World Music Festival Chicago 2000 

The Chicago World Music Festival was a stunning success in its inaugural year: attendance surpassed the organizers' expectations, and the logistical difficulties of bringing in 40-some acts from around the globe to play a ten-day event with 12 different venues were largely invisible to the public. Most important, the quality and diversity of the music immediately established the fest as one of the premier musical events in the country.

This year the festival, which began on September 21, includes one more day and about ten more acts. A rather impressive 16 are making their Chicago debuts, and another four are performing for the first time in the United States. Once again the scope of the programming is promisingly broad, ranging from a night of hip-this-minute international electronica to a very rare performance of Korean shamanist music.

All the events are free and open to fans of all ages unless otherwise noted; $10 is the maximum ticket price, except for the closing-night concert by Chava Alberstein and Susana Baca at Symphony Center. In most cases advance tickets are available from the venues, and those wanting a preview can pick up an inexpensive ten-song sampler, issued by Big Chicago Records, at local record stores. A number of the musicians will give lunchtime concerts in the studio at the Museum of Broadcast Communications; these will be broadcast live on Continental Drift, the world-music show on Northwestern University's radio station, WNUR (89.3 FM).

One more thing: for those interested in talking as well as listening, there's a free panel discussion about the tension between traditionalism and fusion in world music. It takes place Friday, September 29, at noon in the Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater. The panelists are Amon Tobin, saxophonist Trevor Watts, Fethi Tabet of Comifo, Latin-jazz pianist Danilo Perez, festival organizer Michael Orlove, moderator Ben Harbert from the Old Town School of Folk Music, and yours truly. --Peter Margasak

12:30 PM, Museum of Broadcast Communications

Savina Yannatou & Primavera en Salonico

See below.

3 PM, Borders Books & Music

Mary Jane Lamond

See below.

6:30 PM, Chicago Cultural Center

Mary Jane Lamond & Liz Carroll

Mary Jane Lamond--who got an unexpected shot of fame when she sang on "Sleepy Maggie," the fluke hit by Nova Scotian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac in 1996--digs deep into the Gaelic song tradition for material but recasts the old tunes as thoroughly contemporary ethereal pop. Most often she augments her pretty voice with electronics, guitar filigree, and spare percussion, but she's been known to throw in everything from the Greek bouzouki to Indian tablas. For this performance she'll join forces with Chicagoan Liz Carroll, one of the world's finest Irish fiddlers. I don't usually have much stomach for traditional Irish music, but Carroll's playing on her recent Lost in the Loop (Green Linnet) is so spirited, fluid, and gracefully melodic that it made me a believer.

PM, HotHouse ($10; 21 and over)

Lila Downs

Born in Oaxaca to a Mixtec mother and an Anglo-American father, Lila Downs was raised in both Mexico and the U.S., and not surprisingly she grew up obsessed with cultural identity. After studying music and anthropology at the University of Minnesota, she went from bleaching her hair blond to wearing traditional Mixtec garb--she now resembles Frida Kahlo, with her jet black braids and colorful embroidered blouses--and began performing her beguiling blend of traditional Mexican music and North American jazz and pop. So thoroughly does she inhabit whatever form she's singing--be it a bolero, a smoky ballad, or a Mixtec folk song--that it's tough to distinguish between the traditional material and her originals on her new album, Tree of Life (Narada World). In some ways her work parallels that of Peruvian singer and musicologist Susana Baca (see October 1 entry), and though her voice isn't as strong as Baca's, she does more with it.

Savina Yannatou & Primavera en Salonico

Many singers from the strife-torn Mediterranean cling to national identity, but the remarkable vocalist Savina Yannatou interprets music from all over the region with great empathy on her beautiful U.S. debut, Mediterranea (Sounds True). She collected folk songs from 14 different cultures in Lebanon, Spain, Tunisia, Corsica, Israel, and Italy, and even went so far as to get immigrants living in Athens to help her learn the proper dialects to sing them in. Few listeners will actually be able to appreciate the full scope of this attention to detail, but anyone can enjoy Yannatou's incredible voice, which slides from ethereal wispiness to undulating throatiness with rare agility.

9:30 PM, the Hideout ($10; 21 and over)

Matapat

This trio takes loving liberties with the traditional music of French-speaking Quebec. The sound is somewhere between Celtic and Cajun, and though it won't be everyone's cup of tea (it's not mine), you've got to give it up for accordion player Benoit Bourque, who can also play the hell out of the spoons and whose nimble dancing reportedly adds greatly to the live show.

