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The Reader's Guide to the World Music Festival Chicago 2005

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The big news about this year's World Music Festival is that there really isn't any news. Michael Orlove of the Department of Cultural Affairs, who's organized all seven festivals, says that this year's process was the smoothest yet--visas came through, and for the most part artists kept their commitments. (There was just one last-minute cancellation, by Venezuela's Simon Diaz.) The only serious trouble came early in the year, when Orlove was trying to settle on a lineup: the low value of the dollar against many foreign currencies meant that a number of overseas artists couldn't offset the financial liabilities of making the trip without booking several more stateside gigs. Serbia's Boris Kovac, India's Jaipur Kawa Brass Band, and Spain's Son de la Frontera were among those who declined invitations from the city.

The final schedule is still the strongest in years, though, and includes several acts that seem certain to cross over to a more mainstream audience soon--Brazil's Seu Jorge, Mali's Amadou & Mariam, France's Nouvelle Vague--as well as many more who are steadfastly upholding ancient traditions, like China's Qing Mei Jing Yue, India's Sidi Goma, and Palestine's Trio Joubran. Many of the acts based in the States seem to have been chosen not because it's relatively easy to get them to Chicago but because they're genuinely groundbreaking: New York's Balkan Beat Box is at the forefront of the inter-national Balkan underground scene, and Cuban expat Juan-Carlos Formell is developing an original singer-songwriter take on boleros and trovas.

The unofficial focus is on Brazil. The fest has booked plenty of Brazilian performers in the past six years, but in quantity and quality the current offerings probably match all of them put together: Seu Jorge, Badi Assad, Celso Fonseca, Wilson das Neves, and Domenico + 2 will all give hotly anticipated performances, and Domenico + 2 will also participate in a one-off collaboration with locals On Fillmore. The most important event, though, is surely the Millennium Park gig by Orquestra Imperial, a big-band revue of some of the country's best talent.

As usual the festival takes place at many different venues around the city, and events are free and all-ages unless otherwise noted. Advance tickets to shows with an admission fee are normally available from the venues; for more information call the city's World Music Festival hotline at 312-742-1938 or visit cityofchicago.org/WorldMusic. The early weekday performances at the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater (Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) and Preston Bradley Hall (Thursday) will be broadcast live on local radio: Loyola's WLUW (88.7 FM) will air the 11 AM concerts, and the 12:30 PM shows will be heard as part of Continental Drift on Northwestern University's WNUR (89.3 FM).

R = recommended

Friday 16

11 AM, Claudia Cassidy Theater

Lura

R If you've only heard one piece of music from the Cape Verde Islands, a former Portuguese colony off the west coast of Africa, chances are it was morna sung by Cesaria Evora, the undisputed master of that beautiful, sorrowful song form. Similar to Portuguese fado, it's the dominant style on Sao Vicente, Evora's island, but hardly the only one from Cape Verde: much of the music on Lura's third release, Di korpu ku alma (Escondida), is a more upbeat, African-derived style called batuku, developed on the island of Santiago, where her father was raised. (Lura herself was born in the Cape Verdean immigrant community in Lisbon.) The album is slick and bright rather than rustic, with thoroughly contemporary arrangements, but the unique rhythms--from the batuku, a galloping clop that was once beaten out by women on folded stacks of clothing, to the funana, traditionally driven by the seductive rhythmic scraping of knives--still provide a broad window on the traditional music of Cape Verde. And Lura's voice would be enough to hold my attention all by itself: on the brisk "Vazulina," about a young girl digging through rubble for coins so she can afford to get her hair straightened, she juggles tricky phrases with the precision and grace of a veteran jazz singer, and on the album's token morna, "Tem um hora pa tude," creates a deep melancholy that almost rivals Evora's.

Trio Joubran

R Samir Joubran, a Palestinian oud master born and raised in Nazareth, Israel, says his group was inspired by the popular guitar trio of Al DiMeola, Paco de Lucia, and John McLaughlin, which blended jazz, rock, and flamenco with daring improvisatory flair. Trio Joubran plays within the Arabic classical tradition but breaks some of its rules at the same time--most notably the convention that only one musician improvise at a time. Arabic improvisation, called taqsim, usually works a bit like the soloing in a hard-bop tune: the ensemble states the theme together, then accompanies a series of players as they take turns stepping up. But Joubran and his younger brothers Adnan and Wissam--the latter of whom has followed family tradition to become a luthier, and built the instruments they play--all cut loose at once on their new Randana (Randana). Both their originals and their renditions of classic songs combine the sorrowful beauty, stately grace, and splendid microtonal detail of traditional Arabic music with unexpected turns, crisp dynamic shifts, and charged, spontaneous interplay. Instead of turning to popular music to stretch out, the way so many other Arabic musicians have, this group is sticking with the tradition and expanding it from the inside.

12:15 PM, RANDOLPH CAFE

Celso Fonseca

R For two decades singer and guitarist Celso Fonseca has been a ubiquitous behind-the-scenes presence in Brazil: he's produced albums by Virginia Rodrigues, Gilberto Gil, and Daude, among others, and the likes of Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, and Carlinhos Brown have covered his tunes. Though he's also been making his own records for most of that time, his performing career only began to take off a few years ago. Fonseca is a devotee of bossa nova in its purest form, but he's hardly a revivalist: inspired by guitarist Baden Powell, who opened up the genre's already liberal sense of harmony even further, he pushes the music gently into novel territory. On "Perdi," from the recent Rive Gauche Rio (Ziriguiboom/Six Degrees), he sneaks in sly accents plucked from a whimsical mix of sampled sounds--some indistinguishable from conventional percussion, some more like whispering birds--and on a cover of the Damien Rice mopefest "Delicate" he livens things up with lighter-than-air vocals and Ramiro Musotto's pulsing hand percussion. Still, the essence of Fonseca's music is the elegant interplay between feather-stroke singing and deeply rhythmic guitar playing--the same combination that made Joao Gilberto sound so revolutionary in the late 50s. This is Fonseca's solo debut in Chicago, and he'll play unaccompanied.

12:30 PM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Celso Pina

R This accordionist from the slums of Monterrey, Mexico, became a star in the late 80s playing cumbia--a regional style imported from Colombia that, much like norteno, banda, and ranchera, remains popular with the working class--but lately he's become an unlikely icon to some of his country's most forward-looking rock bands. A few years ago he started working with Control Machete DJ Toy Hernandez, who'd developed an obsession with the sort of old-school cumbia he played, and in 2001 Hernandez produced the single that made him an overnight sensation: "Cumbia sobre el Rio," like many tracks Pina has cut since, turns the loping feel of cumbia into a big, galloping beat and adds dubby vocal interjections, rapped lyrics, and throbbing, seesawing bass. The album it was drawn from, Barrio Bravo (Warner Music Latina), features contributions from an all-star roster of adventurous Mexican bands--Control Machete, El Gran Silencio, Cafe Tacuba, King Chango's Blanquito Man--as well as a cumbia-inflected Spanish-language cover of the Gilberto Gil favorite "So quero um xodo." Pina's latest release, El canto de un rebelde para un rebelde (EMI International), dispenses with the guest stars, but he's still nonchalantly incorporating more of the offshoots and fusions of cumbia, including cumbia batacuda and vallenato reggae. The album's loaded with Cuban revolutionary imagery--Pina wears a Che Guevara-style beret on the cover and refers to himself as "El Rebelde del Acordeon"--but given that he still lives the way he did before his success, in the same modest house in the roughest part of town, I'm not inclined to criticize him for his conflation of musical iconoclasm and political revolt.

Lila Downs

The daughter of a Mixtec Indian mother from Mexico and an Anglo father from Minnesota, singer Lila Downs named her latest album Una sangre (Narada) in part to remind us that all Americans are of mixed blood. She explores traditional music from both sides of the Rio Grande, paying special attention to the folklore of her native Oaxaca, but unfortunately Una sangre is burdened with overstuffed arrangements and awkward stylistic collisions--unwelcome distractions from her voice, with its stunning range and throaty soulfulness.

