African Festival of the Arts | Music Sidebar | Chicago Reader

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African Festival of the Arts

Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo, and Tito Jackson are among the featured performers this Labor Day weekend in Washington Park.


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The African Festival of the Arts, presented by the Africa International House, claims to attract more than 250,000 people each year, which makes it one of Chicago's largest summer neighborhood fests. Its 21st installment, which runs Fri 9/3 through Mon 9/6 in Washington Park (51st and Cottage Grove), features an eclectic mix of notable musicians. Among the highlights on opening night are nu-jazz vocalist Julie Dexter and local house DJ Steve "Miggedy" Maestro. Saturday's schedule includes Beninese singer and activist Angelique Kidjo, percussion ensemble Tambours Sans Frontieres, and the one and only Tito Jackson. Sunday's lineup features R&B singer Avant, pop-jazz flutist and vocalist Bobbi Humphrey, and more, and on Monday the festival wraps up in style with a headlining performance by indomitable R&B and funk queen Chaka Khan. Pavilions throughout the park offer film screenings, spoken word and readings, children's activities, and conversations with African priests, herbalists, and spiritualists. Other amenities include a Drum Village, a Health and Wellness Village, and an enormous African Marketplace with more than 300 craftspeople and vendors. A blues pavilion features panel discussions, performances, and jam sessions from 1-5:30 PM each day. Festival hours are 10 AM till 10 PM, and the music starts early: 11:45 AM Friday, noon Saturday through Monday. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the gate; seniors over 65 and children under 12 are admitted for $5. For more info, call 773-955-2787 or visit

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