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World Music Festival

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SEPTEMBER 21

TUESDAY

NOON DALEY CENTER PLAZA

San Jose Taiko

This California-based group, formed in 1973, takes some liberties with the rigorously choreographed, highly acrobatic art of taiko drumming. As practiced by Japanese groups like Kodo, taiko is pulverizing stuff, the elaborate rhythms hammered out on the huge barrel drums with militaristic precision. San Jose Taiko, which is predominantly female, incorporates non-Japanese rhythms from hip-hop to Brazilian, wears colorful matching outfits, and smiles a lot (the Kodo guys favor strained scowls). Taiko is best experienced live, and I've only seen a short video of this outfit, but it looked suspiciously like "Taiko--The Musical" to me.

12:30pm CULTURAL CENTER (MBC STUDIO)

Zimbabwe Leaders

Mbira Ensemble

In 1972 Northwestern University musicologist Paul Berliner traveled to Zimbabwe and recorded performances of the mbira, or thumb piano--a box or board with reed or metal keys mounted to it, usually over some sort of resonating chamber (often a gourd), said to have been invented by the Shona people a thousand years ago. These recordings were released by Nonesuch a year later as Zimbabwe: The Soul of Mbira. Artists like Thomas Mapfumo and Stella Chiwese have since taken the instrument into the realm of electrified pop, but a chance like this to see the traditional masters at work is rare. The group performing here is made up of several of the musicians Berliner recorded, including mbira player Cosmas Magaya and singer Hakurotwi Mude, plus other leaders of mbira ensembles from Zimbabwe and Berliner himself; he'll be providing some cultural context as well as playing his own mbira.

5:00pm FIELD MUSEUM (NORTH STEPS)

Opening Ceremony

The festival officially gets under way with this diverse outdoor multiact bill, featuring India's Musafir (see September 22 entry), Brazil's Olodum (see September 22 entry), and the Zimbabwe Leaders Mbira Ensemble (see above), along with the local MASS Ensemble's giant Earth Harp project. Attendees are also invited to check out the musem's ongoing "Sounds From the Vaults" exhibit, which allows visitors to hear, see, learn about, and "virtually play" 50 musical instruments from the museum's anthropology collections.

9:00pm HOTHOUSE (21 & over)

Shooglenifty

This instrumental Scottish sextet plays a Celtic analogue to Bela Fleck's jazzed-up, note-crammed bluegrass--a shapeless, soulless, technically flawless mishmash of fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, percussion, and piano.

WEDNESDAY

NOON DALEY CENTER PLAZA

Olodum

In the 70s the Brazilian state of Bahia saw the rise of an influential black-consciousness movement, the most visible musical outgrowth of which was the blocos--enormous percussion-dominated groups that led the charge of humanity through the streets during Carnaval. In the 80s Olodum, a bloco that has existed in some form since 1979, ushered those thundering drums into pop territory, helping develop the Afro-Bahian pop genre known as axe and performing on Paul Simon's Latin-flavored Rhythm of the Saints (1990). Olodum has also evolved into a community-service organization, running a school and AIDS and cholera programs in Salvador, the capital of Bahia. On its most recent records, like Liberdade (East-West Brazil, 1997), synthesizer washes, smooth jazz saxophone, and airbrushed vocal harmonies polish away any edge the group ever had, but there's a good chance that a live performance will convey some of the euphoria for which its Carnaval appearances are heralded.

12:30pm CULTURAL CENTER (MBC STUDIO)

Shooglenifty

See September 21 entry.

6:00pm SUMMERDANCE

Olodum

See above. With samba dance lessons by Shirley Snell.

6:30pm CULTURAL CENTER (CAFE)

Frifot

Judging from the popularity of artists like Varttina, JPP, and Maria Kalaniemi and the dozens of releases issued in the last few years by the Minneapolis label Northside, the Scandinavian folk revival is in full swing--and the Swedish group Frifot, formed in 1987, has been a major force behind it. Nordic and Celtic folk overlap somewhat in instrumentation--fiddles and flutes are common to both, and Frifot also uses bagpipes, dulcimer, and harp. But though I'm no expert in either area, I hear an extra shade of melancholy in the Nordic stuff that I've never picked up on in contemporary Irish or Scottish folk.

