Afrobeat, Blues, Calypso, Chicago Artists, Classical, Experimental, Funk, In Memoriam, Interviews, Jazz, News and Dish, Pop, R&B, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Soul, Space Pop, Vocal Music, World Music
Verdine White (left) and Maurice White in 2005
By Dennis Polkow
When Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White died in his sleep on February 3 at the age of seventy-four after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, the accolades for the former Chicagoan were universal.
“We had talked the day before and I had seen him a few days before,” says Maurice’s brother, Chicago native and EWF bassist Verdine White, “so this was a huge surprise.” Verdine describes Maurice’s passing as a “transition” and says that he still “guides me, as he always has.” Although Maurice gave up performing with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994, he remained a mentor to the band until his death.
It was Maurice who came up with the idea of a multi-genre band that would be an amalgam of styles at a time when, as Verdine puts it, “there was a revolution going on in music.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Gail Dee
The seventeenth World Music Festival Chicago continues through September 22. The city’s free annual cultural blood transfusion, which began on September 11, presents fifty artists from twenty-six countries with over sixty performances taking place at fifteen venues.
The “O.M.G. did you see?” of the entire festival is certain to be the long-awaited Chicago debut of the intense Inuk throat-singer Tanya Tagaq (September 19 at Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago) performing a searing live soundtrack to the 1922 silent film “Nanook of the North.” It’s her sole performance in the festival. Like Dakha Brakha in 2013, this is an artist you won’t soon forget. Don’t come expecting a lyrical, meditative musical experience; her intention is to express herself without restraint, and she can be sonically shocking. Most of her shows are improvised, though this performance does have a score (written by a composer Derek Charke). Read the rest of this entry »
Seun Kuti / Photo: Johann Sauty
By Gail Dee
What a conundrum that the vast majority of western music enjoyed today—rock ’n’ roll, blues, jazz and hip-hop—has roots in African music spread through suffering. Slavery’s tentacles stretched wide. This cultural diaspora isn’t limited to the U.S. and Caribbean, but extends to Mexico (with Son Jarocho), Colombia (with cumbia and champeta), Peru, Brazil and Uruguay. Even the Argentine tango has its origins in the African slave trade, though Argentina itself is often considered a European (i.e. culturally white) country. The story is told in the film “Tango Negro: The African Roots of Tango” on June 18 at Facets Multimedia (1517 West Fullerton, 8pm, $9).
And the story doesn’t stop there. Like a snake consuming its own tail, the funky soul of James Brown, the acid rock of Jimi Hendrix, the cool jazz of Miles Davis and salsa from New York City then traveled back across the Atlantic and influenced popular music throughout Africa.
This summer, an abundance of exceptional African and Afro-Latin music comes to Chicago, bringing opportunities to check out the amazing diversity of the Afro-musical melting pot. And don’t assume the sound is all about drums; jazzy horns, electric guitars and electronica also prominently propel the dance rhythms. It’s going to be one heck of a hot, sexy summer. Read the rest of this entry »
An enticing array of live shows spanning the globe is coming to Chicago in mid-April. If you’re an international music lover you’ll want to see as much as you can. After this bountiful world-music weekend, the touring-artist landscape is a bit lackluster until summer. Some highlights:
On April 17, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars come to Martyr’s (3855 North Lincoln; $17/$20 DOS). As its name suggests, the band was formed in a refugee camp where its members were displaced during the Sierra Leone Civil War. They’ve become increasingly popular in Chicago over the past decade—they visited us twice last year alone. Their most recent Mayne Stage show was one of the most joyful I’ve ever attended; the crowded dance floor grooved happily to the lilting guitar riffs of soukous, African highlife, and the reggae-like rhythms of baskeda. Last year the All Stars returned to their acoustic roots with the release of “Libation,” their fourth album in their ten-year history. Their success is a testimony to human resilience that continues to inspire us. Read the rest of this entry »
Afrobeat, Big Band, Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Experimental, Interviews, Jazz, New Music, News and Dish, Orchestral, Vocal Music, World Music
Marie Daulne of Zap Mama
By Dennis Polkow
Marie Daulne, founder and lead singer of the Afropop female group Zap Mama, has always straddled two continents. She never knew her European father; he was killed at the hands of Simba rebels in the Congo, where Daulne was born and from where she, her mother and sisters escaped to live in her father’s native Belgium.
One of Daulne’s primary influences growing up was Afrobeat and Fela Kuti. “All Africans living in Europe listened to him,” she says. She even saw Kuti perform as a teenager and was delighted years later when she was living in New York and “Fela!” opened on Broadway. “Prior to that, the most African thing on Broadway was ‘The Lion King’! I returned to the show several times to see Antibalas perform.” Antibalas is the Brooklyn-based Afrobeat ensemble that arranged and performed all of the music for “Fela!,” modeled on Kuti’s own Africa 70 band. Read the rest of this entry »
This Malian guitarist, singer and songwriter has long crept out of the shadow of his father, the late, great Ali Farka Toure, kicking off his international career shortly before his father’s passing with the release of his self-titled album (World Village) in 2007. The album was recorded with his father’s participation and blessings, even though at first he wasn’t too happy about his son embarking onto the uncertainties of a musical career.
From there, the recognition was almost immediate—that same year, he appeared in key stages in North America that gave him wide exposure, and that culminated in his participation in the opening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg alongside the likes of Shakira and Alicia Keys. He has since released two solo records. 2008’s excellent “The Secret” featured contributions from Derek Trucks and Dave Matthews. He is currently working on his side project Toure-Reichel Collective, a collaboration with Israeli musician Idan Reichel while also working on his own solo material. Read the rest of this entry »
The hallmark of a good band is its ability to perform in any setting at any time. Gigging at a local Occupy, the Chicago Afrobeat Project played to a sympathetic crowd, one almost expected to take in the confluence of funk, jazz and afro-stylings as the norm. If no one said anything about a post-racial America, they were thinking about it. Several months earlier, though, CAbP did a spot at the Beachland Park, a private beach club in Cleveland. Private might be too strong a word. There’s no gate, but there are fees for residents who use the park on a regular basis. Read the rest of this entry »
Osunlade, Yoruba priest and label owner, acclaimed producer and inspiring DJ—I suppose leading with that list begs the question: “What about him?” Inquire no more, for the man himself will be working the decks this weekend at Chicago’s hipster paradise, Sonotheque. Many house artists have listed their efforts as “Afro-beat,” but what comes out of the speakers are a few easily found presets from your favorite software package. Tribal percussion and soulful chanting are indeed the weapons Osunlade employs to convey the African sound through house music, but his style exudes authenticity, and with sweat-inducing gusto to boot. Chi-town’s getting cold again, but the jazzy breakbeats and horn-fueled melodies of Osunlade’s deep, dancefloor-aimed sound will get your blood flowing. Read the rest of this entry »