World Music Festival 2012

Chicago’s World Music Festival returns to share international music throughout most every corner of the city, albeit in a slightly different format this year, under different management and surviving the absence in the Cultural Affairs Department of renowned curator Michael Orlove (snapped up by the NEA – our loss, the country’s gain). We’ll also miss the deft touch of Brian Keigher and other members of Orlove’s team. And as we went to press, news broke that the much anticipated desert rockers of Terakaft had cancelled their North American tour.

The good news is with the curatorial aid of Sound Culture Center for Global Arts, the Festival still promises a lovely feast for the ears, and this year all the concerts are free! We recommend the following musical visitors in particular:

Rana Santacruz

As far as we’re concerned, there’s very little this alt-folk-troubadour can do wrong, from his combo get-up of classic mariachi pants plus sneakers to how this all reflects the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary mestizaje in sweet ballads telling magically real stories.


This New York-based band was formed by guitarist and vocalist Clay Ross joining forces with master accordionist Rob Curto to make music based upon the multi-flavored rhythmic delicacies of Brazil – a land where they had both lived – by mixing these up with North American genres such as bluegrass and swing to create a most danceable hybrid.

Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto

From the town of San Jacinto in Colombia, this Grammy-awarded ensemble was formed five decades ago. Their centuries-old genre preserves indigenous instruments, African drums and the poetry and lyrics brought by the colonizing Spaniards, and it will be a particular treat to experience in their performance the humor and talents of one of the ensemble’s oldest members, Juan “Chuchita” Fernández, all of 82 years young.

Fatoumata Diawara

A beautiful and talented actress, multi-instrumentalist, dancer and vocalist, Diawara was born to Malian parents in the Ivory Coast, but is now based in France. Her music, which brings together all these cultural forces is thoroughly rooted in Malian sensibility, incorporates the je ne se quois of slightly pop French hooks, and being delivered in the chanteuse’s amazing, expressive voice, proves to be quite irresistible.

De Temps Antan

This French Canadian trio bring a peculiarly beautiful music that unites percussive footwork (performed seated), superbly danceable fiddling, accordion and rhythm guitar. The genre was born in Quebec when French immigrant musicians, in the absence of percussion instruments, would sit on tables and stomp out beats with their feet while they fiddled and sung. No doubt these virtuoso Quebecois will have you stomping yours too!


From Beijing, Hanggai combines traditional Mongolian melodies and rhythms including deep, powerful and eerily lovely throat singing with the contemporary aesthetics of the band members’ previous musical life as punk rockers; the result is tunes that throb with pounding beats and evokes horse hooves, wide expanses and a nomad’s way of life.

Canteca de Macao

A large Spanish musical collective whose members include a juggler, Canteca de Macao mixes in flamenco, reggae, jazz and rock into a Mediterranean musical framework. They also offer their music free, so download away but don’t forget to support them by witnessing the magical, optimistic space they create in live performances.

Pedrito Martínez Group
From Havana, Cuba, conga player and singer Martínez (whom we’ve previously featured on Gozamos) and his pan-latino musical team (with members from Venezuela and Peru as well as Cuba) always takes Afro Cuban tunes to wonderful new heights by adding funky, jazzy touches.

María de Barros

Born in Senegal, De Barros’ music is centered on the genres of Cabo Verde, her parent’s native land. This small island of Cabo Verde, one of the stopovers of the slave traders, is the source of rhythms such as morna and coladeira which formed centuries ago mixing Africa’s with those of colonizers France, Spain and Portugal, resulting in a heady and sensual mixture that De Barros shares with aplomb and charisma.

The World Music Festival will take place from September 21-28 at venues throughout the city.

Check Catalina’s radio show Beat Latino  (On FB and itunes too!) as well as recent NPR features to explore the past, present and future of Latin music.