Frifot, whose forthcoming ECM album tops even the powerful mix of originals and standards on the Northside compilation SummerSong, is a trio: virtuosic fiddler Per Gudmundson, intuitive multiinstrumentalist Ale Moller (mandola, hammer dulcimer, flutes), and Lena Willemark, whose clean powerful croon recalls British folk legend Sandy Denny--although when she demonstrates kulning, a cattle-calling technique, on the traditional herding song "Tjugmyren," her high-pitched wail puts her in a league with Diamanda Galas. Willemark's also a fine fiddler, and the trio's instrumentals are as good as the vocal pieces, particularly when fiddles and mandola (a mandolin with extra frets to accommodate the quarter tones common to the Swedish tradition) tangle on deliriously fleet-fingered runs and labyrinthine riffs.

7:00pm HOTHOUSE ($10; 21 & over)

Ernest Dawkins's New Horizons Ensemble

Saxophonist Dawkins has been showcasing his work in a number of newer contexts of late--from his recent Jazz Institute of Chicago largeensemble commission, Beltway to Bronzeville, to his participation in the Aesops Quartet with guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer Hamid Drake, and bassist Rollo Radford. But a performance from his New Horizons Ensemble--whose tenuous connection to "world music" is their African threads--is a guaranteed good bet. The group's bracing mix of brisk postbop, coot meditation, and free thinking gives the leader's bold sax explorations plenty of leeway. The group is rounded out by Parker, trombonist Steve Berry, trumpeter Ameen Muhammad, bassist Yosef Ben Israel, and drummer Avreeayl Ra.

Zimbabwe, Leaders Mbira Ensemble

See September 21 entry.

:00pm MCA

Musafir

Although the Rom people--more commonly known as Gypsies--are closely associated with Romania, Hungary, and Spain, as breathtakingly illustrated in Tony Gatlifs 1993 film Latcho Drom, their origins can be traced back to the Thar Desert, in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan. The 11 members of the music-and-dance troupe Musafir, some of whom performed in Gatlif's film, work to preserve what remains of the culture there, along with other traditions of the area.

The group's forthcoming album, Dhola Maru (Sounds True), is an energetic mix of northern Indian classical music, qawwali, and less identifiable strains that suggest the roots of the Rom music heard throughout eastern Europe. Their keening vocals sound immutably sad, but there's nothing somber about Musafir's live performances. They tackle devotional music with an infectious, even slightly hammy fervor--a phalanx of percussion spins a web of pulse-quickening rhythms, harmoniums wheeze exuberantly, traditional spike fiddles creak hauntingly, and otherworldly melodies flutter from wooden flutes. The dancers are remarkable too: in a video I saw, performers breathed fire and walked on broken glass; one woman whirled like a dervish on her knees, and a man balanced a huge terra cotta vase filled with water atop several, empty drinking glasses on his head, walking around barefooted on a few more glasses as if they were Romper Stompers.

:30pm OLD TOWN SCHOOL

Llan de Cubel

This mostly instrumental sextet plays the traditional music of Spain's northwestern Asturias region, a Celtic foothold that became something of a backwater as the Inquisition spread south. Flute fiddle, and piercing bagpipes play the elaborate melodies while hand drums, acoustic guitar, and bouzouki lay down the airy but meticulous rhythmic framework.

Shooglenifty

See September 21 entry.

10:00pm THE NOTE ($5; 21 & over)

Paris Combo

Here in the U.S. we have the Royal Crown Revue, the Mighty Blue Kings, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers; in France they have the Paris Combo. Mixing the pathos of Edith Piaf with the hot Gypsy-jazz stylings of Django Reinhardt, maudlin left-bank accordion and bits of flamenco fireand Maghreb trance, this kitschy, well-dressed quintet sums up the scant musical contributions of modern France in one tidy pomo package. Its 1998 debut, Paris Combo (Tinder), is clever in a musical-theater sort of way, but in music as in orange juice, reconstituted is never a match for fresh.

THURSDAY 23

Noon Old Town School

Native American

Equinox Celebration

A dozen Native American acts from this country as well as Mexico, Canada, Peru, and Guatemala perform music, dance, and spoken word. The first half of this 12-hour program is in nearby Welles Park; at 6:30 it moves indoors.

12:30pm Cultural Center (MBC Studio)

Waldemar Bastos

Sorrow infuses the gorgeous music of Waldemar Bastos--and as an Angolan he has plenty to be sad about. The West African nation has been wracked by civil war since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975. Bastos mourns the fate of his homeland from afar: he's been based in Lisbon since 1982. Yet on last year's Pretaluz (Luaka Bop), his fourth album and first U.S. release, his songs display a cautious, poetic optimism: "Kanguru" is a heartfelt plea for peace, and in "Morro do Kussava," an Angolan hill that's been the site of brutal battles becomes a symbol of hope, scarred but still standing.

