Catalina Maria Johnson

International radio broadcaster, bilingual cultural journalist, music curator


This year’s Celebrate Clark Street Festival, with music programming courtesy of curator David Chavez of Sound Culture Center for Global Arts, brings together an astonishing array of world music artists guaranteed to have you dancing non-stop for two whole days. Here’s just a few bands that I am very excited about catching in the Chi, but be sure to check the complete schedule.


This Brooklyn band of activist musicians that includes Leo  Mintek, guitarist, Dr. Blum on trumpet, organ, accordion and harmonium, Jesse Williams Massa on bass and ultra-fierce vocalist Miles Solay have been touring tirelessly from the U.S.-Mexico border to Brooklyn and back, using the music to carry the message: “Todos Somos Ilegales”. Their punk-tinged activist anthems are ample proof that the revolution and dancing are not incompatible, and that the new society will have amongst other important benefits, the best music ever.


Singing in Spanish, Lamine Fellah is an Ecuatorian-based, Algerian-born son of a diplomat raised between half a dozen countries from Europe to Africa. Taking the artistic name “Sarazino” (the French slur for northern Africans), he proudly lays out reggae, funk and rap-tinged ballads with heavy doses of Arabic, Latin and African beats. Highly captivating and upbeat even when at its most political, Sarazino’s music will have you agreeing with the title of his latest album – “Everyday Salama” which means in Arabic “every day is a blessing.”


A trio whose beats find a happy common ground between Malian roots music and rap, SMOD’s lyrics also include a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek political satire. Spearheaded by Sam Bagayoko, son of Malian desert blues superstars Amadou and Mariam, their multi-culti Afrorap takes Manuchao-esque turns at times, which is no coincidence – their debut album was produced by friend and colleague Manu Chao himself.

Los Empresarios

The high-powered D.C.-based Los Empresarios, whose five members include three from Puerto Rico, bring their Caribbean take on salsa mixing in reggae, cumbia, dub and house to create an irresistible and ultra-danceable groove they call “tropicaliente” –  as cool as caliente can get!

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang

Veteran artist Janka Nabay, known as the “King of Bubu”,  revived the art of bubu, infectious, super fast-paced dance music that according to Sierra Leone mythology was bought from witches 500 years ago. Janka Nabay became a star in his homeland, escaped the horrors of its civil war and still continued doing music as a refugee immigrant working in the U.S. at fast-food fryers. Now happily on the bubu road again, Nabay comes to the Chi with the Bubu Gang, young, wildly talented Brooklyn indie experimenters.

Celebrate Clark Street will be held on Clark between Morse and Touhy, July 28 and 29 from 1 to 11 PM.

Check Catalina’s radio show Beat Latino  (On FB and itunes too!) as well as recent NPR features to explore the past, present and future of Latin music.

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