6 PM, BORDERS ON NORTH

Juan-Carlos Formell

R Juan-Carlos Formell clearly wants to earn his reputation, not inherit it: the press materials for his new solo album, Cemeteries & Desire (Narada), say only that his father is the "leader of a popular dance band in Cuba." (That'd be the influential Los Van Van, which laid the foundation for contemporary timba music.) Formell was raised by his paternal grandmother and taught himself to play guitar, but aside from the Spanish-language lyrics his songs have no real connection to Cuban dance music. Instead he's squarely in the singer-songwriter tradition, writing modern boleros and updated trovas, the equivalent of country music in his homeland; his delicate vocals and nimble guitar playing also suggest bossa nova, with its complex accent patterns and unusual harmonies.

6 PM, BORDERS ON MICHIGAN

Amadou & Mariam

R Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia, a blind couple from Mali who've been married for nearly 30 years and making music together for most of them, have long fused the region's traditional music with American blues and soul. Bagayoko was blinded by cataracts at age 15, but not before a long stint playing guitar in Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, one of the country's greatest modern bands and also home to Salif Keita and Kante Manfila during its long history. That experience seems to have primed him to find pathways to many other styles, and on his three previous albums with Doumbia they've pulled off daring fusions--like funking up the circular Malian blues popularized by Ali Farka Toure with an arsenal of instruments from around the world, including horns, tabla, violin, the sweet-voiced Portuguese cavaquinho, and the Arabic zither called the kanun--but their current record, Dimanche a Bamako (Nonesuch), tops them all. It's not only their most coherent and confident effort (and their biggest commercial success in their adopted homeland of France) but one of the best records I've heard all year. The killer production by Franco-Iberian pop star Manu Chao reflects the duo's deep African roots while incorporating a wide variety of international sounds, and for the first time the music's character doesn't end up smothered by overloud bass and squared-off, foregrounded drums. At times Chao's fingerprints are obvious--looping sirens, deliberately dinky drum programs, samples from language-instruction tapes--but even on the several songs he helped write, he doesn't obscure the couple's personalities. Instead he frames the duo's beautifully complementary voices--Bagayoko gruff, bluesy, and nasal, Doumbia gentle, fluttering, and sweet--with buoyant textures and varied melodic conceits. My one complaint would be that Bagayoko's guitar playing is limited to a series of brief licks, rather than the extended solos he excels at--but I'm confident he'll stretch out here.

6:30 PM, PRITZKER PAVILION

R Celso Pina y Su Ronda Bogota

See above. For this show Pina is accompanied by his regular band.

Mariachi Perla de Mexico

After Lila Downs (see above) performs a set of original material with her own band, she'll sing traditional Mexican songs backed by the 12-member Chicago group Mariachi Perla de Mexico--a smart booking decision by the festival's organizers, since the familiar sounds of a straight-up mariachi band won't get in the way of Downs's wonderful voice the way her own fussy arrangements sometimes do.

Lila Downs

See above.

Banda Manzanera

R One of the best bills from last year's World Music Festival paired two very different brass bands: Banda Manzanera, founded in Mexico and now based in Chicago, and the Boban Markovic Orkestar. Manzanera's larger-than-life arrangements, virtuousic playing, and infectious exuberance not only blew away the unsuspecting crowd--many of whom were Serbian and had clearly come to see the headliner--but also caught Markovic's ear. Several members of Manzanera stayed onstage during the Orkestar's set, waving towels and dancing in the wings, and after one number Markovic ran over and gave them all high fives. The CD-R I've heard is disappointingly tinny, like most banda recordings, but the band's live sound is titanic--and at this all-Mexican show, which combines several of the country's most popular genres, the audience isn't likely to need much winning over.

PM, OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC $12

R Trio Joubran

See above.

Riffat Sultana

R Riffat Sultana is the daughter of legendary Pakistani singer Salamat Ali Khan, and she and her brothers Sukhawat, Ahafqat, and Sharafat all grew up singing Pakistani and Indian classical music. But her father, mindful of traditional Islamic proscriptions against female performers, didn't let her take the stage for years. It wasn't till the early 90s, when she and Sukhawat convinced their father to let them stay in the Bay Area after a stateside tour, that she began to perform--and even then she did so clandestinely at first. But by 1995 she and her brother had formed the Ali Khan Band with guitarist Richard Michos, one of their father's students, and in 1996 they made a name for themselves collaborating with DJ and producer Cheb I Sabbah for the disc Shri Durga. Since renamed Shabaz, the group has continued to release albums, but their dated, electronics-heavy dance-floor production style does a disservice both to the traditional elements in the music and to the powerful vocals--a fact underlined by the trio Sultana founded last year with Ferhan Najeeb Qureshi on tabla and Michos, now her husband, on 12-string acoustic guitar. This group's gentle, pop-accented settings leave her singing plenty of space, both on original material and the occasional qawwali tune or light classical standard.

PM, WBEZ 91.5 FM

Waldemar Bastos

R See September 17. This is a live radio broadcast rather than a public performance; Bastos makes his first concert appearance Saturday.

9 PM, HOTHOUSE $12, 21+

R Lura

See above.

R Celso Fonseca

See above.

10 PM, EMPTY BOTTLE $10, 21+

Nomo

This Detroit-based Afrobeat combo, led by multi-instrumentalist Elliot Bergman and usually at least 15 members strong, doesn't make any attempt to hide its debt to Fela Kuti. On the group's self-titled Ypsilanti Records debut, produced by Warren Defever of His Name Is Alive, chantlike lines from the tightly clustered horns combine with propulsive, funky drumming to create deep grooves that use the force of repetition to push through to ecstasy; swaggering keyboard and guitar solos ripple through the din, but the emphasis remains less on individual showmanship than on the steamrolling ensemble sound. Like the Daktaris and Antibalas, two post-Fela bands from New York, Nomo brings bits of jazz and soul into the mix, but the effect is much less appealing here: "Moving in Circles" is mediocre as a soul tune, and Bergman's lyrics--mostly hippie-dippy peace bromides--are embarrassing enough that when the group brings down the hammer later in the song, it's hard not to suspect that the idea is to wipe them from your brain. Luckily the bulk of the band's material is strictly instrumental.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

R The members of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble aren't your average buskers. All eight are sons of the great Kelan Phil Cohran, who played trumpet with Sun Ra, cofounded the AACM, and led the Artistic Heritage Ensemble, whose mid-60s work has been an enormous influence on much of the African-flavored music to come out of Chicago since, from Earth, Wind & Fire to Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio. He's also taught his sons music for much of their lives, beginning as soon as they were old enough to hold their instruments. Though the brothers are still selling their CDs on sidewalks, I'm sure there's a record deal in their future--they're far and away the city's best street musicians, playing tunes that combine the rowdy syncopated feel of funky New Orleans brass-band music with the precision, intricacy, and harmonic richness of modern jazz.

10 PM, SONOTHEQUE $12, 21+

DJ Ron Trent

About a year ago Chicago-born DJ Ron Trent and Sonotheque's Sonia Hassan teamed up for a monthly series called "Africa Hi-Fi," intending to expose the African roots of modern pop and dance music. I've heard Trent's mix from March, and though it's of dubious value as an anthropological document, it does demonstrate a lot of cross-cultural borrowing: house-based tracks incorporate Mande singing, roots reggae, Latin rhythms, and flashes of Afrobeat. Trent is one of the most in-demand house DJs in the world, and his own recent discs follow a pattern similar to that of his club sets--Olajope (Six Degrees), a collaboration with Groove Collective reedist Jay Rodriguez, is a smooth and soulful addition to the Nuyorican house canon, with cameos by Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes and New York percussionist Eddie Bobe.