Angolan music is similar to that of another former Portuguese colony, the Cape Verde Islands; both are products of the involuntary cultural exchange of the slave trade. The native Angolan rhythm semba, for instance, went to Brazil and became an essential ingredient of samba; Bastos's "Sofrimento" sounds like a mix of Portuguese fado and morna, the style that Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora has made famous. But Bastos also draws on more propulsive elements, like Congolese rumba and Brazilian pop--some of his tunes start out somberly only to explode with infectious dance rhythms. His remarkable voice, with its sumptuous opera-strength vibrato, smooths over any contradictions in style or mood. For his long-awaited Chicago debut, he'll accompany himself on acoustic guitar, backed by an electric guitarist, an electric bassist, a drummer, and a percussionist.

6:00pm Summerdance

Paris Combo

Here in the U.S. we have the Royal Crown Revue, the Mighty Blue Kings, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers; in France they have the Paris Combo. Mixing the pathos of Edith Piaf with the hot Gypsy-jazz stylings of Django Reinhardt, maudlin left-bank accordion, and bits of flamenco fire and Maghreb trance, this kitschy, well-dressed quintet sums up the scant musical contributions of modern France in one tidy pomo package. Its 1998 debut, Paris Combo (Tinder), is clever in a musical-theater sort of way, but in music as in orange juice, reconstituted is never a match for fresh. With ballroom dance lessons by Kris & Ela Kasperiowicz.

6:30pm Cultural Center (cafe)

Llan de Cubel

This mostly instrumental sextet plays the traditional music of Spain's northwestern Asturias region, a Celtic foothold that became something of a backwater as the Inquisition spread south. Flute, fiddle, and piercing bagpipes play the elaborate melodies while hand drums, acoustic guitar, and bouzouki lay down the airy but meticulous rhythmic framework.

7:00pm HotHouse ($10; 21 & over)

Waldemar Bastos

See above.

Frifot

Judging from the popularity of artists like Varttina, JPP, and Maria Kalaniemi and the dozens of releases issued in the last few years by the Minneapolis label Northside, the Scandinavian folk revival is in full swing--and the Swedish group Frifot, formed in 1987, has been a major force behind it. Nordic and Celtic folk overlap somewhat in instrumentation--fiddles and flutes are common to both, and Frifot also uses bagpipes, dulcimer, and harp. But though I'm no expert in either area, I hear an extra shade of melancholy in the Nordic stuff that I've never picked up on in contemporary Irish or Scottish folk.

Frifot, whose forthcoming ECM album tops even the powerful mix of originals and standards on the Northside compilation SummerSong, is a trio: virtuosic fiddler Per Gudmundson, intuitive multi-instrumentalist Ale Moller (mandola, hammer dulcimer, flutes), and Lena Willemark, whose clean powerful croon recalls British folk legend Sandy Denny--although when she demonstrates kulning, a cattle-calling technique, on the traditional herding song "Tjugmyren," her high-pitched wail puts her in a league with Diamanda Galas. Willemark's also a fine fiddler, and the trio's instrumentals are as good as the vocal pieces, particularly when fiddles and mandola (a mandolin with extra frets to accommodate the quarter tones common to the Swedish tradtion) tangle on deliriously fleet-fingered runs and labyrinthine riffs.

FRIDAY 24

12:30pm Cultural Center (MBC Studio)

Transglobal Underground

The vocals of Arabic singer Natacha Atlas always made this British combo's innocuous ethnotechno tolerable; unfortunately she's no longer with the group. I haven't heard its most recent album, Rejoice Rejoice, much of which was recorded in Budapest with Gypsy musicians, including the cimbalom (Hungarian hammer dulcimer) player Kalman Balogh, who will perform at the Cultural Center later this fall.

6:00pm Summerdance

Yuri Yunakov Ensemble

In the early 90s, Bulgarian Ivo Papasov and his orchestra made a splash in the U.S. with a pair of albums on Hannibal and an appearance with David Sanborn on Hal Willner's short-lived but brilliant TV show Night Music. Their specialty, known as "Bulgarian wedding music," is a wild amalgam of Bulgarian, Turkish, Macedonian, Serbian, and Rom folk styles played at breakneck speed on modern instruments with touches of jazz and rock. It emerged in the 70s as the government sought to purify Bulgarian culture by eradicating outside elements, particularly the hearty Gypsy style; fans started crashing private weddings, where it could still be played with relative impunity, to hear it.

