World Music Festival Performer Bios
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AfriCaribe is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, research, promotion, and development of the Puerto Rican and Caribbean cultures through music, dance, theater, and other artistic media.
Created in 2000 by Evaristo “Tito” Rodriguez, AfriCaribe provides Chicago with a means to celebrate the African influence in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean lands. Rodriguez’ vision came to fruition in the form of an umbrella organization providing educational and cultural programming through four main initiatives:
1. An academy, in which professional dancers and musicians teach the traditional drumming and dance of several Puerto Rican ‘Bomba’ rhythms;
2. A performance ensemble, which presents various styles of folk music from Puerto Rico and the Caribbean through song, dance, drumming, and other percussion;
3. A production company, which presents annual events including folklore conferences;
4. An education department, which provides workshops and lectures by organization members as well as by guest professionals.
Al Bilali Soudan
AL BILALI SOUDAN are from Timbuktu Mali. Their performance is an improvisational tour de force of traditional instruments, rhythms and scales. The group members all come from a well-known Tuareg griot family who have performed for generations. Aballow Yattara is the current group leader. Other members of the group are his uncle Aboubacrine Yattara and their sons Mohamed Ag Abellow and Tchiale Ag Aboubacrine. Their stringed instrument, known as tehardant in Tamashek, ngoni in Bambara, kourbou in Sonhrai, and tidinit in Arabic, is widely heard in West Africa. Some refer to the tehardant as precursor to modern banjo. It has accompanied bards, dancers and vocalists for centuries. Percussion is calabash, a hollowed half gourd. These traditional instruments are foundational to the development of the style that has evolved into the modern desert blues sound.
Ana Everling is a musician from Republic of Moldova, known for her multilingual and stylistic singing versatility. She became part of the Chicago music scene in 2015, appearing in various projects, ranging from Jazz, Latin American, Balkan, to Pop and electronic music.
Her diverse vocal work can be heard in bands like Beats y Bateria, Amada, Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan, La Peña Orchestra.
Ana's latest project - Taraf de Chicago, is a folk music ensemble with a repertoire of old Moldovan peasant songs and a dramatic Eastern European expression style that adds even more novelty to Chicago’s diverse music community.
Anupama Bhagwat, sitar musician nonpareil, has carved a niche in Indian Classical Music with a versatile & eclectic style. Acclaimed world-wide with a repertoire of global performances since 1995, her sensitivity and erudition has taken her to the highest echelons of the modern genre, while remaining true to tradition.
Anupama, born in family of passionate musicians, began her training in sitar in Bhilai at the age of nine and is today, one of the leading disciples of the world-renowned Late Pandit Shri Bimalendu Mukherjee, a doyen of the Imdadkhani Gharana.
Anupama has imbibed the vigor that is a hallmark of her Gharana: scintillating fast taans, mastery of the meditative alaap and brilliant fluency of melody (raag bhava), all the while maintaining her technical virtuosity. Anupama is one of the finest Sitar players of the current generation, who has acquired the finesse and technical nuances of the Gayaki Style while bringing out its lyrical beauty and subtly nuanced style modeled upon the human voice with the emotive cadences of sitar.
The Arab Blues
The Arab Blues traces a trajectory between tradition and innovation, we embody the call of tradition and the response of the diaspora. The synthesis Rami and Karim create is an auditory expression of not only the power and persistence of tradition but equally the validity of transformations under the unique cultural conditions we inhabit. The basis of our work is the Turath, the canon of classical Middle Eastern compositions and improvisational techniques. This rich heritage consists of melodic and rhythmic exposition and instrumental interaction at countless levels of depth. We interpret these forms in the context of the sounds of the contemporary North American metropole. In this project, the equally lush traditions of Blues and Jazz in Chicago provide the context of how we approach and assimilate the Turath. This marriage of forms is fruitful because of the emotional range of the Blues and the improvisational flexibility and ingenuity of Jazz.