Future World Funk

Future World Funk, aka British DJs Michael "Cliffy" Clifford and Russ Jones, ignore standard operating procedure in the highly competitive and hyperspecialized world of club music, where finding a niche and defending it against all comers is often the name of the game. The duo's most recent mix, the two-disc set On the Run (Ether), skips all over the globe: there's Afrobeat, Jamaican dancehall, Brazilian forro, crossover merengue, and Indian brass-band music, to pick just a few. They're not particularly fastidious about authenticity--just about everything has been remixed to favor a four-on-the-floor club beat--but it's always good to hear DJs using international sounds for something other than superficial ornamentation.

Saturday 17

NOON, GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY

Kusun Ensemble

Most African music-and-dance troupes that make it to America are so carefully prepped for Western audiences that I often wonder if I couldn't get a better feel for the original traditions by reading a library book. I've only seen a short DVD from Ghana's Kusun Ensemble, but there's a refreshing looseness in the group's exuberant, acrobatic moves--krumping's got nothing on this stuff. It's not that they aren't carefully rehearsed--the focus just seems to be on the crispness and energy of the dances, not on wrapping them in a big showbiz production. The ensemble's music--traditional percussion, melodic singing, and funky, infectiously fluid guitar--is a fine backdrop for the choreography, and I could even enjoy listening to it on its own.

NOON, ROGERS PARK WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL

Samarabalouf

Founded in 2000 by guitarist Francois Petit, this instrumental outfit from Amiens, France, has filled its tank with the high-octane Gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt, though some of the tunes also incorporate subtle flashes of Middle Eastern harmony or hooky melodies that'd be right at home in rock or blues. The music's accessible and entertaining, if not adventurous or original: Petit solos over malleable grooves from upright bassist Luc Ambry and second guitarist Pierre Margerin, but his concise, fiercely rhythmic improvising never strays outside the frameworks established by the compositions. The group recently became a quartet, adding Arnaud Van Lancker on accordion.

1 PM, BORDERS ON MICHIGAN

Waldemar Bastos

RIn 1998, when Waldemar Bastos released his previous album, Pretaluz (Luaka Bop), his homeland of Angola was wracked by a civil war more than two decades old. But in the intervening years hostilities ended, and Bastos, who's lived in Lisbon, Portugal, since 1982, began making visits in 2003, giving a triumphant performance that year in the capital city of Luanda. On Pretaluz he sang almost exclusively of the war and the ways it had ravaged Angola's beauty, but a muted optimism permeates the new Renascence (Times Square), which celebrates the perseverance of Angolans and describes his powerful emotions upon returning home after years of exile. His gorgeous, slightly feminine voice turns out to be just as well suited to astonished joy as it was to crushing sadness: on "Pitanga Madurinha," one of the disc's most upbeat tunes, he sounds unsure about whether to believe his own eyes, singing, "Along the byways of my land I went dreaming / I wandered, and saw the houses, my friends, my friends in peace, in peace." As on his earlier recordings, liquid electric guitars reflect the influence of Congolese rumba, but the bubbly, syncopated rhythms are pure Bantu. A Turkish string section also enhances a few tracks, providing an unexpected touch of Chicago-style soul--"Esperanca" sounds an awful lot like the Isaac Hayes version of "Walk On By." At the first World Music Festival back in 1999, Bastos was stunning, his performances a mix of breathtaking beauty and inconsolable sadness; I'm eager to hear how the developments in his homeland have changed him.

3 PM, BORDERS ON BROADWAY

R Lura

See September 16.

3:30 PM, ELI'S CHEESECAKE FESTIVAL

Nomo

See September 16.

4 PM, GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY

A Moving Sound

The repertoire of this Taiwanese group is thick with Chinese folk tunes, and though their recordings are a bit glossy and poppy, that doesn't spoil the graceful melodies of singer Mia Hsieh or the elegant erhu lines of Cheng-Chun Wu. But guest players like Brazilian percussionist Eduardo Campos and Belgian guitarist Pieter Thys never quite blend into the music or add much to it, and American coleader Scott Prairie--he and Hsieh are husband and wife and founded the band together--frequently torpedoes the songs outright with his out-of-place French horn lines, treacly English folk-pop warble, and self-conscious wordless vocals.

4 PM, NAVY PIER

Vishten

This French-Acadian quartet from Prince Edward Island, formed in 2000, has developed an accomplished ensemble interplay and a polished repertoire of Irish, Scottish, and French folk songs. Nimble, airy rhythms crafted by guitarist and bassist Remi Arsenault and guest pianist Megan Bergeron provide solid support for unison lines, deft counterpoint, and extended solos by Emmanuelle LeBlanc (bodhran, flute), Pastelle LeBlanc (accordion), and Pascal Miousee (violin, mandolin), and Emmanuelle adds sweet, pop-tinged vocals that don't destroy the music's rustic flavor. Onstage the members incorporate spontaneous outbursts of dance into their performances, aiming to capture the feel of what they call a "kitchen party"--and each sits on a wooden box that doubles as a percussion instrument and a dancing platform.

4 PM, ROGERS PARK WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL

R Riffat Sultana

See September 16.

5 PM, ELI'S CHEESECAKE FESTIVAL

Golem

On its latest disc, Homesick Songs (Aeronaut), this fun-loving New York sextet plays theatrical klezmer colored with traces of rock and cabaret. Founder and lead singer Annette Ezekiel sings a bit like Dagmar Krause doing a Lotte Lenya impersonation, and she's at least as talented as a musicologist: to build up Golem's repertoire she not only raids old Yiddish songbooks from American and eastern European shtetls but also visits immigrant and elderly New York Jews and reconstructs songs from their memories. The band also includes second vocalist Aaron Diskin--who might be a little too theatrical--bassist Taylor Bergen-Chrisman, trumpeter David Griffin, violinist Alicia Jo Rabins of the Mammals, and superb jazz trombonist Curtis Hasselbring of Slavic Soul Party.

6 PM, SOUTH SHORE CULTURAL CENTER

Kusun Ensemble

See above. This event opens with an hourlong dance workshop.

7 PM, HOTHOUSE $12, 21+

Regina Orozco

I don't speak Spanish, and I'm sure that's why I don't understand the appeal of this celebrated Mexican actress and opera singer. Orozco's album La mega bizcocho is campy, theatrical pop, tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top--only her wild vocal histrionics hold together the reckless mishmash of cabaret, funk, torch songs, and traditional regional styles like norteno and son jarocho. The interstitial skits sound pretty gonzo, but I can't say whether they're funny--and on a purely musical level there's little for me to recommend here.

R Juan-Carlos Formell

See September 16.

PM, OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC $12

R Waldemar Bastos

See above.

R Lura

See September 16.

9 PM, HIDEOUT $10

Nomo with Nicole Mitchell & Fred Anderson

See September 16. For this performance, part of the Hideout's annual Block Party, Nomo will be joined by flutist Nicole Mitchell and tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, both AACM heavies and first-rate improvisers.

9 PM, PARK WEST $15, 18+

R Amadou & Mariam

See September 16.

Boubacar Traore

R In the early 60s singer and guitarist Boubacar "Kar Kar" Traore became a minor legend in his homeland with the huge hit "Mali Twist." All it really owes to the Chubby Checker smash, though, is half its title: it's not about a dance but rather makes a plea to his fellow Malians to rebuild their country after years of colonialism and warfare. The song was ubiquitous, but Traore didn't see much money from it and eventually settled into life as a tailor and farmer. In 1987 journalists "discovered" him and cajoled him into cutting some new tracks--which stunned fellow Malians who'd assumed he was dead--but not long after that his wife passed on and he took construction jobs abroad to support his family. The music business wasn't through with him, though: after a British producer tracked him down in France a couple years later he started playing again and hasn't stopped since. He's in his mid-60s now, but on Kongo Magni (World Village), his first new studio album in five years, his power is undiminished. His music shares some traits with that of his countryman Ali Farka Toure, with its bluesy, insistently circling acoustic guitar, but Traore plays with a lighter touch, masterfully twining spontaneous licks into his sturdy, looping figures. There's also a tenderness to his voice that's missing in the singing of Malian bluesmen like Lobi Traore and Habib Koite--and it'll be front and center at his Chicago performances, where he's accompanied only by his own guitar and by Kandiamoudou Kouyate on calabash, a giant gourd that provides great low-end thumps.