Five years ago Papasov saxophonist Yuri Yunakov emigrated to New York and formed his own Bulgarian wedding band, with fellow former sideman Neshko Neshev on accordion. Their latest album, Balada (Traditional Crossroads), lacks some of the reckless energy of the Papasov recordings, but his lightning unison lines with Neshev and clarinetist Catherine Foster--to say nothing of their high-flying solos--and the clippety-clop rhythms of dumbek player Seido Salifoski will nonetheless make your feet itch. If only American wedding bands were this inventive. With Balkan and Rom dance lessons by John Parrish.

:00pm Old Town School ($10)

Waldemar Bastos

See September 23 entry.

Terry Callier

You probably won't find Chicagoan Terry Callier's records in the "world" section of your local music store, but his unique synthesis of American folk, deep soul, and the intensity and improvisational spirit of free jazz has everything to do with the increasing importance of innovative hybrids in a shrinking global community. Expect a preview of his forthcoming new album on Verve.

:00pm HotHouse ($10; 21 & over)

Hamid Drake & Michael Zerang

Two of the most active percussionists on the busy local improvised-music scene incorporate a vast array of percussion instruments from Africa, India, Australia, and the Middle East in hypnotic conversations distinguished by a keen compositional logic--this ain't no drum circle.

Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca

Ricardo Lemvo is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), where in the 50s musicians responded to an influx of Cuban son by inventing soukous, adapting son's hypnotic piano patterns for guitar. The form became so popular that a variant of it, zouk, even emerged back in the Caribbean. But in the 1970s, as a teenager, Lemvo came to Los Angeles, where the large Hispanic population stoked his appreciation for the music's Latin roots, and though he sings in Lingala and Kikongo as well as Spanish on last year's excellent Mambo Yo Yo (Putumayo), salsa is the dominant element.

9:00pm Park West ($10; 18 & over)

DJ Cheb i Sabbah

This Algerian-born DJ has 35 years of experience on the decks, starting out in Paris in 1964, hooking up with the Living Theatre in '68, and eventually making his way to San Francisco, where he's lived for the last decade. He's managed the late trumpet legend Don Cherry, booked Indian classical music and Arabic pop, and carved out a niche for himself by mixing world music into his dance-floor sets. His recent Shri Durga (Six Degrees) departs admirably from ethnotechno cliches: rather than merely remixing preexisting recordings with dark trip-hop beats, he constructs a series of rhythmic loops, samples, and electronic textures and brings in bassist Bill Laswell, Bay Area funk players, and Indian classical musicians like vocalist Salamat Ali Khan to create trancey organic raga fusions. To his further credit, instead of simply dropping beats into some disembodied vocal loop, he lets the singers develop each piece over ten minutes or so. But though the fit of his club beats seems informed by a genuine knowledge of Indian classical, they nonetheless stifle the musicians' improvisations. In the bio that accompanied my copy of the album he explains that "deejaying is . . . less about what is cool, and more about opening a doorway to another tradition, another world," which I guess makes this album a sort of "Indian Classical Music for Dummies." Sabbah's set will be augmented by Bay Area belly dancer Shauna and several Chicago dancers.

Fun'Da'Mental

This English group was mixing Indian and Pakistani traditions and hard-hitting rock and dance genres years before Talvin Singh, Cornershop, or Asian Dub Foundation became critical darlings in this country. Fun'Da'Mental is fiercely but broadly political--the oppression of Indians and Pakistanis is a particular concern, but no left wing cause is beyond its scope--which occasionally makes its music little more than a thunderous backdrop for proselytizing. On the group's recent Erotic Terrorism (Beggars Banquet)--whose CD booklet includes the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights in full--punishing drum 'n' bass, funky down-tempo breaks, and barrages of industrial sound undergird Indian percussion, qawwali melodies, racially charged spoken-word samples, and acerbically rapped, shouted, whispered, and chanted lyrics. The band's lack of subtlety grows tiresome on record, but reportedly it makes for a powerful live show.

Transglobal Underground

See above.

SATURDAY 25

Noon HotHouse (21 & over)

Ricardo Lemvo

The Congolese salsero (see September 24 entry) conducts a music and dance workshop.

Noon Cultural Center

(Preston Bradley Hall)

Royal Lao Orchestra

The members of this Laotian ensemble, beneficiaries of royal patronage until the communist takeover in 1975, now live in Nashville and Knoxville; this is their first midwestern performance. Their music is dominated by the khong vong, a set of 16 tuned gongs similar to those used in an Indonesian gamelan. Some of the group's repertoire recalls the court music of Thailand, but a lot of it sounds like nothing I've heard before. They'll be joined for a few folk pieces by Bounnhouay Inthavong from Houston, who plays the khene--a mouth organ in which thin bamboo pipes of different lengths are tied together in pairs and housed in a wooden or ivory chamber.