Bazurto All Stars
The Bazurto All Stars was born in 2009 in the heart of Cartagena, Colombia in the Bazurto Market, amid the myriad colors, sounds and smells of that epicenter of Caribbean and African culture. They are known as the pure party machine, and the best Champeta band in Colombia whose 7 musicians put on an unrivaled stage show. Their concerts hook the audience from the first note with an explosive show full of contagious energy and dancing. In 2016, they won the prestigious Congo de Oro, with their mega hit La Pupileta which became the 2016 anth for the Carnaval de Barranquilla, the 2nd largest carnival in the world after Rio. They won a Pr io Shock in the same year and began churning out #1 radio hits across Colombia. They collaborated with celebrated artists Peter Manjarres, Kvrass and Wilfran Castillo on the hits Carnaval de Amor, La Muchachita, and El R ix de La Borrachera. The Bazurto All Stars recently won the este ed Congo de Oro a second time for the 2018 Carnaval de Barranquilla. They have successfully toured Europe and the USA since 2015 and were featured in the Estereo Picnic Festival in 2017. They produced the song Vacilatela for the 2018 Barranquilla Carnival Queen and Caracol es Carnaval for Caracol TV. They are the new image and exclusive artists of TigoMusic. A tour of Canada and the USA is planned for July 2018 with The Soukous All Stars.
Beats y Bateria
Beats y Batería explores traditional Afro-Latino, Romanian and neo-electronic sounds, along with jazz, house, some disco and bossa nova. The trio is formed by producer Harold 'AfroQbano' Gonzalez on synths and percussion, with Daniel Crane on drums, and singer-songwriter Ana Everling's enchanting dance floor poetry echoing in multiple languages.
www.beatsybateria.com / Social Handles: @beatsybateria
New Orleans brass band-meets-Mardi Gras Indian outfit Cha Wa radiates the energy of the city’s street culture. “My People,” the band’s follow up to their Grammy-nominated album “Spyboy,” feels like pure joy, a distillation of generations of New Orleans expression. But it also never fails to remind us how hard-won that joy was and still is: not least in the tense, funky and explosive title track, with its declaration “My people, we’re still here.”
ESSO Afrojam Funkbeat
ESSO is a multicultural live music band from Chicago, IL. The group made a splash by leveraging their influences and invoking polystylistic sounds from the same urban streets that birthed House music, and potent movements in slam poetry, punk rock, and free jazz. Drawing on these raw influences, the band effortlessly fuses Latin roots music with modern Americana into a rhythmic sancocho. This inner city big band of rotating members has unsealed a kaleidoscopic repertoire propelling them to perform for concerts and festivals alongside Grammy winning artists.
Possessing a luscious voice and supple sense of rhythm, Santa Cruz-born, New York State-based Eva Salina is a groundbreaking interpreter of Balkan Romani songs. Mentored by some of the greatest living Balkan musicians, she’s attained a deeply informed and passionately felt repertoire of Romani tunes and vintage Balkan pop songs. She earned international acclaim with 2016’s ravishing Lema Lema, a brass-laden tribute to Romani legend Šaban Bajramović. Her 2018 follow up, Sudbina, captures her creatively charged collaboration with Peter “Perica” Stan, a Serbian/Romanian Roma accordionist known for his playful innovation and soulful, intuitive improvisations. Together they create a welcoming space where joy and sorrow seamlessly coexist, with mournful ballads nestling gently among songs of celebration.
Gili Yalo is one of the most intriguing musicians in the music scene in Israel. Gili combines Ethiopian roots with Soul, Funk, Psychedelic and Jazz music. Gili Yalo incorporates sounds from traditional Ethiopian music into a contemporary music production. The result is an exceptional, rich, vivid melody accompanied by Gili’s unique voice with lyrics in both English and Amharic.
Héctor Guerra is one of those cultural phenomena that history gives us from time to time. He is light and energy. He brings us new ideas, concepts and visions. Although they may seem too innovative for the times, they transcend the limits of music, and sneak into the hearts of social, cultural, fashion or spiritual movements. Guerra’s music and divergent movement, which began in the streets of Madrid with his collective Pachamama Crew back in 2000, is defining and impacting a generation. It is one without prejudice that incorporates new flavors and fearlessly fuses different visions that may not have previously seemed possible. It embodies many different worlds within the same world. Héctor Guerra is an exciting mix of styles. He is the definition and the arrowhead of the Global Bass movement, a trend that is growing every day around the world, based on the mixing of world music and root music with sounds of urban music (trap, afrobeats, dance hall, and hip-hop lyrics), the flavor of cumbia, the hope of reggae, the mysticism of the Andes, and others. He was born to a Bolivian father and a Spanish mother, in Minas de Rio de Tinto, Huelva, Spain. At the age of 18, he was sponsored by DJ Lord of Public Enemy, who he accompanied on tour in 2003 at major international festivals in Spain.
