Every fall, the music of the world finds harmony in the World Music Festival spread across Chicago. Dozens upon dozens of concerts make up this 10-day celebration (Sept. 11 - 21) and this year the list of participating venues is longer and more varied than ever. Perhaps the most amazing thing about WMF is that it's all free. Thirty-nine concerts and events make up this year's schedule and none of them will cost you a dime.
In a perfect world, you would be able to make every show, but obviously you can't be two (or three or four) places at once in one night. Since multiple shows are offered each day and wading through the schedule can be daunting, we decided to zero in on several performers you should absolutely attempt to lend an ear to.
Sept. 11, Vieux Farka Touré and Bombino in Millennium Park: Mali born guitarist Vieux Farka Touré blends the music of his West African roots with American blues and rock music, earning him the nickname "the Hendrix of the Sahara." He's joined onstage for the World Music Festival's opening night by fellow guitar virtuoso Omara "Bombino" Moctar. The Toureg Desert guitar rock artists hails from Niger. The all ages concert starts at 6 p.m. in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Sept. 12, The Wu-Force at Old Town School of Folk Music: Using banjos, pianos, guitars, trumpets, guzhengs and more, this Nashville-hailing trio blends its native Appalachian sound with Chinese folk to create serene musical compositions sure to soothe even the toughest week. The all ages show starts at 8:30 p.m. (The Wu-Force also plays Thursday, Sept. 11 at Schubas. This show is limited to fans 18 and older.
Sept. 12, Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta at Grant Park (601 S. Michigan Ave.): Just because it's the World Music Festival, doesn't mean that we can't have local representation. This collective pays tribute to the early 1970s Latin cumbia music. Be there for a dance lesson starting at 6 p.m. and then put your new knowledge to use when the band goes on at 7:30 p.m. This show is all ages.
Sept. 13, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 in Millennium Park: When Nigerian born Fela Anikulapo Kuti gave up his place at the front of legendary band Egypt 80, his youngest son Seun Kuti was quick to take his place and keep the mission of Afrobeat alive. What's that mission, you ask? Spreading the traditional rhythmic, soulful melodies of African music while addressing contemporary social and political issues that affect Kuti and his band's home. Catch them at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion beginning at 3 p.m. The show is all ages.
Sept. 13, Natya Dance Theatre presents Love Beyond Reach with Chitarvina N. Ravikiran and Krithika Rajagopalan and Natya Dancers in Indian Boundary Park (2500 W. Lunt Ave.): Multi-instrumentalist Chitravina N. Ravikiran has been called "the Mozart of Indian music" on more than one occasion and the virtuosic talent he's displayed towards music since he was just two years old seems to justify the nickname. He joins the local Natya Dance Theatre for a beautiful display of Indian music and dance traditions beginning at 6 p.m. The concert will be open to all ages.
Sept. 16, Orkesta Mendoza at Mayne Stage: If one thing is for certain about this Arizona-based band, it's that, visually, they're never boring! The Orkesta can comprise up to 19 members. Percussion, Mariachi guitar, horns-it all helps up the many styles of Latin music that Mendoza bring to the stage from mambo to cumbia. They play the Mayne Stage (1328 W. Morse Ave.) beginning at 7 p.m. You must be 18 or older to attend. (They'll also play Thalia Hall on Sept. 18. This show is for fans 17 and older.)
Sept. 17, Diplomats of Drum at the Old Town School of Folk Music: Perhaps the best representation of Malaysian music you'll ever see, the members of Diplomats make up every ethnicity in the country. If the name doesn't spell it out for you, the band is heavily influenced by the funk and Bollywood-Bhangra percussion sounds of Malaysia. Get to the show early for a tribute to Hawaiian music from Ledward Kaapana, George Khumoku Jr. and "Uncle" Richard Ho'opi'i. The concert begins at 8 p.m. and is open to all ages. (The Diplomats of Drum also play on Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Beverly Arts Center. This show is also all ages.)
Sept. 17, Rocambu Jazz at Martyrs': Another dose of local representation, Rocambu Jazz brings retro sounds of Afro Caribbean Jazz to the stage touching on anything from rumbas to New Orleans Jazz music. The Chicago band opens for jazzy pop act Banda Magda all the way from Greece. The show begins at 9:30 p.m. and is limited to patrons 21 and older. (Banda Magda also plays on Sept. 16 at Mayne Stage.)
Sept. 18, Derek Gripper at The Hideout: South African-born Derek Gripper has spent his musical career helping to bridge the gap between music cultures. He's the first artist to successfully translate music of the 21-string West African kora stringed instrument to the Western six-string guitar. Hear his interpretations of Africa's best known composer's works at the cozy Hideout in Bucktown. The show starts at 9 p.m. You must be 21 or older to attend. (Gripper also plays an all ages show the following night at DePaul University Concert beginning at 8 p.m.)
Sept. 19, Atropolis at Chop Shop: The sudden meteoric rise in popularity of electronic music certainly wasn't limited to the United States in recent years and this Brooklyn-based DJ and producer helps bring that to light with his globally infused beats. This show begins at 10 p.m. and is open to all ages.
Sept. 21, Las BomPleneras at the Humboldt Park Boathouse: We must commend World Music Festival on being so in tune with its audiences and bands' cultural communities. For its final day, the festival brings the all-female Plena and Bomba (traditional Puerto Rican musical styles) ensemble to a Chicago neighborhood that has been considered home to the city's Puerto Rican population for many years. The concert begins at 3 p.m. and is open to all ages.
For a complete list of World Music Festival concerts, visit its website.