Mono Blanco

This charming folk group from Veracruz practices the jaunty style known as son jarocho, which is characterized by a mix of acoustic guitars, harp, and percussion--"La Bamba" grew out of this tradition. The piquant arpeggios played on the harp add an element of refined sweetness to the appealing raucousness of the passionately strummed guitars and soulful group vocals. In Veracruz the music is often performed at fandangos--hootenannies with lots of dancing--and the group's prior gigs at the Old Town School have inspired an approximation of that atmosphere.

Noon, Borders Books & Music

Savina Yannatou & Primavera en Salonico

See September 28 entry.

12:30 PM, Museum of Broadcast Communications

Lila Downs

See September 28 entry.

Sussan Deyhim

See September 30 entry.

7:30 PM, Old Town School ($10)

Mary Jane Lamond

See September 28 entry.

Lila Downs

See September 28 entry.

PM, Field Museum

Casolando

This local quartet, fronted by Colombian singer and guitarist Carlos Ortega, once specialized in a glitzy strain of flamenco-flavored Latin rock; on its sole album, 1997's Iliana (482 Music), the group sounds like Chicago's answer to the Gipsy Kings. Things have changed, although not necessarily for the better: the last Casolando performance I caught was filled with extended jamming informed as much by the Grateful Dead as by Santana.

Savina Yannatou & Primavera en Salonico

See September 28 entry.

9:30 PM, HotHouse ($10; 21 and over)

Nass Marrakech

The four core members of Nass Marrakech--Abdeljalil Kodssi, Moulay M'Hamed Ennaji, Abdelkebir Bensaloum, and Mohamed Bechar--either belong to Gnawa families or have close ties to them, and Gnawa music, characterized by the twangy three-stringed bass lute called the sintir, the clattering metal castanets called karkabas, and call-and-response vocals, dominates the group's recent Sabil 'a 'Salaam (Alula). Flourishes from around the world, including Hiroshi Kobayashi's haunting shakuhachi and Jordi Rallo's tabla and cajon (Peruvian box drum), are remarkably well integrated into the mesmerizing grooves, but the effect is to illustrate the cross-cultural commonalities rather than to emphasize eclecticism for its own sake.

Trevor Watts Moire Music Group

Improbable as it seems, here's a leading light of the British free jazz scene who's found his niche jamming over tight African funk grooves. Trevor Watts, an explosive, adventurous alto and soprano saxophonist, was a longtime partner of great percussionist John Stevens in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, which they cofounded. But in the 70s he also worked with South African drummer Louis Moholo, who as a member of the legendary Blue Notes had no problem adapting his freer impulses to the infectious groove of South African township jive. That experience rubbed off on Watts, who founded Moire Music in 1982 as the Moire Music Drum Orchestra. In the early versions of the group he improvised over fierce polyrhythms laid down by a phalanx of Ghanaian percussionists, a kit drummer, and an electric bassist; for these shows he'll be joined by his longtime bassist, the slightly fusiony Colin McKenzie, drummer Marc Parnell, Ghanaian percussionist Paapa Mensah, and, in a new twist, Colombian percussionist Roberto Pla Garcia.

9:30 PM, the Hideout ($10; 21 and over)

Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire

On last year's Oh! The Grandeur (Rykodisc), the Bowl of Fire's trademark blend of hot jazz and prewar American pop was starting to show signs of strain. Bird's theatrical crooning sounded painfully self-conscious, and often his voice failed to meet the demands he was putting on it. Still, his fiddling remains fantastic, and though I haven't heard what the Bowl of Fire's been up to lately, I'm digging the off-kilter grooves on the new album by Kevin O'Donnell's Quality Six--the ensemble led by Bowl of Fire's drummer and featuring all of its members.

Guillermo Anderson & Ceibana

Honduran singer-songwriter Guillermo Anderson, who hosts a Sesame Street-style children's revue in his native country, blends bouncy pop-rock melodies with Afro-Caribbean rhythms, from lilting reggae to the merenguelike shuffle of the Garifuna people. It's a spirited mix, but to me he sounds like a sort of Latino Jimmy Buffett.

10 PM, Double Door ($10; 21 and over)

Comifo

The French group Comifo is fronted by Algerian percussionist and oud player Fethi Tabet and includes a Tunisian guitarist, percussionists from Brazil and Senegal, and a bassist from Cameroon; its music reflects its diverse geographical origins, and any French flavor is negligible.

