Our guide to the World Music Festival | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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Our guide to the World Music Festival

Eight days, 22 venues, 52 shows—and music from more than 30 countries

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In 2010 a sponsored three-day celebration of Indian culture allowed Chicago’s World Music Festival to expand from seven days to ten, and even without that extra bump, its 13th annual edition is eight days long. Given how diminished many of the city’s other music fests have been by budget cuts, it’s an impressive accomplishment, even considering that the first day’s programming consists of just one show—a free set by Chicago’s Occidental Brothers Dance Band International at Summer­dance.

Of course, the crippled economy has affected the World Music Festival’s bookings. This year there are fewer Chicago premieres and more artists who’ve played earlier iterations of the fest—and sadly, one of the most exciting repeat visitors, Romany singer Esma Redzepova, had to cancel to due to visa problems. (So did the amazing Congolese street band Staff Benda Bilili, who were supposed to headline Pritzker Pavilion on their first stateside tour.) But plenty of excellent artists are still scheduled to play, and a few—including Malian singer and guitarist Sidi Toure and eclectic Italian ensemble Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino—are making their local debuts. The WMF is also presenting four acts in cooperation with the new Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements festival, this weekend in Eckhart Park: Toure, Bomba Estereo, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Fool’s Gold. (See more on Brilliant Corners.) And Benda Bilili, a new documentary about Staff Benda Bilili, premieres in Chicago with a free screening in the Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater at 1 PM on Sunday, September 18.

World Music Festival shows take place at 22 venues around the city (addresses and other info are on page B29), and except where noted they’re free and all-ages. Bills are listed in chronological order, with openers first and headliners last. Advance tickets to events with admission fees are usually available from the venues; for details see worldmusicfestivalchicago.org. Considering the vagaries of international touring, last-minute schedule changes are always a possibility; updates will be announced on Twitter and Facebook. The fest also has its own free Android app, but iPhone users are out of luck.

As usual the early weekday performances at the Claudia Cassidy Theater will air as part of Continental Drift on Northwestern University’s WNUR (89.3 FM). The festival once again closes with “One World Under One Roof," a free evening-length extravaganza that transforms the Cultural Center into a minifestival, with overlapping sets in three different halls inside the building. —PM

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