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World Music Festival a global celebration

Toubab Krewe performs Martyrs Sept. 17.

Toubab Krewe performs at Martyrs on Sept. 17.

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Updated: May 9, 2012 9:48AM

What better way to end the summer and greet the fall season in Chicago than with a music fest on a global scale?

Once again, the annual World Music Festival offers a jam-packed week of performances showcaseing both traditional and contemporary music from diverse cultures around the world.

The popular festival, presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, in partnership with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, takes place across the city in museums, parks, cultural centers, plazas, clubs and other venues.

Throughout its 13 years, the World Music Festival has helped expand Chicago’s knowledge of music from different cultures. Since it takes place over a week, the best way to attack the festival is to simply dive in and see as much as you can.

If you need a little more guidance, we’ve assembled some picks from the wide array of performers at venues spread around the city. Remember, many performances have a cover charge, but most performers also have free shows scheduled.

Fans can also tune into WNUR-FM (89.3) or head to the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington, for live radio broadcasts of interviews and performances each weekday from noon-2 p.m. during the festival. For a complete festival schedule, visit

Here’s a look at some of the festival highlights:

SEPT. 16

Ernesto Anaya Ensemble (6:30 p.m.; National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th; Free) Specializing in son huasteco and other folkloric styles, Mexico’s Ernesto Anaya has collaborated with many leading Latin music artists, including Lila Downs, Aleks Syntek and Ana Torroja, and performed in the biopic “Frida.” A composer, producer, arranger, vocalist and instrumentalist, he released his first solo disc, “Huapangueando,” last year.

Sidi Toure (8 p.m.; Eckhart Park, 1330 W. Chicago; $20) Hailing from the musical Toure family, Sidi Toure takes the traditional music of Mali to new heights without losing sight of its roots. He is considered a successor of Ali Farka Toure.

Malika Zarra; Natural Information Society (9 p.m.; Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse; $15) Born in Morocco, raised in France and now living in New York City, Malika Zarra performs a new Moroccan urban-world jazz. Natural Information Society features bassist and composer Joshua Abrams.

SEPT. 17

Joaquin Diaz (noon; Dock at Montrose Harbor; free) Most wouldn’t associate the diatonic accordion with merengue, which in its modern incarnation is a brass-driven acoustic style still popular in rural areas of the Dominican Republic.

Wust El Balad; Alsarah and the Nubatones; Arooj Aftab (7 p.m.; International House at University of Chicago, 1414 E. 59th; $8) From Cairo, the eight-member Wust El Balad has a soft rock sound highlighted with traditional Egyptian music. Alsarah and the Nubatones have a love of Nubian music, which they blend with traditional music of central Sudan. Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab’s globalized pop sound is influenced by jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald and Sufi classical artists Abida Parveen and Reshma.

Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal; Sidi Toure (8 p.m.; Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; $10) The kora and the cello, two instruments worlds apart that make beautiful music together thanks to the masterful playing of these two virtuosos, one from Mali (Sissoko), the other from France (Segal).

Toubab Krewe; Mad Professor (10 p.m.; Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln; $15) Toubab Krewe produces a wild musical blend described as Malian-influenced Afro-cowboy-ninja-surf music. Mad Professor is a dub music producer known for his original productions and remix work.

SEPT. 18

Mad Professor; Twilight Circus Dub Sound System (7 p.m.; Reggie’s Rock Club, 2105 S. State; $15) Mad Professor is a dub music producer known for his original productions and remix work. The Twilight Circus Dub Sound System is the reggae project of Ryan Moore, former bassist of the Legendary Pink Dots.

Nuriya; Gerard Edery Ensemble (7 p.m.; Mayne Stage; $15) A descendant of Middle Eastern Jews who settled in Mexico City, Nuriya’s current band is a fusion of Latin, Middle-Eastern and Arabic-flamenco music with a bit of hip-hop and reggae mixed in. The Gerard Edery Ensemble presents a mixed-media performance (music, dance, narration, projections) that illuminates the cultural paths of the Sephardic diaspora.

Yuri Yunakov Ensemble; Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm Project with Nicolae Feraru; Black Bear Combo (8 p.m.; Lincoln Hall. 2424 N. Lincoln; $15) Yunakov is a Bulgarian Roma (gypsy) saxophone player known for wedding music, one of the most popular musical styles that emerged in the 1970s in the Balkan region. Gibons’ Chicago ensemble is a cross-cultural group led by the violinist inspired by Blakan and Oriental music. Black Bear is a brass/reed band that travels between traditional Eastern European music, punk rock and jazz.

SEPT. 19

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (7 p.m.; Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph; free) The traditional band from Salento, Italy, plays energetic pizzica, a style of music and dance native to the region.

Marco Calliari; Megitza Quartet (8 p.m.; Martyrs’; $10) Calliari began his career with the heavy metal group Anonymous but five years ago returned to his roots with his versions of Italian folk songs. Chicago’s Megitza Quartet performs energetic renditions of Roma and Eastern European folk music.

SEPT. 20

DePedro (7 p.m.; Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio; $15) A mix of Mediterranean and Spanish cultures, DePedro is a side project of singer and guitarist Jairo Zavala that celebrates his many influences and inspirations.

Bomba Estero; Luisa Maita (8 p.m.; Lincoln Hall; $15) From Colombia, the quintet Bomba Estereo fuses traditional cumbia with electronica and dance beats, for a style they call “electro tropical.” After appearing at SXSW, Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot and Coachella over the last year, the group is fast building an American following. Hailed as “The New Voice of Brazil,” Luisa Maita draws on samba and pop bossa nova and MPB styles, but with a jazz twist, given that two of her major influences are Chet Baker and Billie Holiday.

Abigail Washburn; Mar Caribe; Alana Amram and the Rough Gems (8 p.m.; Martyrs’; $15) Nashville-based Clawhammer banjo player Washburn has taken her exotic style of bluegrass and world beats to a global audience. Mar Caribe is an instrumental sextet that straddles the line between dusty spaghetti Western and jaunty maritime numbers. Alana Amram and the Rough Gems offer their brand of country-folk rock Americana.

Movits! (9 p.m.; The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; $10) The members of this Swedish hip-hop/jazz trio sing in their native language, but even if you don’t understand the lyrics, the swinging beats are universal.

SEPT. 21

Nawal (6:30 p.m.; Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion; Michigan and Randolph; free) A native of the Comoros Islands off the coast of Africa, Nawal weaves a rich blend of cultures into a showcase of musical traditions.

Creole Choir of Cuba; Boubacar Traore Trio (8 p.m.; Mayne Stage; $15 ) The mixed melodies of the Cuban-Haitian musical heritage are the focus of the Creole Choir of Cuba. Legendary Malian performer Boubacar Traore’s deep-toned vocals and stylish finger picking on acoustic guitar create a hypnotic mood that touches on the blues.

Brock McGuire Band (8 p.m.; Chief O’Neill’s, 3471 N. Elston; $7) The traditional Celtic band from County Clare features button accordionist Paul Brock, fiddler Manus McGuire, mandolinist Enda Scahill and pianist Denis Carey.

SEPT. 22

The final day of the World Music Festival is gathered under one roof at the Chicago Cultural Center for a free evening of music beginning at 6:30 p.m. Among the performers are Creole Choir of Cuba, Middle East Music Ensemble of Chicago, Boubacar Traore, Nawal and Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole with Shawn Pimental.

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