Drummer/percussionist and composer Juan Pastor finds himself caught between two homes: his native Lima, Peru, and the city where he has lived for the past 13 years, Chicago. As a result, both his original compositions and the sound of his ensemble, Chinchano, draw life from deep sources - Peru’s enchantingly diverse culture, history, landscapes, and folk music, and the language of North American Jazz. Pastor evokes his multifaceted story poignantly on his new recording, El Regreso (Quinto Pulso, 2019). Pastor begins his story with a lively arrangement of Wilfredo Franco Laguna's Mayoral, the album’s sole cover and a beloved Peruvian song, whose lyrics call out the oppressive racism of Spanish colonialism. Juan’s drums animate the arrangement with a powerful Afro-Peruvian “Festejo” dance rhythm, and special guest percussionists Makarito Nicasio and Edu Campos (both members of the acclaimed ensemble Peru Negro) join the rhythm section.
Kaleta & Super Yamba
"Brooklyn’s Kaleta & Super Yamba Band are fronted by Afrobeat and Juju veteran Leon Ligan-Majek a.k.a. Kaleta. The singer/guitarist from the West African country of Benin Republic lived his adolescent life in Lagos, Nigeria where Afrobeat was born. Kaleta's guitar chops earned him decades of touring and recording with Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Lauryn Hill and more. Kaleta got his start in the late 70s performing in church and was soon after picked up by iconic Juju master and world music pioneer King Sunny Ade. A few years later Fela Kuti came calling. Kaleta would go on to tour the world playing guitar for the King of Afrobeat in his storied band Egypt 80 through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Now based in New York City, Kaleta has been leading Super Yamba Band since 2017. Their debut album ""Mèdaho,"" which was released by California indie label Ubiquity Records, draws on the group’s shared reverence for the raw, psychedelic sounds that captivated Kaleta as a music loving kid in 1970s Benin. Mèdaho means ""big brother,"" ""elder"" or ""teacher"" and is dedicated to Kaleta's late brother Ligan-Ozavino Pascal who introduced him to funk and soul music at a very early age. The album was included on Bandcamp’s “Best Albums of Summer 2019” list and two of the songs were chosen for the ABC/Hulu series High Fidelity staring Zoe Kravitz. Kaleta and his band have also erupted onto the stages and video screens of major music festivals and music publications across the US. They performed at the historic Apollo Theatre in 2019. They even prompted Action Bronson to stop his own show on VICELAND TV just so he could hear more Yamba. They also performed on Adult Swim’s Fishcenter Live show in 2019. In 2017 they rocked Paste Magazine’s Emerging Music Festival in NYC and after that performance Afropop Worldwide fell in love with Kaleta, saying “his James Brown grunts have got to be some of the best in the business!”
“In Latin America, we have succeeded, after a fashion, in conceiving and creating a world in which values, far from being stifled by the clash of opposites, are given new life through lively communication and recognition of the multicultural reality.” The reality that Carlos Fuentes describes summarises perfectly the essence of Sophie Fustec’s project, LA CHICA. It’s this “multicultural reality” between Latin America and France, between Belleville (the Parisian neighbourhood), and Venezuela that gave birth to her compositions, lyrics and style.
La Chica reunites these two worlds through her music by using a collage of textured sounds that she’s taken from her origins and diverse modern influences to break boundaries. Her world revolves around the piano and keyboard, skillfully mixing classical inspirations, like her admiration for Debussy, with the dense intensity of analogue synths. She doesn’t need to hide behind any gimmicks, instead, her basic emotions are conveyed through abstract thoughts and poetic self-reflection.
Malafacha is a Ska band with Reggae and Latin rhythms that was formed in 2003 in Pilsen’s Hispanic Bohemian neighborhood in Chicago, IL. Malafacha is conformed of 8 members, Moises Bello -lead voice, Alejandro Cruz -drums, Ivan Bello -alto sax and choirs, Ezequiel Cruz -bass, Juan Abad-trombone, Armando Pescador – percussions, Roberto Carlos Tovar (Charlie) -guitar and Martin Orosco -Keyboard. All different personalities and musical tendencies between the band members has brought the band to obtain an original sound with a base of Ska, Reggae and Latin rhythms mixed with Punk, Metal, Cumbia, Rock, Disco and an endless fusion of genres that makes of Malafacha an unique band. .