1:00pm Harper Court

Alpha Yaya Diallo

On his most recent album, The Message (Wicklow), guitarist and singer Diallo--a former member of the Guinean band Fatala who's lived in Vancouver since 1991--constructs a compelling strain of Afro-pop that integrates Senegalese mbalax, Malian blues, Congolese soukous, and Zimbabwean chimurenga. And he pulls it off with a backing band full of Canadians.

4:30pm Field Museum (north steps)

Harvest Moon Celebration WITH Rhythm Revolution

A drum circle, open to the public.

6:00pm Summerdance

Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca

See September 24 entry. With salsa dance lessons by Lisa "La Boriqua."

:00pm MCA ($10)

Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali

With Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan gone and the power of the Sabri Brothers diminished, the international Sufi devotional-music scene is in need of some new stars. Badar Ali Khan has released a few albums for Triloka, but he lacks the emotional endurance of his cousin Nusrat, shooting off all the fireworks right off the bat and then treading water for the next ten minutes. But last year Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali--led by two teenage nephews of Nusrat--made a surprisingly auspicious debut with Attish--The Hidden Fire (Womad), and their new album, Sacrifice to Love (Real World), is even better. The brothers bring a youthful energy to an emotional range and improvisational technique that are stunning for their age. Their eight-member backing group, a traditional outfit with a couple harmonium players, a tabla player, and a chorus of clappers, drives their soul-searching, pitch-shifting vocals to amazing heights. It's almost intimidating to imagine how good they'll be after a few decades of experience.

Fun'Da'Mental

See September 24 entry.

:00pm Old Town School ($5)

Ne Kai Oxi

This seven-member one-off group, led by local clarinetist Jim Stoyanoff of the ubiquitous Hellenic Five, will play traditional Greek and Macedonian dance music.

Pralas Rroms

This local Serb-Romanian outfit, which includes several father-son combinations, delivers a raucous, high-energy array of Rom music from Romania and Transylvania, on piano, violin, accordion, bass, cimbalom (Hungarian hammer dulcimer), and tarogato (a clarinetlike woodwind).

:00pm HotHouse ($10; 21 & over)

Trio Globo

The art-opening-sound-track music of this one-world instrumental trio, featuring cellist Eugene Friesen, local harmonica master and pianist Howard Levy, and frame drum specialist Glen Velez, conflates wisps of South American, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian styles with a cloying chamber jazz sensibility.

Alpha Yaya Diallo

See above.

Midnight The Note ($6; 21 & over)

Transglobal Underground Sound System

A DJ set by members of Transglobal Underground (see September 24 entry).

SUNDAY 26

2:00pm Summerdance

Alpha Yaya Diallo

See September 25 entry. With West African dance lessons by Laurie Goux.

2:00pm Field Museum (Simpson Theatre)

Chicago Immigrant Orchestra

Sixteen local musicians from a wide variety of ethnic and stylistic traditions--including jazz reedist Mwata Bowden, Senegalese kora master Morikeba Kouyate, Chinese pipa player Wei Young, Greek clarinetist Jim Stoyanoff, and Hungarian cimbalom player Alex Udvary--attempt to find a common musical language.

2:30pm 57th street book fair

Royal Lao Orchestra

See September 25 entry.

3:00pm Cultural Center

(Preston Bradley Hall)

Taipei Cheng

Hsing Cheng Music Orchestra

This Taiwanese group plays soothing Chinese folk melodies with an emphasis on the role of the cheng (more commonly spelled zheng), a pentatonically tuned plucked zither with up to 25 strings.

7:00pm Old Town School ($10)

Muzsikas & Marta Sebestyen

In preparation for its 1997 album, Morning Star, Muzsikas--Hungary's best-known folk group--traveled to isolated villages around Transylvania not only to discover new material but also to learn the varied techniques and different interpretations that local musicians brought to the songs. A century ago the great Hungarian composer Bartok also combed the countryside for inspiration, and on Muszikas's new The Bartok Album (all their U.S. albums are on Hannibal), joined by the noted violinist Alexander Balanescu, they perform many of the melodies that Bartok incorporated into his compositions as well as taking on a few of the composer's own pieces. Fronted by vocalist Marta Sebestyen--whose sublime voice is better known to Americans from the sound track to The English Patient and the New Agey techno of Deep Forest--the group makes some fascinating connections between folk and high art, but the music works just as well on a purely visceral level.

