Noon | Old Town School of Folk Music | $10, $9 members
1 PM | Navy Pier
Joan Soriano Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Joan Soriano made his Chicago debut a couple years ago, tagging along on a package tour that presented some of the foundational figures of bachata, the dominant guitar-based music of the Dominican Republic. Though Soriano, 38, has been playing seriously since his early teens, putting in years of apprenticeship and sideman and studio work, he's only released two albums, and the superb new El Duque de la Bachata (IASO) is the first to be distributed in the States. In his homeland the charts are dominated by a hyperactive strain of the genre whose sharp, tinny sound, produced by pickups on the steel-string acoustic guitars, is also increasingly spilling onto reggaeton records; by contrast Soriano uses a much warmer, more naturalistic tone, which connects him to the form's early practitioners in the 60s (when it blossomed following the assassination of dictator Rafael Trujillo) and to its roots in Afro-Caribbean son. But he's a forward thinker as well as an old soul: he embraces the brisk tempos of today's bachata stars, playing crisp, seductively repetitive, high-velocity guitar patterns over coolly percolating percussion. —PM
1 PM | Claudia Cassidy Theater
Chizuru Kineya & Satoyamoyu Kineya
2 PM | South Shore Cultural Center
2 PM | Martyrs' | $7
Kenge Kenge This Kenyan ensemble, which began its life as the backing group for a state-sponsored choir and became Kenge Kenge in the early 90s, has a fascinating but peculiar take on benga music, the guitar-driven dance style that arose in the mid-20th century and has dominated Kenyan pop since the 60s. Benga evolved in part from the traditional music of the Luo, one of the country's largest ethnic groups, and Kenge Kenge purposely undo some of that evolution, using ancient Luo instruments instead of rock-style drum kits and electric guitars—on the group's 2007 debut album, Introducing Kenge Kenge (Introducing), electric bass is the sole concession to modern music technology in a lineup that includes orutu (fiddle), asili (flute), oporo (horn), and nyangile (gong) as well as a heap of traditional percussion. Unison vocals create rich melodic patterns, and the lush sonic fabric woven by the frontline instruments sparkles with high harmonies. Yet Kenge Kenge's rigorous, minimalist dance music, with its irresistible bumping rhythms and cycling grooves, is not only folkloric but also thoroughly contemporary. The beats are tightly layered and intricate, and there's something about their hypnotizing relentlessness—and the group's rough-hewn, homemade sound—that recalls Congolese group Konono No. 1. —PM
3 PM | Preston Bradley Hall
Barbara Furtuna See Saturday, September 25.
3 PM | DePaul Concert Hall
Rajeev Taranath & Nayan Ghosh Bangalore-born sarod player Rajeev Taranath was introduced to Indian classical music not long after he could walk: he learned to play tabla at four, began to study singing a few years later, and at 15 was performing professionally. Like many Indians, Taranath admired sitarist Ravi Shankar, but when he first saw Shankar live, in 1955, he was struck more by the sarod player onstage, Ali Akbar Khan. Twenty years old at the time, he soon moved to Bombay to begin nearly 50 years of study with Khan and his sister Annapurna Devi. (He also picked up a PhD in English literature.) Starting in 1995 he spent a decade teaching at the California Institute of the Arts in LA, but he continued to perform throughout that time; he's now back in India. He's accompanied by tabla player Nayan Ghosh for this show. —PM
3:30 PM | Navy Pier
Debo Band with Fendika
7 PM | South Shore Cultural Center
Riad & Takht See Saturday, September 25.
Meta & the Cornerstones
7 PM | Reggie's Music Joint | $15, $12 in advance, 21+
7 PM | Reggie's Rock Club | $15, $12 in advance, 17+
The Sway Machinery In his hard-hitting band the Sway Machinery, singer and guitarist Jeremiah Lockwood radically reframes the traditional Jewish melodies he learned as a child from his grandfather, prominent New York cantor and composer Jacob Konigsberg. A regular collaborator of Balkan Beat Box, he's well connected musically, and for the group's impressive debut album, Hidden Melodies Revealed (JDub), he recruited a superb all-star band—including reedist Stuart Bogie and trumpeter Jordan McLean of Antibalas, drummer Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and killer bass saxophonist Colin Stetson—that braids together elements as disparate as Balkan and Turkish music and hard rock. Lockwood sings the sacred melodies with the high drama and refined precision of a traditional cantor—occasionally letting loose with some heady vocal improvisations—which at first blush makes for an odd contrast with the driving, horn-heavy arrangements. After a few listens through the album, though, it becomes plain that this juxtaposition is what gives the music its power. In a 2008 interview for the blog the Bluegrass Special, Lockwood discussed the difference between his band's performances and the original cantorial versions sung by his grandfather: "It's obviously the same piece," he said, "but his version is nonmetered, first of all—cantorial music doesn't have rhythm in the way we think of it—it's not pulse-based rhythm; it's rhythmic phrases. What they call the mawwal in Arabic music, the nonmetered improvisations." By contrast the Sway Machinery's renditions use an insistent pulse; though Lockwood stays true to the original texts and melody lines, it's easier to get a handle on the tunes when they're wedded to a fixed tempo. Lockwood leads a different quintet here, with only Bogie from the album's lineup. Members of Khaira Arby's band may sit in as well. —PM
Khaira Arby & Band She's been a major figure in Malian music for nearly two decades, but singer Khaira Arby is only now beginning to make inroads in the U.S., releasing the stunning Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont) and embarking on her first major North American tour. Legendary guitarist Ali Farka Toure was one of her cousins, and though you can hear the influence of his so-called desert blues in her music, she has her own hypnotic sound, one that also draws on the Tuareg traditions known to Americans largely through bands like Tinariwen—rhythms cycle past one another, shifting in and out of sync, with electric guitar, n'goni, and fiddle dancing through a thrilling give-and-take of solo lines, stabbing licks, and circular riffs. Yet as fantastic as her band is, Arby is unequivocally the focal point. She's got a strong, piercing voice that practically grabs you by the throat, and her ironclad pitch control can withstand her most forceful blasts of lung power; her occasional subtle use of melodic ornament does nothing to dilute her bluesy, granite-hard delivery. A few tracks on the album tangle with reggae or ramp up into a tougher electric sound, with several guitars slashing and jousting, but even then Arby burns brighter than everything around her. Timbuktu Tarab is one of the best records from Africa I've heard in years. —PM
7:30 PM | Logan Square Auditorium | $15, $12 in advance, 21+
Cimarron See Friday, September 24.
Joan Soriano See above.
8 PM | Mayne Stage | $15
"Indo-Afro-Flamenco" featuring Satya, Morikeba Kouyate, and the Gypsy Rhythm Project with Las Guitarras de España
9 PM | Martyrs' | $15, 21+
Emeline Michel Emeline Michel was born in Gonaives, Haiti, studied jazz in Detroit, and now divides her time between France, the U.S., and her homeland. Though she's been well-known for 20 years in the Caribbean as a singer of jazz, Afro-Caribbean music, R&B, and pop, many Americans heard her for the first time performing Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" on the Hope for Haiti Now telethon after the catastrophic earthquake this past winter. Her 2007 album Reine de Coeur (Cheval de Feu) makes me wish she'd shared one of her own Creole songs instead. She's sometimes compared to Joni Mitchell for the lightness and fluidity of her voice and her playful way of drawing out all the nuances of a phrase—she braids together sophistication and innocence, sorrow and joy, making her lyrics resonate even for listeners who don't understand a word of them. —MK