Catalina Maria Johnson

International radio broadcaster, bilingual cultural journalist, music curator

Whether you are interested in dancing, trancing or checking music just because, our World Music Fest has sounds from exotic and beautiful places to suit your body and soul.  Additionally, some of the best dancing grooves courtesy of WMF 2013 come our way under the stars! So here’s just a few highly recommended ways to to spend your September evenings.

For Dancing

Eddie Palmieri

A maestro of maestros as a jazz pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, the incredibly dapper Eddie Palmieri (a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent) graces a stage on our city once again. Plan to be amazed at how the 2012 NEA Jazz Master with over five decades of developing his chops uses not just sound but the different silences between every note to weave beautiful melodies.

Joan Soriano

Of course, we’re partial to the Latino side of the dancing equation, and as far as the sweet, soulful bluesy bachata chords from the Dominican Republic, there are few who play them with the flair and charisma of Joan Soriano, aka the “Duque de la Bachata”. Added bennie:  This concert is also part of Chicago Summer Dance, so you get to practice your bachata moves with a teacher before the concert.

Cedric Watson

Watson is a Texas-born accordion player, fiddler and singer supremely well-versed in the captivating Louisiana-bred sounds of “le zydeco” (from the French, “Les haricots”, which means “snap peas”). And yes, the music, totally snaps, crackles and pops in the hands of this extremely talented artist.

For Trancing


The closing night of the fest, titled “One World under One Roof” is a multi-stage musical feast which is simply not to be missed. It will also be our only chance to experience some groups such as this Ukrainian quartet that specializes in “ethnic chaos” – the sound and soul of the folk music of their land blended with contemporary elements and great theatrical flair to create something that is quite lovely and strange, and totally indescribable.


Alejandra Ortiz from Colombia and Luis Maurette from Argentina create music they aptly term “primitive and luminous”. Indeed, the way they combine electronic music with vocals and live playing of instruments from South America as well as other parts of the world, creates beautiful sonic landscapes with surprising qualities that are ancestral, contemplative, urban, organic and electronic all at the same time!

Debashish Bhattacharya,  Subhasis Bhattacharya and Anandi Bhattacharya

Master slide guitarist from India Debashish Bhattacharya along with his brother Subhasis Bhattacharya and his daughter Anandi Bhattacharya perform at Millenium Park, in which is the first part of RagaMala, an all-night extravaganza of Indian classical music that then moves to the Chicago Cultural Center at 9 and continues until 8am the following morning. This promises to be an evening, night, and dawn to remember for a long, long time!

For…just because

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba/Festival au Desert: Caravan for Peace

The Festival au Desert program is a multi-concert event that takes place over three days. The Festival is usually held in January in Mali, but due to internal warfare which began almost two years ago, it was cancelled in January and this year’s edition is taking place in several cities around the world. A stellar line-up of Malian musicians will play at our WMF, among them Bassekou Kouyate, master ngoni player (a string instrument from West Africa that may have been the banjo’s predecessor).

Christine Salem

From Reunion Island (in the Indian Ocean off the Madagascar coast) Salem is an outstanding exponent of maloya, placed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Until recently, maloya was performed only by men, and because of political and pagan overtones, outlawed until 1981. Chanting in a velvety and potent voice, Salem adds her outstanding percussion to that of her band, producing waves of beats that simply cannot be resisted.


Noura Mint Seymali

This Mauritanian Diva of the “Sahel” ( the Africa zone of transition, in Africa,between the Sahara desert to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south), is heir to a Mauritanian Griot lineage that harkens back for untold generations,and her hypnotic, desert bluesy- blend melds the cultural geography of her homeland, a place where Arab and Black Africa come together.

Chicago’s World Music Festival takes place September 12-22.

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

During World Music Fest, Catalina will join Stephanie Manriquez of FMEL (Electronic Music Festival) and Sandra Treviño of for a “Ladies Choice Sound Selectors” evening after the Lulacruza concert at the Mayne Stage on September 21.

See you on the dance floor!

Comments are closed.