7:00pm HotHouse ($10; 21 & over)

Iyer-Mahanthappa Duo witH Trichy Sankaran

Bay Area pianist Vijay Iyer and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who left Chicago for New York in 1997, have incorporated their Indian heritage into a rich jazz fusion. Though they don't follow the structural rules of Indian classical music, the nasal, moaning quality of Mahanthappa's tone and his penchant for bent notes come directly out of the tradition, and Iyer's cyclical rhythms bring to mind the percussion element of raga. They'll be joined by inventive Indian percussionist Trichy Sankaran, whose Ivory Ganesh Meets Doctor Drums (Songlines) is a duet with Canadian jazz pianist Paul Plimley.

Pierre Dorge's New Jungle Orchestra

Named in tribute to "the growling jungle sound" of Duke Ellington's wah-wahing, toodle-ooing orchestra, over its 19-year history this band led by Danish guitarist Pierre Dorge has drawn on many diverse inspirations for its dense evocative arrangements--from Ellington and Charles Mingus to tightly reigned free jazz, African pop, and Arabic and Balinese music. In the past the group has included as many as 18 players; this touring lineup has ten members.

7:00pm MCA ($10)

Sainkho Namtchylak

By now many Americans are familiar with the throat singers of Tuva, thanks to the regular touring of folk groups like Huun-Huur-Tu. But you haven't heard anything until you've heard Sainkho Namtchylak. Although she started her career singing folkloric material, in 1988 she embarked on a more experimental course: she's worked with the Soviet free jazz group Tri-O; European avant-garde jazz figures like Peter Kowald, Werner Ludi, and Joelle Leandre; and Americans like Butch Morris and Ned Rothenberg. She's also made a few misguided attempts at pop music, but first and foremost she's an incredible improviser--vocal extremists from Diamanda Galas to Jaap Blonk have nothing on her. She can deliver pretty folk melodies with crystal clear elocution, emit piercing wails that would scare away banshees, and issue multiphonic moans as if channeling them from some alien planet.

For this show Namtchylak will first perform with her Russian trio--Maxim Chapochnikov on turntables and sampler and Ghera Popov on the Tuvan igil (a fiddle traditionally made from a horse's skull), kurei, and mouth harp. Then she'll join Austrians Werner Dafeldecker, Burkhard Stangl, and Michael Moser (from the group Polwechsel) on mixing board and guitars; their countryman Christof Kurzmann on electronics; and Chicagoans Jeb Bishop and Ben Vida on guitars in an experimental piece called The White Hole.

MONDAY 27

12:30pm Cultural Center (MBC Studio)

Muzsikas & Marta Sebestyen

See September 26 entry.

6:00pm Field Museum (Simpson Theatre) ($10)

Eric Bibb

He's lived in Stockholm for the past 18 years, but Bibb's music is as American as grits and collard greens. Born and raised in New York City, he was surrounded by musicians from an early age: Modern Jazz Quartet pianist John Lewis is his uncle; singer-songwriter, actor, and activist Paul Robeson was his godfather, and his dad, Leon, a Greenwich Village folkie, exposed him to talents like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger. In his own music he's an astute back-porch blues revivalist a la Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo', but without any of their modernist impulses.

Zimbabwe Leaders

Mbira Ensemble

In 1972 Northwestern University musicologist Paul Berliner traveled to Zimbabwe and recorded performances of the mbira, or thumb piano--a box or board with reed or metal keys mounted to it, usually over some sort of resonating chamber (often a gourd), said to have been invented by the Shona people a thousand years ago. These recordings were released by Nonesuch a year later as Zimbabwe: The Soul of Mbira. Artists like Thomas Mapfumo and Stella Chiwese have since taken the instrument into the realm of electrified pop, but a chance like this to see the traditional masters at work is rare. The group performing here is made up of several of the musicians Berliner recorded, including mbira player Cosmas Magaya and singer Hakurotwi Mude, plus other leaders of mbira ensembles from Zimbabwe and Berliner himself; he'll be providing some cultural context as well as playing his own mbira.

6:30pm Cultural Center

(Preston Bradley Hall)

Iyer-Mahanthappa Duo with Trichy Sankaran

See September 26 entry.

7:00pm HotHouse ($10; 21 & over)

Sainkho Namtchylak Trio

See September 26 entry.

Marilyn Crispell & Lotte Anker

Crispell is one of the most important jazz pianists to emerge in the last two decades, a staggeringly talented musician who ties together post-Cecil Taylor density, the soul-searching of her admitted inspiration John Coltrane, and the pure classical beauty of Romanticism. She's worked with heavy hitters like Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker, but for this performance she'll be joined by the relatively unknown Danish soprano and tenor saxophonist Lotte Anker. The two women have been working together in a trio with percussionst Marilyn Mazur since last year, and based on the forthcoming Live at the Round Tower, Anker's a good match for the pianist, limning Crispell's pretty, spiraling melodies with gentle legato lines and complementing her clusters and jagged fragments with punchy bursts and zigzagging phrases.