The Occidental Brothers’ blend of high-energy soukous, rootsy Ghananian Highlife, and African Jazz conjures the sound of the golden age of the African guitar band. Founded in Chicago, the group has collaborated with musicians from Ghana, Congo,and Zambia. Bandleader and guitarist Nathaniel Braddock was a faculty member at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music for ten years and is a veteran of Chicago’s indie rock scene. Now living in Cambridge, Mass, he also leads Trio Mokili and Air Congo, and collaborates with musicians from Uganda and the DRC. Co-founder and alto saxophonist Greg Ward is a highly praised jazz musician who released his “Touch My Beloved’s Thought” to critical acclaim in 2016, and "Stomping Off From Greenwood" in 2018. The group is currently developing new material for a major dance work with choreographer Edisa Weeks that premiers in New York City in October 2023. The Occidental Brothers have energized festival stages in Europe and North America, including Poland’s Made In Chicago 2017, Chicago World Music Festival 2016, Chicago Jazz Fest 2011, Nijmegen Music Meeting NL 2010, Moers Fest DE 2010, Ottawa Bluesfest 2010, Toronto AfroFest 2010, GlobalFest 2009, the Montreal and Vancouver Jazz Festivals 2009, and Pitchfork 2008.
Born in 1970, Paolo Angeli started to play guitar when he was 9. He grew up in Palau, an extremely stimulating musical environment. The guitar and the voice of his father, his first mentor, the autobus with the drums, the chicken, the melons, the ‘diroccati’ rock groups in an old carpentry, the experiences with concerts in the squares and carnival evenings, they all directed him towards a sailing without stylistic barriers in the world of music.
Indian-American percussionist, composer, and educator Dr. Rohan Krishnamurthy is one of the leading voices of Indian classical and cross-genre music in the South Asian diaspora. Acclaimed a "musical ambassador" by The Times of India, he received mridangam training from the esteemed guru, Sri. Guruvayur Dorai. He studied drum set with Alan Hall at the California Jazz Conservatory and tabla with Pt. Swapan Chaudhuri at the Ali Akbar College of Music. Distinguished as a soloist, composer, and collaborator, Rohan performed with legendary Indian classical musicians and cross-over artists including Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, T.N. Krishnan, N. Ramani, L. Shankar, Guitar Prasanna, Flute Shashank, T. M. Krishna, Ranjani and Gayatri, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and Ronu Majumdar. His latest work includes The Alaya Project, an Indo-jazz-funk collective with world jazz luminaries Prasant Radhakrishnan (saxophone) and Colin Hogan (keyboard/accordion).
Roopa Mahadevan is a leading second-generation Indian classical and crossover vocalist in the American diaspora, known for her powerful, emotive voice, versatility, and collaborative spirit. She leads the crossover ensemble Roopa In Flux, where she works with musicians in jazz, soul/R&B, and various global traditions, directs the innovative choir Navatman Music Collective, and sings for leading Bharatanatyam and modern dancers. Roopa trained in Carnatic music under Asha Ramesh and further under Suguna Varadachari in India through the Fulbright scholarship. Roopa has performed in diverse venues such as Chennai's Music Academy during the December festival and Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana, which awarded her the title "Kala Ratna," as well as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, MET Museum, Hollywood Bowl, Millenium Stage, Joe's Pub and more. She is a soloist on Christopher Tin’s Grammy Award-winning Calling All Dawns, and is a sought-after vocalist for several cutting-edge ensembles, including Brooklyn Raga Massive. Roopa has been invited to residencies at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity, Hedgebrook, Mass MOCA, Ryder Farm, and Joe's Pub. She recently received the competitive Creative Work Fund grant with collaborator Sruti Sarathy to create new compositions that tell a story of South Asian diasporic life. Previously, Roopa worked in public health policy, following degrees from Stanford University.
Sruti Sarathy is a leading Carnatic violinist, singer, and composer. A rare artist who possesses both mastery in the rigorous classical form as well as a boundary-pushing musical vision, she lights up the stage in diverse contexts across the globe, from the sabhas of Chennai to European folk festivals to radical performance art spaces in San Francisco.
Sruti is a versatile composer for Carnatic, crossover, film/theater, and experimental new music contexts. Her soulful and genre-defying original music is a meeting place for Indian classical ragas, improvisational forms, spoken word, South Asian diasporic experience, and literature. Sruti’s inimitable style and sound bring out the voice of the Indian violin in a contemporary and imaginative way.
