of the arts that collectively create the joropo music of the plains of eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. These include amazingly fast footwork whose sound upon the ground is an intrical part of the percussion of the genre, as well as vocals, harp, several cuatros (four-stringed instrument), the cajón and rapid, textured maraca-playing that is truly in a world class of its own.
The art of playing the txalaparta, a wood or stone percussion instrument played with sticks that are banged vertically, was almost lost when dictator Franco forbade it in Spain because it was an icon of the proud and independent Basque culture. The duo Orexa TX has not only has preserved traditional txalaparta playing, but are moving it into new realms with complex , almost trance-inducing pieces created in accompaniment with musicians world round.
A quartet from Lisbon, Portugal led by charismatic main vocalist Ana Bacalhau, Deolinda´s unique take of fado (traditional Portuguese torch-tunes) and Portuguese folk music incorporates all their influences – classical music, jazz, rock and even American pop. Their often ebullient creations tell humorous and ironic tales of 20th century Lisbon observed from an apartment window by a woman named, appropriately, Deolinda.
The music of Ethiopian-born singer/songwriter, Hadero, now based in San Francisco, is meant to be sonically sipped, not gulped. Hadero´s spare and soulful lyrics, set in a jazzy setting with shades of Ethiopia, are framed by her beautiful voice and phrasing, and share a raw emotion that stays with the listener for a long, long time.