10 PM, SCHUBAS $12, 21+

Nouvelle Vague

R On paper this concept band, brainchild of Parisian producers Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, sounds like a silly idea from a pair of self-satisfied smart-asses. The French phrase "Nouvelle Vague" is usually translated "new wave" in English and "bossa nova" in Portuguese, so Collin and Libaux, inspired by this noncoincidence, hired a slew of young French chanteuses to deliver breezy, Brazilian-style readings of punk and new-wave songs. Nouvelle Vague's self-titled debut on Luaka Bop doesn't always play by its own rules--Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" gets a Vic Godard-style lounge treatment, and the Clash's "Guns of Brixton" sounds like a down-and-out Weimar cabaret ditty. But almost all the reinventions add something to the original, and the consistently heartfelt and inspired vocal performances seem aimed squarely at everyone who's skeptical of the disc's too-clever conceit. Camille, one of the better singers, plays the Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck" for laughs in a way Jello Biafra never could, her voice dripping with boozy insouciance, and the bossa nova beat on the Sisters of Mercy's "Marian" dispels a bit of the song's gothic gloom, even if it can't make it sound much less dull. Some of the best covers are of fairly well-known songs like XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel," but more often than not it's relative obscurities--Tuxedomoon's "In a Manner of Speaking," Josef K's "Sorry for Laughing"--that turn out to be gorgeous pop tunes when stripped of their dated musical trappings and dressed in new clothes. Two singers are accompanying the group for this tour: Melanie Pain (who's on the record) and Phoebe Tolmer (who isn't).

A Moving Sound

See above.

Sunday 18

1 PM, BORDERS ON 53RD

R Boubacar Traore

See September 17.

1 PM, NAVY PIER

Nachito Herrera & the Bembe Band

Pianist Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera is an exemplary product of Cuba's sophisticated music-education system: he was playing Rachmaninoff with the Havana Symphony Orchestra at age 12 and performing with Buena Vista Social Club pianist Ruben Gonzalez four years later. He went on to lead the touring version of the legendary Tropicana Orchestra and serve as pianist and musical director for trumpeter Jesus Alemany's Cubanismo. But in 2001 Herrera defected and settled in Minneapolis, where he assembled this sextet with other Cuban expats. On the brand-new Bembe en mi casa (FS Music) he distances himself from the more traditional projects he'd pursued back home, instead mixing aggressive Latin jazz with touches of timba, one of Cuba's most popular dance forms. The musicianship is top-notch across the ensemble, but between the relentless balls-out playing and the cranked-up fusion elements in the sound, there's barely any breathing room in the tunes--in particular kit drummer Raul Pineda always sounds like he's trying to break down a door, no matter what the setting actually calls for. When Herrera takes a different approach, though, the result is hardly an improvement: he enlists the Minneapolis Philharmonic for a cover of the Orestes Lopez number "Llegaron los millonarios," which borrows heavily from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, and the arrangement is one of the cheesiest I've ever heard.

2 PM, CLARKE HOUSE MUSEUM

Golem

See September 17.

3 PM, NAVY PIER

Kusun Ensemble

See September 17.

3 PM, BORDERS ON CLARK

Balkan Beat Box

R Plugged into the same grid as Gypsy punks Gogol Bordello, this wild New York group jacks up eastern European folk with bass-heavy electronics, tearing into klezmer, Balkan melodies, and Turkish traditional music with a combination of feral recklessness and careful craftsmanship. Formed in 2003 by former Gogol Bordello reedist Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat, the Firewater drummer who produced last year's Gogol Bordello vs. Tamir Muskat, Balkan Beat Box also includes trumpeter-trombonist Dana Leong and bassist-guitarist Itamar Ziegler, who plays slinking unison lines with the horns or drops deep grooves to beef up Muskat's live drumming and killer programming. Though remix compilations like last year's Electric Gypsyland (Six Degrees) have similarly repurposed raucous eastern European music for the dance floor, the material on Balkan Beat Box's recent self-titled debut (coreleased by the New York Jewish-reggae label JDub, Israel's NaNa Disc, and Germany's Essay Recordings) has a leg up on that stuff: the big beats are part of the arrangements from the beginning, not grafted on later, and they reinforce the sometimes lopsided time signatures organically, never coming off like standard-issue hip-hop or club rhythms. On the record a variety of sassy, slightly drunk-sounding female singers rap, slur, and shout their way through the songs, and the group is traveling with several vocalists, including Jeremiah Lockwood, Tomer Yosef, and Victoria Hanna (see below)--though she'll join in only at Monday night's Empty Bottle gig. I doubt Balkan Beat Box will be able to match Gogol Bordello's go-for-broke onstage energy, but they've got more than enough nuance and range to make up for it.

3 PM, HUMBOLDT PARK BOATHOUSE

Plena Libre

R Puerto Rican bassist and bandleader Gary Nunez formed Plena Libre more than a decade ago to preserve and revive plena, a form native to the island that arose more than a century ago from a collision between the music of immigrants from nearby Barbados and Puerto Rico's own African-derived idioms, which were similar to those developing in Cuba. Plena was originally a narrative style, and its lyrics, which often reflected current political or cultural happenings, could turn the music into an important avenue of communication; its sound was defined by elaborate polyrhythms played on tambourinelike hand drums called pandeiros and augmented by a scraped gourd called a guiro. For most of the 20th century it was the mainspring of Puerto Rican music, and even though pan-Caribbean salsa and merengue had displaced it by the 70s, plena had evolved alongside those genres and like them relied on clave patterns and galloping grooves. Plena Libre's most recent release, !Estamos gozando! (Times Square), pays homage to some of plena's great past practitioners--Angel Torruellas, Los Pleneros del Quinto Olivo, Mon Rivera, Rafael Cepeda--but the vintage material is arranged sleekly, with radio-friendly vocal harmonies and an ear toward contemporary dancers. On the forthcoming Evolucion the group returns to original songs and expands its sound, adding baritone saxophone, guitar, vibes, cuatro, and accordion--to my ears it's an improvement over its predecessor, and even the singing of Rafael "Pole" Ortiz fares better.

Chucky Santos

Chucky Santos was formerly second guitarist for Alex Vargas, one of the biggest stars in bachata, the country music of the Dominican Republic and a burgeoning international phenomenon for the past decade. When you hear Santos's nimble guitar playing, it's clear how he landed such a great gig, but his tepid singing makes his decision to go solo a lot harder to explain.

3 PM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

A Moving Sound

See September 17.

7 PM, MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART $12

Victoria Hanna

R Israeli vocalist Victoria Hanna brings such a density of ideas to her work that a paper in India gave up trying to decide what sort of music it is and just called it "experimental theatre." Using multiple overdubs of her arrestingly intense and supple voice, she combines entrancing melodic curlicues, layered drones, and other wordless sounds with lyrics drawn from the Bible, the Talmud, the Kabbalah, and elsewhere. She's also been studying the art of dhrupad--the most austere form of Indian classical music--and tinkering with hip-hop and rap, as well as collaborating with members of New York's bustling Gypsy underground like Gogol Bordello front man Eugene Hutz and Balkan Beat Box (see above--Hanna joins the group for its Monday-night festival performance). I wouldn't care to predict what she'll decide to do at her performances here--where she's supported by violist Kinor Jacobi, video arist Kathy von Koerber, and two members of Balkan Beat Box, drummer and programmer Tamir Muskat and bassist-guitarist Itamar Ziegler--but I plan on being there to find out.