TUESDAY 28

Noon Daley Center Plaza

Pierre Dorge's New Jungle Orchestra

See September 26 entry.

12:30pm Cultural Center (MBC Studio)

Kayhan Kalhor

Iran's Kayhan Kalhor is a master of the kamenjah, a four-string Persian fiddle held vertically on the knee, but while well trained in his country's classical tradition he's spent much of the 90s moving beyond it. On last year's Scattering Stars Like Dust (Traditional Crossroads) he displayed a deft pizzicato--a device rarely employed in Persian classical music in the last century or so--and his improvisations were streaked with quotes from folk melodies. And whatever he's playing, he can wring endless melodic developments out of the simplest riffs. Kalhor is perhaps best known for Ghazal, his partnership with Indian sitar player Shujaat Hussain Khan, which reimagines a meeting of traditions eight centuries ago, when Persian music came to India via the Silk Road. When the group made its local debut earlier this year Khan's giddy extroversion tended to overshadow Kaylor's more restrained but more powerful contributions. This time Kalhor performs with only Pejman Hadadi on the tombak, a Persian hand drum.

Eric Bibb

See September 27 entry.

5:00pm Humboldt Park Stables

John Santos

The Bay Area percussionist (see below) will conduct a workshop.

6:00pm Field Museum (Simpson Theatre) ($10)

Kayhan Kalhor

See above.

Issa Boulos Quartet

Palestinian oud player Issa Boulous moved to Chicago in 1994 but founded this quartet--with guitarist Jennifer Trowbridge, clarinetist Donald Jacobs, and percussionist Najib Bahri--only about ten months ago. On a recently recorded tape I heard, the group plays a broad assortment of Arabic instrumental styles with a jazzy rhythmic buoyancy.

6:30pm Cultural Center (cafe)

Eric Bibb

See September 27 entry.

Vinicius Cantuaria

Amid the ongoing rediscovery of Brazil's tropicalia movement it's easy to forget that this not the first time Brazilian music has been all the rage abroad. More than three decades ago the world was crazy for bossa nova, but while the classic work of Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Luiz Bonfa, and American jazzman Stan Getz endures, pop culture has reduced the style as a whole to an easy-listening cliche.

Although he's worked with tropicalia pioneer Caetano Veloso and had songs recorded by chanteuse Gal Costa, modern bossa nova troubadour Vinicius Cantuaria has remained a marginal figure in Brazilian music. Five years ago he settled in New York, where he fell in with notoriously eclectic musicians like John Zorn, Peter Scherer, and Arto Lindsay--he's participated in Lindsay's genre-stretching Brazilian pop exercises, and the guitarist in turn produced Cantuaria's gorgeously austere Sol Na Cara (Gramavision). On his recent Tucuma (Verve), flanked by a veritable downtown army that includes Lindsay, cellist Erik Friedlander, drummer Joey Baron, bassist Sean Lennon, vocalist Laurie Anderson, guitarist Bill Frisell, and percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, Cantuaria gives bossa nova a much-needed contemporary twist. The lyrical "Maravilhar" goes for an old-school vibe, with a credible Getz impersonation by tenorist Peter Apfelbaum, but on "Aviso ao navegante," Cantuaria's delicate nasal warble and hypnotic acoustic guitar lines are underlined with an ominous cello drone, punctuated by tart horns, and encircled by Baron's restless, prickly drumming; the otherwise soothing "Vivo isolado do mundo" is sporadically jarred by the brittle metallic clank of Lindsay's guitar. Here he'll be backed by drummer Paulo Braga, trumpeter Michael Leonhart, and cellist Mary Wooten.

6:30pm HotHouse ($10; 21 & over)

Fantcha

This singer, a protege of Cesaria Evora, has been living in the U.S. for more than a decade, first as part of a significant Cape Verdean population in New England and then in New York, but last year's Criolinha (Tinder) was her first recording since immigrating. In 1988 she cut an album in Lisbon with fellow expatriate Bana--Cape Verde's first great singer of morna, the beautifully sad national song form--and following its release she toured Europe and the U.S. with Evora. Afterward, Fantcha decided to stay in the U.S. rather than return to the crushing poverty of Cape Verde, which has never fully recovered from Portuguese colonial rule.