Los de Abajo

The Mexico City combo Los de Abajo swiped their name from a novel about the Mexican revolution, and "La ironia se abaco" ("The Irony Is Over") is dedicated to the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, but even if you don't speak Spanish, you can't miss the political indignation on their eponymously titled Luaka Bop debut. Amped-up salsa variations are intercut with blasts of ska, merengue, and cumbia in what seems more an expression of rapidly flowing creativity than a display of showy eclecticism. The seven-member band accents the infectious polyrhythms with punchy sax riffs, woozy accordion melodies, sweet flute toots, and searing guitar solos. The only weak point is the singing--Liber Teran can't always keep up with the band on the trickier tunes--but I doubt it'll be a problem live.

10 PM, Metro ($10; 18 and over, or 21 and over for Smart Bar performances)

T.S. Soundz (Smart Bar)

Over the past decade T.S. Soundz have slowly built an international reputation for euphoric, house-driven remixes of Indian filmi music, but earlier this year they released Typhoon Asha (Novo), their first album of original material. Compared with the ambitiously inclusive fusion of, say, Talvin Singh, the duo's debut sounds rather primitive--vaguely ethnic techno grooves are layered with Indian vocal snippets and the occasional Punjabi percussion loop. Here they'll be DJing.

U-Cef

Hip-hop has certainly caught on overseas, but more often than not when it's produced there it differs only timidly from the American model. Halalium (Apartment 22), the debut album from Moroccan musician and producer U-Cef (aka Youssef Adel), is an exception to the rule. U-Cef understands the music well enough to make it his own, employing hip-hop's cut-and-paste approach to an impressive mix of live instrumentation, sampling, beat programming, and multilingual rapping. Recorded over two years in London--where U-Cef has lived since 1994--and in various cities in Morocco, the album is sonically dense and bristles with energy. On "Gazel Fatma" a Moroccan violinist plays a haunting popular melody over a shifting morass of drones, guitar textures, shuffling drum 'n' bass, and a bass line thicker than a football player's neck; on the ominously slow "Hijra" the bass line is played on a sintir, a twangy three-stringed lute used in Gnawa music. New elements, including flamenco, dub, and house, are perpetually folded in. It's one of the most ambitious and best-executed fusions of ethnic traditionalism and urban futurism I've ever heard. Both of his performances at the festival (he's also at the MCA on September 30) will feature a percussionist and an MC.

Badawi (Smart Bar)

As half of the New York illbient outfit Sub Dub, Raz Mesinai swirled big reggae beats and floor-rumbling bass lines into a rhythmically disorienting funnel cloud. But as Badawi, on last year's The Heretic of Ether (Asphodel), the Israeli-born percussionist revealed that the music closest to his heart comes from the desert, not the dance floor. Flanked by a cellist and a violinist, he assembled a collection of lulling Bedouin drones, frame drum breakdowns, and stately, quasi-classical Arabic themes. He also proved that he's far more than a DJ and studio whiz, writing, arranging, and performing on a wide variety of percussion instruments and keyboards.

Karsh Kale With Sussan Deyhim

Like Badawi, Karsh Kale is more than just a DJ and producer. He's also an accomplished percussionist who's performed with artists as diverse as Hassan Hakmoun, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Arto Lindsay, Talvin Singh, and most recently Bill Laswell. His original work integrates many of the various threads he's explored with these more famous folks: on his EP Classical Science Fiction From India (Future Proof), he layers samples of Indian classical music with free-form tabla jams, ambient synth washes, ethereal Asian vocals, and punishing drum 'n' bass in dramatic arrangements that really do deserve to be called compositions. His set here will feature both his DJ skills and live electric tabla sections as well as the singing of the imaginative Sussan Deyhim (see September 30 entry).

DJ Sultan 32 (Smart Bar)

A member of Karsh Kale's clique.

Amon Tobin

It was pretty easy to trace the musical roots of Brazilian-born, London-based producer Amon Tobin on his 1997 double album, Bricolage (Ninja Tune)--a frenetic mix of drum 'n' bass, jazz samples, and batucada drumming assembled with the airiness of a samba. But the more recent Supermodified, a remarkably dense, rapidly shifting sampladelic tour de force, isn't quite so easy to crack. He seems to be distancing himself not just from his birthplace but also from any identifiable dance-music subgenre. The constantly morphing beats, elusive textures, sax licks, guitar-driven chord progressions, chopped up strings and piano riffs, brass blasts, and splatters of pure noise never settle into predictable patterns, but they do maintain a strangely logical flow.