Regina Orozco

See September 17.

:30 PM, WILD HARE $12, 21+

R Balkan Beat Box with Yuri Lane

See above. Tonight the group is joined by Chicago's Yuri Lane, star of the one-man hip-hop play From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey.

Golem

See September 17.

9 PM, HOTHOUSE $12, 21+

R Nouvelle Vague

See September 17.

Samarabalouf

See September 17.

9:30 PM, LOGAN SQUARE AUDITORIUM

Seu Jorge

R Most Americans, if they've heard of Seu Jorge at all, know him as the guy with the acoustic guitar singing David Bowie tunes in Portuguese all through Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. That wasn't his only film role or even his biggest--he also played Knockout Ned in City of God, a drama set in the favelas of Rio, where Jorge spent his childhood--but he got his first real break playing music. In the late 90s he scored a minor hit as a member of a circusy troupe of musicians and actors called Farofa Carioca, and in 2002 he released his first solo album, Carolina (Mr. Bongo), an amped-up collection of funky sambas a la Jorge Ben. The new Cru (Wrasse) replaces his debut's dense, frenetic arrangements with dramatic austerity and calm, and announces Jorge's arrival as one of Brazil's greatest young talents: he rarely raises his voice above a sexy croon, but still manages to sound beautifully intense and expressive. The majority of the tunes are leisurely sambas, with instrumental backdrops that consist of little more than acoustic guitar, hand percussion, and sweet-toned four-stringed cavaquinho (and sometimes even less). Jorge's voice is far from perfect, and he regularly slips out of tune, but he makes a virtue of his shortcomings, imbuing every whispered, grunted, or warbled phrase with an unforced mix of vulnerability and confidence. On a cover of the sinister Serge Gainsbourg song "Chatterton," he drops his voice so low that his faux-Howlin' Wolf growl disintegrates into a coughing jag, and his eccentric pronunciation on a molasses-slow version of Elvis Presley's "Don't" only adds to his charm. Thoroughly contemporary despite its rudimentary, back-to-basics approach and skeletal structures, Cru is one of the best albums I've heard this year.

R Boubacar Traore

See September 17.

DJ Jerome Derradji

This French DJ recently launched the Chicago-based soul and house label Still Music, whose first full-length release, In the Dark, documents the Detroit soul underground. Here he'll spin a mixture of African and Brazilian music.

monday19

11 AM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Nachito Herrera

See September 18.

12:30 PM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Nina Becker, Rubinho Jacobina

Two members of the Brazilian big band Orquestra Imperial (see below) step out for an intimate set. I've only heard one tune by singer and fashion designer Nina Becker, but it was a doozy--a sexy, spectral lounge-pop ballad. She'll be backed by keyboardist Rubinho Jacobina, son of guitarist and songwriter Nelson Jacobina and cowriter of some of the songs on the 2002 collaboration between Caetano Veloso and Jorge Mautner, Eu nao peco desculpa (Universal, Brasil).

12:30 PM, BORDERS ON MICHIGAN

R Seu Jorge

See September 18.

1:30 PM, BORDERS ON MICHIGAN

Baka Beyond

British guitarist and producer Martin Cradick and his wife, singer Su Hart, founded Baka Beyond in 1992, after meeting and befriending many Baka Pygmies on a visit to the Cameroonian rain forest. On seven subsequent albums, including the new Rhythm Tree (March Hare Music), they've combined Baka traditions with bits of Celtic and Breton music, enlisting performers from Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and other African nations to thicken the sound. The most arresting element of the new recording is the band's rendering of Baka vocal polyphony--indigenous Baka music is often a dialogue with nature, incorporating the sounds of forest birds and animals into the ritualized performances, and that same intuitive spontaneity is evident in Baka Beyond's dazzling interweaving of wordless lines. Unfortunately, the rest of the group's music is consistently disappointing, despite Cradick and Hart's obvious sincerity: they've helped the Baka with construction and development projects and even lived with them for extended periods, but on disc they just water down the Baka's traditional sounds with bland European ideas.

3 PM, DANCE STUDIO, CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER $25

A Moving Sound

See September 17. This performance will accompany a tai chi workshop hosted by Hedwig Dances, the Cultural Center's resident troupe.

6:30 PM, PRITZKER PAVILION

Orquestra Imperial

R Formed in 2002 by some of the young guns in the Rio de Janeiro music scene, this big band aims to advance new ideas in Brazilian music--which of course means embroidering beloved idioms like samba and bossa nova as much as it does creating fresh styles. Orquestra Imperial has one ringer on board--legendary bossa nova drummer Wilson das Neves--but most of the players aren't stars in their own right, coming instead from the pool of immensely creative session musicians or producers in Brazil. Berna Ceppas, who plays keyboards and samplers in the group, and Kassin, who plays bass, are also one of the country's most in-demand production teams, using their encyclopedic knowledge of musical styles and a healthy dose of electronics to tweak time-tested forms; the singers include Moreno Veloso, Nina Becker, and Rodrigo Amarante (of the rock band Los Hermanos). This is a rare chance to get a revue-style glimpse of emerging Brazilian talent without shelling out for tickets to Rio. I've only seen a short video snippet, but in it the group was a sort of glorious self-organizing free-for-all, joyful but disciplined--and opener Seu Jorge is likely to join in too, since he was in the Orquestra early on. Several members are playing their own shows earlier today or sometime tomorrow: Domenico + 2 (see September 20), Wilson das Neves (see September 20), and Nina Becker with Rubinho Jacobina (see September 19).

R Seu Jorge

See September 18.

DJ Joe Bryl

Joe Bryl, co-owner of Sonotheque, is one of Chicago's most experienced DJs: during the early days of Club 950 he was one of the first people in the city spinning new wave, and later at the Funky Buddha he was an early adopter of acid jazz. He doesn't do too many sets dedicated to Brazilian music, but he's certainly got the goods in his collection.

PM, MARTYRS' $8

Baka Beyond

See above.

Kevin Dempsey & Joe Broughton

Singer and guitarist Kevin Dempsey and violinist Joe Broughton are both veterans of the British folk scene--Dempsey was in Dave Swarbrick's Whippersnapper, Broughton in the Albion Band--but as a duo they range afield from that territory. On their most recent album, Freehand (SAE), they augment the usual Celtic tunes with bits of post-Django jazz and some dazzling, uncategorizable instrumental work--Broughton's solo vehicle "Reflections in Aloia" creates a gorgeous tapestry from multiple overdubbed tracks of rapid-fire mandolin and pizzicato violin. I could do without the milquetoast acoustic pop tunes, but these guys can sure play.

9 PM, HOTHOUSE $12, 21+

R Plena Libre

See September 18.

Nachito Herrera & the Bembe Band

See September 18.

9:30 PM, EMPTY BOTTLE 21+

R Balkan Beat Box

See September 18.

R Victoria Hanna

See September 18.

Tuesday 20

11 AM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Ensemble N_JP

During an extended stay in Japan back in 2001, former Chicagoan Gene Coleman hatched the idea for a group that would yoke age-old Asian musical traditions to ideas and techniques from contemporary classical composition, both Western and Far Eastern. The lineup he's assembled embodies that dichotomy perfectly: it includes Ko Ishikawa, a member of the acclaimed gagaku ensemble Reigakusha who plays an ancient bamboo mouth organ called the sho, and Toshimaru Nakamura, an electroacoustic improviser who's worked with international heavies like Keith Rowe and John Butcher and specializes in manipulating feedback from a no-input mixing board. On one side, Yoko Nishi plays koto and Kazuko Takada the lutelike shamisen; on the other, Rei Hotoda plays piano and Kazuhisa Uchihashi the electric guitar. With the assistance of local cellist Marina Peterson, the group will premiere a Coleman composition called "Kyoto in_Ex," accompanied by Tom Denlinger's video projections, and perform several relatively traditional pieces.

