African Festival of the Arts | Music Sidebar | Chicago Reader

African Festival of the Arts 

Featuring Ahmad Jamal, Ohio Players, the Pharcyde, Booker T. Jones, and George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic

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Ahmad Jamal

Ahmad Jamal

The city's largest summer neighborhood festival returns to Washington Park at 51st and Cottage Grove this Friday through Monday for its 20th annual installment. Presented by the Africa International House, the African Festival of the Arts attracts roughly 250,000 visitors and features several stages of music—funk, hip-hop, jazz, gospel, soul, blues, African music—with top-notch performers headlining every night. Friday's highlights include traditional African dance demonstrations early in the day and, in the evening, K'Don and the Ohio Players (don't blame them for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' cover of "Love Rollercoaster"). Saturday's headliners are reunited LA hip-hop oddballs the Pharcyde and Grammy-winning soul man Booker T. Jones; Sunday's schedule features Congolese dance band the Soukous Stars and veteran jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal. Closing out the festival on Monday are South African singer Lorraine Klaasen and the inimitable George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. Various pavilions on the grounds offer fine art, film screenings, children's activities, readings and book signings, quilting lessons, and consultations with African priests, herbalists, and spiritualists; other attractions include a Drum Village, a Health and Wellness Village, and a massive African marketplace with more than 300 craftspeople and vendors selling jewelry, beads, masks, fabrics, furniture, musical instruments, and more. The cuisine of the African diaspora—American soul food, Caribbean food, African food—will be for sale throught the festival. Hours are 10 AM till 10 PM each day, but the music doesn't start till 12:15 PM on Friday, 1:30 PM on Saturday and Sunday, and 11:45 AM on Monday. Admission is $10 in advance or $15 at the gate; seniors over 65 and children under 12 are $5. For more info, call 773-955-2787 or visit

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