10:30 AM, Field Museum (free with museum admission)

Chicago Samba

Close your eyes when Chicago Samba (formerly known as Chicago Samba School) plays highly percussive Carnaval music and you may find yourself transported to sunny Rio. But when the group attempts more lyrical styles like bossa nova or forro, it'll take you no further than the lounge of the O'Hare Hilton.

Casolando

See September 29 entry.

Wofa

The ten-member percussion-and-dance performance troupe Wofa (the name means "let's go" or "come together") was assembled seven years ago by Frenchman Francois Kokelaere from members of Guinea's Susu population, and if the reviews I've read are right, it puts on a seamless, rigorously choreographed display of sound and motion. On Guinee: Percussions & Chants de la Basse-Cote (Buda), the group employs quite an array of fascinating percussion instruments, from the wassakhoumba (castanets made from disks cut out of a calabash and assembled on a curved stick) to the kryin (a slit wooden drum played with sticks), and even without the female dancers, the complex web of polyrhythms is truly something to behold.

2 PM, Garfield Park Conservatory

Sikim

Sikim is a Korean ensemble assembled specifically to demonstrate sinawi--a strain of shamanist music from the southern provinces of Korea--at this festival. Sinawi recordings are hard to come by, and live performances are even more rare. From what I've gleaned, the musicians improvise over a set of fixed rhythmic patterns, and the unusual sounds produced by instruments like the p'iri (a bamboo oboe), the taegum (a flute), the haegum (a two-string fiddle), the ajaeng (a bowed zither), the kayagum (a 12-string zither), the ching (a gong), and the changgo (an hourglass drum) overlap and intertwine in sometimes spooky, sometimes exhilarating ways. The music starts out calm but builds in intensity, and can be discordant, chaotic, and serene, sometimes all at once--it's possible to draw parallels between it and high-level free jazz.

7:30 PM, Old Town School ($10)

Guillermo Anderson & Ceibana

See September 29 entry.

Nass Marrakech

See September 29 entry.

PM, Museum of Contemporary Art ($10)

Sussan Deyhim

Although vocalist Sussan Deyhim was born and raised in Iran, she's known best for her collaborations with keyboardist Richard Horowitz, which reimagine Moroccan music as computer-tweaked textural experiments. Her fluttery voice, which at times reminds me of the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser, has also turned up in a number of high-profile but vaguely New Agey projects, from Peter Gabriel's sound track to The Last Temptation of Christ to Loop Guru's Duniya: The Intrinsic Passion of Mysterious Joy to A Gift of Love, an album of Deepak Chopra and other celebrities reading Rumi to musical accompaniment. On her new solo disc, Madman of God (Crammed Discs), she addresses her roots more directly, interpreting famous Persian melodies originally composed around the writing of Sufi poets between the 11th and 19th centuries. The music is swaddled in studio effects, from rippling reverb to excessive overdubbing, but the synthetic haze can't quite obscure the gorgeous backing Deyhim gets from a support cast that includes jazz bassist Reggie Workman, frame drum specialist Glen Velez, and Asian Underground upstarts Raz Mesinai and Karsh Kale. The sounds they contribute extend well past the Middle East--namely to India and outer space. Here Deyhim fronts a quartet that includes Kale (see September 29 entry).

U-Cef

See September 29 entry.

10 PM, HotHouse ($10; 21 and over)

Wofa

See above.

Comifo

See September 29 entry.

10 PM, Empty Bottle ($10; 21 and over)

Trevor Watts Moire

Music Group

See September 29 entry.

Akwaaba Sound System

WNUR DJ Joe Germuska will spin world music.

10 PM, Double Door ($10; 21 and over)

Los de Abajo

See September 29 entry.

Mino Cinelu

Percussionist Mino Cinelu, who was born in France to a Martinican father, has worked with Miles Davis, Sting, Cassandra Wilson, Lou Reed, Dizzy Gillespie, Tori Amos, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and Gong, to name a few, and on his own debut album, Mino Cinelu (Blue Thumb), he brings his diverse experience to bear on his roots, undergirding shimmery, off-kilter hooks with compact Caribbean-flavored grooves. On the album he sings lead and backing vocals and plays most of the instruments, including guitars, bandoneon, and flute in addition to drums and percussion; here he'll get some help from guitarist Mitch Stein, bassist Tracy Wormworth, and DJ Nikodemus.