NOON, DALEY CIVIC CENTER

Nachito Herrera & the Bembe Band

See September 18.

12:30 PM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Rajan & Sajan Mishra with Kumar Bose

ROne of the greatest modern vocal duos in Indian classical music, brothers Rajan and Sajan Mishra have been performing together for decades, developing not only stunningly precise pitch control but also a sublime musical intuition that lets them put that control to dramatic use. For their extended improvisations the brothers often embroider raga melodies, sometimes solo and sometimes in tandem, but for me the real thrill comes when they leap clear of the melodic framework and go into free fall. On their new double CD, Sadhana (Sense), they extract a seemingly limitless amount of material from a single chord, skipping from note to note or repeating a single one with machine-gun rapidity, sometimes landing on the same microtone and then shifting in the blink of an eye to harmonize on two different pitches--it's like watching expert surfers dancing back and forth on a rolling wave. The brothers are joined here on tabla by Kumar Bose, a living legend of the instrument, who made his name in the 70s accompanying Ravi Shankar. Rajan's sons Ritesh and Rajnish, who've contributed vocals to a forthcoming album by Anoushka Shankar, will also make a guest appearance.

Los Gauchos de Roldan

Founded in 1986 by accordionist Walter Roldan, this compact ensemble--Roldan, two dancers, and two acoustic guitarists who also sing--works to preserve the traditional music and dance of rural Uruguay. Forms like polca, vals, and shotis (that is, polka, waltz, and schottische) reveal an enduring European influence, but more interesting are the styles that borrow from indigenous or African music: habanera, tango, milonga, and chamarrita. The group also plays material from Argentina and southern Brazil; Roldan makes a point of explaining the various idioms and their origins between songs.

12:30 PM, BORDERS ON STATE

Domenico + 2

R I can't think of another Brazilian group that's as inventive as this trio, much less so nonchalant about it--in fact I only know a few bands from anywhere in the world blessed with this kind of unfettered creativity. Many pop artists lose sight of the whimsy in their music when they take chances, as though experimenting with new sounds were as risky as a moon landing, but these guys seem to have more fun the further they get from the security blanket of a recognizable genre. So far singer and guitarist Moreno Veloso, son of Caetano, has issued an album with the group as Moreno + 2, and singer and percussionist Domenico Lancellotti has followed up with a disc billed to Domenico + 2. Ever since the trio played HotHouse last October in support of Domenico's record, Sincerely Hot (Luaka Bop), I've been waiting eagerly for bassist Alexandre Kassin to take his turn. Though Sincerely Hot is now almost three years old, it still sounds brilliant to me, marrying stuttering electronic beats, favela hip-hop, and Ernie Isley-style psychedelia to the usual gentle vocals and sweet guitar of bossa nova--and the music's even better live, where you can watch Lancellotti energetically pushing buttons on his dinky-looking MPC sampler to play the drum parts in real time.

6 PM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Ensemble N_JP

See above.

6 PM, HOKIN ANNEX, COLUMBIA COLLEGE

Midival Punditz

R I can't even count how many techno tracks I've heard that invoke Indian classical music with nothing but an unintelligible vocal sample or out-of-context sitar loop, reducing the entire tradition to a pedestrian signifier of the exotic. The picture brightened somewhat with the rise of the Asian Underground in England in the mid-90s, but ultimately artists like Talvin Singh, Black Star Liner, and State of Bengal didn't advance the hybrid of Indian music and techno very far, despite their more direct connection to south Asian culture. Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj, aka the New Delhi duo Midival Punditz, are unequivocally making electronic club music, and there are just as certainly Indian classical sounds all over their new album, Midival Times (Six Degrees)--the difference is that those sounds aren't samples but rather contributions made especially for the disc by top-notch performers, among them sitar hotshot Anouska Shankar, sarangi master Sultan Khan, and young playback singer Kailash Kher. Raina and Raj aren't classically trained themselves, but it's clear the music is in their blood: the Indian elements aren't pasted on ironically but meticulously integrated into each track.

6:30 PM, ALBERT PICK HALL

R Trio Joubran

See September 16.

7 PM, HOKIN ANNEX, COLUMBIA COLLEGE

Sidi Goma

R As merchants, sailors, and victims of the slave trade, an unknown number of Swahilis from the east coast of Africa ended up in the Indian state of Gujarat more than eight centuries ago, where they formed a unique and isolated community. Known as Sidis, they're now a tribal Sufi group, and postslavery they've eked out an existence as itinerant musicians and dancers. It's a source of pride for Sidis that Hazrat Bilal, an African, was chosen as the first muezzin by Mohammed, and the music of Sidi Goma has a strong African feel, even though Sidis consider themselves Indian and no longer understand most of the lyrics to their own traditional songs. (Yunus Babu Sidi, one of the group's leaders, told the British magazine fRoots, "We are Indians, pure and proper, [but] Swahili is the language of our forefathers and we should not forget it.") Sidi Goma recently released its debut recording, Black Sufis of Gujarat (Kapa), where the group's four musicians--there are also eight dancers--accompany their own call-and-response vocals with propulsive patterns played on the malunga, a single-stringed musical bow similar to the Brazilian berimbau, and a variety of hand drums. The ensemble's performances simulate a typical Sufi ritual, where celebrants strive to approach God by working themselves into an ecstatic trance: there's a gorgeous call to prayer, sacred songs performed while seated, and of course plenty of athletic dancing--which often climaxes with one of the men shattering a coconut on his head in a feat of divinely inspired strength.

7:30 PM, PRESTON BRADLEY HALL

R Rajan & Sajan Mishra with Kumar Bose

See above.

7:30, MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART $12

Domenico + 2 with On Fillmore

R See above for more on Domenico + 2. On Fillmore is the duo of percussionist Glenn Kotche, best known for his drumming in Wilco, and bassist Darin Gray of Grand Ulena. Together they play meditative, stripped-down texture-and-groove music: their latest album, Sleeps With Fishes (Quakebasket), is a gorgeous sort of minimalism, with Gray's sturdy upright bass endlessly cycling its arcing lines, Kotche playing vibes and coaxing clear overtones from his cymbals with a bow, and field recordings blended in throughout--auto traffic, a jet far overhead, running water, kids talking. Members of Domenico + 2 will intermittently join On Fillmore to improvise, and the duo will return the favor during the Brazilians' set.

PM, MARTYRS' $10, 21+

Mamar Kassey

R Mamar Kassey is arguably the greatest band in Niger--a nation that's only now catching up with neighbors like Mali and Nigeria after its artists and musicians were neglected by the government of dictator Seyni Kountche for much of the 70s and 80s. Things started to turn around in 1987, when Kountche died: that same year Alhassane Dante, former director of the national ballet, organized a state-run music festival, and in 1990 he founded the Centre for Musical Training and Promotion. Yacouba Moumouni, the founder of Mamar Kassey, owes his career to Dante and his family: in 1976, when his shepherd father died, the ten-year-old Moumouni struck out on his own after a fight with his brother, walked more than 100 miles to Niger's capital, and after two years of homelessness was taken in by Dante's sister Absatou, who began teaching him music in exchange for housework. He later joined Absatou's band and the national ballet, attended Dante's school, and toured West Africa and Europe. In France he met world-music producer Nick Gold, who invited him to play a reed flute called the seyse on Oumou Sangare's album Worotan, and when he returned to Niger in 1995 he was determined to put together a modern band. Moumouni drew on fellow alumni of Dante's school to form Mamar Kassey, enlisting a guitarist, a bassist, three open-minded traditional musicians, and three dancers who double as backing vocalists. The band's two albums, Denke-Denke (Daqui, 1999) and Alatoumi (World Village, 2001), achieve a spirited synthesis of West African approaches: Moumouni's nasal, parched-sounding vocals, in Fulani and Songhai, combine the influence of several Saharan styles with his own deep soulfulness; hypnotizing figures from simple lutes like the molo and komsa, bumping rhythms played on the calabash, and the sorrowful sound of a single-string fiddle called a godje all come from Mali's beautiful Wassoulou music; and the animated burping and hiccuping of the kalangu, or talking drum, bring to mind Nigerian juju. Guitarist Abdoulaye Alhassane and bassist Harouna Abdou add depth without disrupting the traditional feel, blending tastefully into the dense, churning polyrhythms.