She spent the next decade supporting herself as a waitress, a maid, and an office worker, but she never stopped singing, performing occasionally in restaurants and nightclubs. Her return to the recording studio, with a band led by Evora's musical director, was no doubt prompted by the sudden stateside interest in her mentor, but aside from a pair of plaintive mornas, not much on the album resembles Evora's music. Most of Fantcha's songs are in the coladeira style, a bubbly, frenetic dance mode that reveals more African roots than Portuguese or Brazilian ones. Sometimes the Afro-pop gloss of the production obscures the singer's personality, but usually her lovely voice--clearer, less weather-beaten, and higher pitched than Evora's--burns right through it.

John Santos & Omar Sosa

On their live duo recording, Nfumbe: For the Unseen (PriceClub), expat Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Bay Area percussionist John Santos work some sturdy Afro-Cuban grooves and dissonant textures, and their chemistry's undeniable--but their florid New Age flourishes leave me cold.

WEDNESDAY 29

12:30pm Cultural Center (MBC Studio)

Vinicius Cantuaria

See September 28 entry.

5:00pm Humboldt Park Stables

William Cepeda

The Puerto Rican trombonist (see September 30 entry) will conduct a workshop.

5:30pm Harper Court

Fantcha

See September 28 entry.

6:30pm Cultural Center

(Preston Bradley Hall)

Kayhan Kalhor

See September 28 entry.

6:30pm HotHouse ($10; 21 & over)

Vinicius Cantuaria

See September 28 entry.

Willem Breuker Kollektief

Now in its 26th year, this 11-member Dutch juggernaut gives you more entertainment value for your dollar than almost any contemporary jazz combo in the world. Reedist and bandleader Willem Breuker was integral in establishing the Dutch jazz aesthetic in the 60s--a deep understanding of jazz history coupled with a desire to play absurdist havoc with it--and although he no longer seems driven to reinvent himself (unlike his cohorts percussionist Han Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg, who performed here recently), his phenomenally funny and technically brilliant group still manages to capture the essence of that unique take on the music.

Breuker has progressively tightened the reins on improvisation in favor of densely arranged material, and these days the group is just as likely to dip at length into works of Gershwin, Prokofiev, Weill, and Morricone as to perform its leader's hard-swinging Ellingtonian compositions (which can be heard on 1998's fine Pakkepapen). But its killer vaudevillian humor and dead-on theatricality demolish high art pretensions and transform concerts into knee-slapping events, and superb soloists like pianist Henk de Jonge, trumpeter Boy Raaymakers, and reedist Alex Coke still get their licks in. If you've never seen them, don't miss this opportunity--but if you've seen them before, you've seen it all.

:30pm Old Town School

John Santos & Omar Sosa

See September 28 entry.

THURSDAY 30

12:30pm Cultural Center (MBC studio)

Willem Breuker Kollektief

See September 29 entry.

:00pm HotHouse ($10; 21 & over)

Marvin Tate & D-Settlement

Tate, a fixture on the local performance poetry scene, and his band fuse spoken word with tough funk and hip-hop grooves.

Willem Breuker Kollektief

See September 29 entry.

9:00pm Park West ($10; 18 & over)

Jimmy Bosch

Puerto Rican-born, New York-bred trombonist and bandleader Jimmy Bosch wasn't kidding when he named his forthcoming second Ryko Latino album Salsa Dura--"Hard Salsa." Powered by experience playing with legends like Manny Oquendo, Eddie Palmieri, "Cachao, Celia Cruz, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, and Ray Barretto, as well as briefly serving as musical director for next big thing Marc Anthony, he attacks several Afro-Latin music styles, making no concessions to slick, contemporary production trends--he serves his salsa straight-up. His topflight combo takes on Cuban forms like guaguanco and son montuno, Puerto Rican plena, and even sneaks in a smoking Latinized version of Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil." Despite the variety of styles, the album sounds of a piece: rhythms build upon rhythms upon even more rhythms as wickedly imaginative soloists tangle with dense, contrapuntal horn charts. The band rips through the tunes like a well-oiled machine--if a machine could ever have this much soul.

William Cepeda

Afrorican Jazz

Like Jimmy Bosch, Cepeda is a Puerto Rican trombonist who's expanding the salsa tradition. But where Bosch brings a consistent tight-ensemble sound to a wide variety of pure Afro-Latin styles, Cepeda's looking to create new Latin-jazz fusions. His recent My Roots and Beyond (Blue Jackel) uses Puerto Rican forms like plena and bomba to launch outward-bound excursions, adding funk bass lines, rock-tinged electric guitar, and synthesizer washes. In theory, I'm all for Cepeda's recombinant impulses, but I find his execution both antiseptic and excessive.

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