The 2014 installment has plenty of terrific acts, but what's missing is the sense of adventure that distinguished the fest's early days. Most of the touring artists appearing this year are operating more or less within a world-music infrastructure that involves biz showcases for talent buyers and programmers—Europe's WOMEX Festival, for instance, or New York's GlobalFest. There's nothing inherently wrong with that system, and working outside it can be an impossible proposition for an artist without an agent and label in the West, but I miss seeing the WMF book projects such as the Mbira Ensemble in 1999 (for which musicologist Paul Berliner recruited some of Zimbabwe's greatest traditional players) or Brazilian samba group Orquestra Imperial in 2005. But if the city won't hire librarians for public schools, I guess we can't expect it to spend extra money on this.
The festival opens with a big splash, presenting four concerts at Pritzker Pavilion from Thu 9/11 through Sun 9/14: Mali's Vieux Farka Toure and Niger's Bombino (Thursday), Quebec's La Bottine Souriante and Cuba's Pablo Menendez & Mezcla (Friday), Nigeria's Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and Honduran Garifuna musician Aurelio Martinez (Saturday), and Chicago-based Romanian expat Nicolae Feraru & His Gypsy Band and a collaboration between Trinidad's Calypso Rose and Canada's Kobo Town (Sunday). As usual, the music ends with the daylong One World Under One Roof mini fest at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Other highlights include Wu-Force (a collaborative project that includes progressive Evanston-raised folk artist Abigail Washburn and Chinese guzheng player Wu Fei), unstoppable Balkan brass force Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar, a 24-hour celebration of Indian classical music called Ragamala, Malian desert-blues practitioner Oumar Konate, Hungarian roots group Söndörgö, Tunisian thrush Emel Mathlouthi, and Vietnamese-American dan tranh zither master Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ. You can browse the full schedule on the city's website. As usual, the Reader will run a guide to the festival in September.
Below you can check out an extended 2013 performance by Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar at the legendary Guca Trumpet Festival in Serbia.
Lou Reed, Coney Island Baby (RCA/Legacy)
John Zorn, At the Gates of Paradise (Tzadik)
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, Conrad Bauer, Ulrich Gumpert, and Günter Sommer, Snyopsis (Amiga)
Dirtbombs, Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey! (In the Red)
Evangelista, Prince of Truth (Constellation)