Los Gauchos de Roldan

See above.

9 PM, HOTHOUSE $12, 21+

Wilson das Neves

R Drummer Wilson das Neves was in the thick of Rio's bossa nova craze from the early 60s onward; though pioneers like Joao Gilberto didn't use drums to broadcast the music's signature rhythms, plenty of other musicians did, and das Neves stood out for his rare ability to make the beat feel like an organic outgrowth of the tune. For four decades he's weathered all the trends in Brazilian music, working with important artists from a range of genres--samba and bossa nova singers like Elizeth Cardoso and Elza Soares, MPB stars like Elis Regina and Chico Buarque, even romantic rockers like Roberto Carlos. In the 90s he began singing as well, developing into a consistent songwriter, and returned to more traditional samba and bossa nova sounds. Das Neves is one of only a few living links to the heyday of bossa nova, and no chance to see him should be taken lightly; he also plays Monday, September 19, with Orquestra Imperial.

Nina Becker

See September 19.

Rubinho Jacobina

See September 19. Jacobina will play a set with his own band as well as accompany Becker.

9:30 PM, EMPTY BOTTLE $10, 21+

Martires del Compas

R This group from Seville, Spain, calls its music "flamenco-billy," but I'm not going to hold that against them. The poppy, hooky originals on their recent No Papers (World Village) stay surprisingly faithful to traditional flamenco even while hybridizing it with mainstream rock. Guitarist Julio Revilla uncorks solos that wouldn't sound too out of place on an 80s hair-metal record whenever he plugs in, but second guitarist Manuel Soto counterbalances him with a relatively straight-ahead flamenco style, and conventional elements dominate the band's sound: the staccato hand claps, the cajon beats of Alberto Alvarez, the gritty singing of Chico Ocana. Not to disparage Chicago's annual flamenco festival, which brings in a slew of great traditionalists each winter, but it's exciting to finally get the chance to hear some of the rock- and pop-inflected stuff that's so hugely successful in Spain.

El Payo

This local band plays rumba rock, the amped-up blend of rock and hard-charging flamenco that put the Gipsy Kings on the map, but they don't have anything like the chops they'd need to match that group's power.

Wednesday 21

11 AM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Alkinoos Ioannidis

This Greek Cypriot has achieved stardom at home by mixing rock with traditional Cypriot music and Greek idioms like rembetika and entechno, but on this tour he's presenting a new project, "Mediterranean Crossroads: Songs From Old Cyprus to Modern Greece." He's playing guitar and lute in an ensemble that includes violinist Miltiades Papastamou, percussionist and cellist Yiorgos Kaloudis, bassist Yiannas Papatriantafyllou, and pianist Sotiris Lemonidis; the tunes I've heard are sorrowful and beautiful, with sensitive arrangements that recall chamber music.

NOON, DALEY CIVIC CENTER

R Sidi Goma

See September 20.

12:30 PM, BORDERS on STATE

R Martires del Compas

See September 20.

12:30 PM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Qing Mei Jing Yue

R This Chinese quartet--each of the words in its name corresponds to one of the four members--plays a mixture of traditional classical pieces and originals. Yang Jing (pipa), Liu Yuening (yangqin), Yu Hongmei (erhu), and Fan Weiqing (guzheng) are all involved with top-tier preservationist groups like the National Orchestra of Chinese Music and the Traditional Music Orchestra of the Central Music Conservatory, but they also play Western orchestral music and popular Chinese instrumental material. Their CD Evening Poem is downright gorgeous, if not especially adventurous, filled with the sounds of strings being sweetly plucked, deftly struck, firmly bowed, and aggressively strummed.

Ana Moura

R Joining Misia, Cristina Branco, and Mariza, Lisbon's Ana Moura is the latest in a new breed of fado singer that's brought the traditional Portuguese style to a broader audience. On her debut, Guarda-me a vida na mao (World Village), she pays homage to fado's past with a cover of "Flor de lua" by the great Amalia Rodrigues, but Moura and producer Jorge Fernando--a former guitarist with Rodrigues who's also worked with Branco and Mariza--have loaded the album with more contemporary material. Moura, who at 20 gave up performing in a rock band to concentrate on fado, declares her allegiance to the form in Fernando's "Sou do fado, sou fadista": "I know my soul has surrendered / Taken my voice in hand / Twisted it in my chest / And shown it to the world." Her singing has the melodramatic quality fado requires, leavened with an appealing airiness that separates her from the pack. On her newest disc, Aconteceu (Universal), which hasn't yet been released in the U.S., she sounds more assured than ever--though Branco and Mariza have drifted away from traditional sounds on their most recent albums, Moura has dug in her heels, and her music has an almost defiant purity.

6 PM, BORDERS ON BROADWAY

Badi Assad

R Though the songs on Badi Assad's new album, Verde (Edge Music), share the sashaying rhythms and feathery touch of bossa nova, the Brazilian guitarist doesn't stick to the purist's definition of the form. Her instrumental style includes brief, aggressive runs, dense and sometimes discordant harmonies, and rhythm licks that cut against the grain of the tune, but she insinuates all these elements into the music without disrupting its liquid feel. Even her wide-ranging vocals--which include straight-up singing as well as nonverbal sounds and body percussion--casually incorporate elements foreign to most bossa nova. Assad also looks outside Brazil for material, and manages to make Yann Tiersen's theme from Amelie, U2's "One," and her own impressive compositions sound of a piece with classics by Luiz Gonzaga and Vinicius de Moraes. Bjork's "Bachelorette" doesn't quite become a bossa, but Assad's gentle, insistent guitar, Toninho Ferragutti's accordion, and Dimos Guadaroulis's cello create a lovely chamber-music sound that perfectly suits the rising and falling tension in the song.

6 PM, BORDERS ON NORTH

Jake Shimabukuro

Hawaii's Jake Shimabukuro has done his part to rescue the ukulele from the likes of Tiny Tim. In his hands it's hardly a plinky, dinky novelty instrument: on his new instrumental disc, Dragon (Hitchhike), he plays with a disarmingly sweet tone and mandolinlike fluidity that'd make many a bluegrass picker green with envy. Unfortunately, in the past few years he's become a favorite on the jam-band circuit thanks to opening slots for Blues Traveler and Bela Fleck (and a cameo on Fleck's Little Worlds), and their chops-first aesthetic has seeped into his own work. He's still dazzling technically, but his solos feel emotionally hollow, the tunes are forgettable, and the overblown arrangements are sodden with insincere-sounding strings.

7 PM, PRESTON BRADLEY HALL

R Qing Mei Jing Yue

See above.

PM, PARK WEST $15, 18+

Alkinoos Ioannidis

See above.

R Ana Moura

See above.