4 PM, Old Town School ($10)

Aashish Khan & Swapan Chaudhuri

Sarod player Aashish Khan, son of the legendary Ali Akbar Khan, has collaborated with George Harrison (on his infamous Wonderwall album), Alice Coltrane, and Charles Lloyd, but he's also well-known in his own right as a top-notch practitioner of Hindustani classical music. Since moving to the Chicago area in 1998 to teach music, he's rarely performed here. For this show he'll be joined by tabla master Swapan Chaudhuri, acclaimed recently for his participation in the Persian-Indian group Ghazal. The performance will be preceded by a free workshop in Carnatic dance, starting at noon, and a free introductory lecture about northern Indian classical music, starting at 2:30 PM. (For more info about Khan, see Post No Bills.)

2 PM, Garfield Park Conservatory

Guillermo Anderson & Ceibana

See September 29 entry.

3 PM, Chicago Cultural Center

Sikim

See September 30 entry.

3 PM, DuSable Museum of African American History

Wofa

See September 30 entry.

7:30 PM, Symphony Center ($10-$20)

Chava Alberstein

Israel's most popular singer, Chava Alberstein, is undeniably an international artist: her earliest inspiration was Pete Seeger, whom she saw when she was 12. And though she usually sings in Hebrew, backed by a slick Arabic-tinged blend of rock and pop, in its dark sophistication her voice bears some resemblance to Edith Piaf's. Yet over the course of three decades and more than 50 albums, she's frequently made a point of embracing Yiddish culture, which limits her audience even in Israel. Her latest U.S. release is Yiddish Songs (Hemisphere), a survey of traditional tunes set to bright orchestral arrangements with klezmerish instrumental flourishes, and in 1998 she teamed up with New York's Klezmatics on The Well (Xenophile), which set 20th-century Yiddish poetry to the band's revisionist mix of klezmer, jazz, and funk. In 1986 Alberstein began writing her own music, and stirred up a firestorm a few years later with "Chad Gadya" (featured on Crazy Flower: A Collection, from Shanachie), a traditional Passover song revamped to criticize Israel's treatment of the Palestinians during the intifada; the song often concludes her set to this day.

Susana Baca

For the last decade Susana Baca has made it her mission to conserve Afro-Peruvian music and culture, founding (with her Bolivian husband, Ricardo Pereira) the Instituto Negrocontinuo and traveling all over rural Peru to collect the pieces of a dying oral tradition from a marginalized population. But in this country, Baca is best known for her voice, and with good reason: in a performance this summer at HotHouse, she sang so expressively that my memory has all but translated the songs into English. Despite her academic motives, her music eludes tidy categorizations: she may be performing traditional Afro-Peruvian songs, but her gorgeous interpretations are equally informed by pop, soul, and salsa, and live her improvisational abilities match any jazz musician's.

:30 PM, HotHouse ($10; 21 and over)

Bobby Conn

Though he did cover Caetano Veloso's "Maria Bethania" on last year's Llovessonngs EP (Thrill Jockey), avant rocker Bobby Conn hasn't quite broken into the world-music market yet. But he's an appealingly perverse, go-for-broke entertainer--part glam rocker, part carnival barker, part gospel singer, part performance artist, part Vegas crooner--and in a way his open-mindedness is in perfect keeping with the spirit of the World Music Festival. He's been working on a new album for nearly a year, and will perform some of the material here with a six-piece band (see Spot Check for details).

Mino Cinelu

See September 30 entry.

Borders Books & Music

830 N. Michigan

312-573-0564

Chicago Cultural Center

78 E. Washington

312-744-6630

Chopin Theatre

1543 W. Division

773-278-1500

Double Door

1572 N. Milwaukee

773-489-3160

DuSable Museum of African American History

740 E. 56th Pl.

773-947-0600

Empty Bottle

1035 N. Western

773-276-3600

Field Museum of Natural History

1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.

312-665-7400

Garfield Park Conservatory

300 N. Central Park

312-746-5100

The Hideout

1354 W. Wabansia

773-227-4433

HotHouse

31 E. Balbo

312-362-9707

Metro

3730 N. Clark

773-549-0203

Museum of Broadcast Communications

See Chicago Cultural Center

Museum of Contemporary Art

220 E. Chicago

312-397-4010

Old Town School of Folk Music

4544 N. Lincoln

773-728-6000

Symphony Center

220 S. Michigan

312-294-3000

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Craig & Judith Kolb/Fernando Valesco/Sybille Castelain/Wilfrid Berger/Maria Dawlat/Barron Claiborne.

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More by Peter Margasak

Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera Northwestern University Block Museum of Art
September 17
Performing Arts
Krampus! Underground Wonder Bar
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