Sruti studied under eminent Guru Smt. Anuradha Sridhar, a sixth-generation violinist from the Lalgudi family of musicians. Her work has been supported by many arts organizations, including the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Sruti was awarded “Best Violinist” from the prestigious Madras Music Academy in 2019 and 2020. A Bay Area native, Sruti is a graduate of Stanford University and a Fulbright Scholar.
Born in the ancient city of Fes, Morocco, internationally acclaimed singer Lamiae Naki and her ensemble Seffarine channel their deep knowledge of the music of both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar, the crossroad where African, Middle Eastern and European cultures meet. From the 9th to 15th centuries these cultures coexisted peacefully, producing a seminal musical alchemy that influenced the foundations of both classical Arabic and European Renaissance music.
Shanta Nurullah was born into a musical family and studied piano and tap dancing throughout her formative years. While in college, she was able to travel to India and study Indian Classical music and the sitar. Shanta has been performing professionally as a musician since 1972, and as a storyteller since 1978. After college, Shanta immersed herself in the Black Arts Movement as a member of the Kuumba Workshop, Kelan Phil Cohran’s Black Music Workshop, and associating with writers, visual artists, dancers, and members of the AACM.
Shanta formed her first band in 1978 and went on to co-found the all-women’s ensembles Sojourner and Samana, the first female band in the AACM. With these groups, and others, Shanta has performed in venues across the country, distinguishing herself as a sitarist and bassist exploring African-American improvisational music. Her current projects include the bands Sitarsys and Classic Black, the duo ShaZah, and Freedom Song Leaders, a vocal ensemble.
Son Rompe Pera
Born and raised in the deep outskirts of Mexico City, the Gama brothers are keeping alive the rich legacy of marimba music running through their family with their latest project, Son Rompe Pera. While firmly rooted in the tradition of this historic instrument, their fresh take on the folk icon challenges its limits as never before, moving it into the garage/punk world of urban misfits and firmly planting it in the 21st century.
Sones de México Ensemble
The group is Chicago’s premier folk music organization specializing in Mexican ‘son,’ a genre encompassing the roots of mariachi music and other regional styles. The ensemble was formed in 1994 to keep the tradition of Mexican ‘son’ alive in its many regional forms. As a performer and recording artist, they have developed and popularized many original arrangements of Mexican traditional tunes. They have also experimented cross-culturally with symphonic, Irish, folk, blues, C&W, jazz and rock, though never abandoning its roots in Mexican son. The mission of Sones de México Ensemble is to promote greater appreciation of Mexican folk and traditional music and culture through innovative performance, education, and dissemination.
Suhail Yusuf Khan
Suhail is a PhD. candidate at Wesleyan University and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Hartt School, University of Hartford. He brings together expertise from a performance career that has extended over 20 years, a creative ability, and the academic research to find new modes of expression in Hindustānī music. His doctoral dissertation, “Bridge Overtones: Lessons from the Sarangi” is the first in-depth ethnomusicological study of the North Indian bowed instrument tradition by a hereditary sarangi player. He has been featured on more than fifteen albums and signed to Domino records, U.K
The mission of the Surabhi Ensemble is to demonstrate the connections between cultures and to teach a positive message of togetherness in creating and performing new works of music, dance, and visual media. Members of the group work in many settings such as schools, hospitals, theaters, concert halls, festivals, refugee organizations, neighborhood parks, and cultural centers to bring this positive message of cultural unity and outreach.
Tamburica Haus Bend
“Tamburica Haus Bend” have been performing together for over seven years and is one of the few groups to feature both Tamburica and Accordion. Zoran Miletić (Bass), Joe Kirin (Tamburica), and Zoran Radovanović (Accordion) & Bob Persa (Kontra)—who with different cultural backgrounds and accomplished skills—came together with a mutual love and passion for the music that originates from the areas once known as Yugoslavia. Their performances are often acoustic (ala Skadarlija), performed up-close which gives them the opportunity to closely connect and share in some of the most important celebrations in people’s lives. Whether performing music from Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro, or America, the music is always warm, fun, high-energy, and exciting.
Using “Khoomii” or overtone singing, Mongolian and Tuvan lutes and a Mongolian horse-head fiddle, alongside innovative percussion and a didgeridoo, Tuvergen creates a dynamic musical experience oscillating between serenity and exhilaration