:30 PM, Old town school of folk music $15

Susana Baca Trio with Marc Ribot

R For more than a decade the great Peruvian singer Susana Baca has run the Instituto Negrocontinuo with her Bolivian husband, Ricardo Pereira, aiming to preserve the songs and oral traditions of Peru's marginalized African population. In August she arrived at Tulane University in New Orleans on a five-month Rockefeller fellowship to study the development of African-American music in the city, intending to compare it to the Afro-Peruvian tradition, and now she's among the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Baca chose to continue her research at the University of Chicago, which has turned out to be a stroke of luck for the World Music Festival--she's agreed to step in and fill the hole in the schedule created by the last-minute cancellation of Venezuela's Simon Diaz. (All tickets for that show will be honored.) Two members of her working band, acoustic guitarist Sergio Valdeos and cajon player Juan Medrano Cotito, are flying in from Peru, and the trio will be joined by New York guitarist Marc Ribot, who's contributed to Baca's two latest albums. On the most recent disc, 2002's Espiritu vivo (Luaka Bop), Ribot and keyboardist John Medeski help create a fascinating push and pull between Afro-Peruvian roots music and postmodern jazz. Baca's band has always been extremely empathetic, shadowing her graceful melodies tenderly and precisely, but the New Yorkers loosen things up a bit, bringing superheated metropolitan funk to the dance celebration "Se me van los pies" and dissonant Afro-Cuban intensity to a cover of Brazilian songwriter Caetano Veloso's "13 de mayo." The range of material is interesting too: Baca includes a few traditional Afro-Peruvian tunes, a new piece by young Peruvian composer Javier Lazo, and covers of Bjork's "Anchor Song," the pop standard "Autumn Leaves" (which she sings in its original French), and "Afro Blue," the Mongo Santamaria song made famous by John Coltrane.

9 PM, HOTHOUSE $12, 21+

R Martires del Compas

See above.

Son Trinidad

This local instrumental quartet, featuring bassist Matt Ulery and trumpeter Thad Franklin, brings a jazzy feel and judicious extended soloing to its Afro-Caribbean tunes.

10 PM, SONOTHEQUE $10, 21+

Bombay Beatbox with Midival Punditz

See September 20. Not to be confused with Balkan Beat Box (see September 18), Bombay Beatbox is a local world-music crew with a weakness for spacey, half-baked electronic remixes of traditional south Asian music--it sounds like they're trying to split the difference between disco and the sound track to a yoga-instruction video. They'll perform with the excellent Midival Punditz (see September 20).

thursday22

11 AM, PRESTON BRADLEY HALL

R Badi Assad

See September 21.

APPEX Ensemble

R Cross-cultural musical projects are frequently long on ambition and short on results: A Moving Sound (see September 17), for instance, makes it all too clear how a combination of personnel that sounds audacious on paper can fizzle in practice. The LA-based APPEX Ensemble (the acronym stands for Asia Pacific Performance Exchange), on the other hand, is a blockbuster sextet of alumni from UCLA's Center for Intercultural Performance, all of whom have the talent and knowledge to make their fusion--dominated by traditional Indonesian, Japanese, Indian, and Burmese percussion--work beautifully. All I've heard is a 1999 recording that includes only two-thirds of the current lineup, but the tracks are undergirded by a strong compositional logic, relying on melody, counterpoint, and complex interior structures instead of flashy gimmicks or drum-circle nonsense. The group now features Indian percussionist Abhijit Banerjee, taiko drummer Kenny Endo, Balinese gamelan musician I Dewa Putu Berata, Burmese percussionist and pianist Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Balinese dancer and singer Emiko Susilo, and Chinese multi-instrumentalist Qi Chao Liu, who plays dizi, xiao, hulusi, and erhu--two varieties of flute, a set of free-reed pipes, and a two-string violin. They're all superb, but I'm most interested in seeing Naing, who plays the pat waing, a set of 21 tuned drums arranged in a circle, and the pattala, a 23-key bamboo xylophone--he's collaborated on a terrific project with New York's Bang on a Can All-Stars and released a stunning album of his own on Shanachie.

12:30 PM, BORDERS ON STATE

Frigg

This seven-piece Scandinavian string ensemble includes Alina, Esko, and Antti Jarvela, children of the family at the core of the great Finnish wall-of-fiddles group JPP, and two hardanger fiddlers from Norway, Einar-Olov and Gjermund Larsen, who belong to a similarly revered musical clan. The group's basic sound recalls JPP, but despite its members' bloodlines, Frigg has carved out its own niche, dabbling in traditional Swedish music, adapting a few Irish folk tunes--a small step considering how often Scandinavian folk is mistaken for Irish--and branching out into American bluegrass. They don't play straight-up mountain music but rather combine its breakneck tempos and wild polyphony with the dense, rich harmonies of their own tradition, created in part by the sympathetic drone strings of the hardanger fiddle and nyckelharpa (which Esko Jarvela plays). Frigg's forthcoming second album, Oasis (NorthSide), is sometimes a bit too polished for my tastes--next stop, Lake Wobegon!--but when they stack up all those fiddles, the roar they make together is hard to resist.

12:30 PM, PRESTON BRADLEY HALL

Jake Shimabukuro

See September 21.

Nawal

R This singer hails from the Comoros Islands, located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, and her gorgeous music reflects their complex musical culture, which feels the pull of two continents. I've heard five songs from a forthcoming album by her acoustic trio--she plays guitar and gambusim (a banjolike Swahili instrument) and she's supported by upright bass, mbira, and sparse hand percussion. Her songwriting is especially strong, and the arrangements cleave nicely to her full-bodied, husky vocals, which blend coffee-shop intimacy with the piercing nasality of Islamic music.

6:15 PM, RANDOLPH CAFE

R Nawal

See above.

6:45 PM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

Las Guitarras de Espana

Formed in 1999, this local group was once devoted exclusively to flamenco,

but its third album, Un respiro por el mundo (Sweet Pickle Music), is crammed so full of different genres that it has the personality of a supermarket--past the flamenco aisle you get jazz fusion, then adult pop, Indian music, Cuban son, and on and on. It feels like the band's just trying to rack up points, not actually exploring these traditions--nothing's all that distinct from anything else. Much of the material on the disc was commissioned by choreographer Wendy Clinard, who wanted music for a piece called "Unraveling Rhythms" that aims to overlap flamenco and classical Indian dance; for this performance Las Guitarras de

Espana will provide the sound track for Clinard and dancer Siri Sonty.

7 PM, PRESTON BRADLEY HALL

R Badi Assad

See September 21.

PM, Randolph Cafe

Frigg

See above.

:15 PM, PRESTON BRADLEY HALL

R APPEX Ensemble

See above.

:30 PM, CLAUDIA CASSIDY THEATER

R Sidi Goma

See September 21.

9:30 PM, RANDOLPH CAFE

Jake Shimabukuro

See September 21.

9:45 PM, GAR MEMORIAL HALL

R Midival Punditz

See September 20.

10 PM, PRESTON BRADLEY HALL

R Ana Moura

See September 21.

Venues

Albert Pick Hall University of Chicago, 5828 S. University, 773-702-8297

Borders 1539 E. 53rd, 773-752-8663

Borders 4718 N. Broadway, 773-334-7338

Borders 2817 N. Clark, 773-935-3909

Borders 830 N. Michigan, 312-573-0564

Borders 755 W. North, 312-266-8060

Borders 150 N. State, 312-606-0750

Clarke House Museum 1827 S. Indiana, 312-744-6630

Claudia Cassidy Theater Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630

Daley Civic Center 50 W. Washington, 312-346-3278

Dance Studio, Chicago Cultural Center 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630

Eli's Cheesecake Festival 6701 W. Forest Preserve, 773-736-3417

Empty Bottle 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401

Garfield Park Conservatory 300 N. Central Park, 312-746-5100

GAR Memorial Hall Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630

Hideout 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433

Hokin Annex, Columbia College 623 S. Wabash, 312-344-7188

HotHouse 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707

Humboldt Park Boathouse 1301 N. Sacramento, 312-742-7549

Logan Square Auditorium 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-6179

Martyrs' 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499

Museum of Contemporary Art 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660

Navy Pier 600 E. Grand, 312-595-5184

Old Town School of Folk Music 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401

Park West 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212

Preston Bradley Hall Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630

Pritzker Pavilion Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan, 312-742-1168

Randolph Cafe Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630

Rogers Park World Music Festival Howard & Ashland, 773-527-2946

Schubas 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508

Sonotheque 1444 W. Chicago, 312-226-7600

South Shore Cultural Center 7059 S. South Shore Dr., 312-747-2536

Wild Hare 3530 N. Clark, 773-327-4273

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