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Three Acts to See at World Music Festival Chicago

Former WBEZ host and aural omnivore Tony Sarabia shares his shortlist.

Saraswathi Ranganathan (Ragamala)   Photo: Courtesy of Saraswathi Ranganathan

Though it doesn’t receive as much attention as other seasonal concerts, the World Music Festival Chicago, held in various spots around town from September 13 to 29, is where you’ll find some of the most anomalous, unexpected, and energetic shows of the year, and all for free. Tony Sarabia, the onetime Radio M host who retired from WBEZ last year, points out: “I’ve loved this festival ever since its inception, and it just gets better and better with the breadth and styles of music over the years.” Here, the three acts Sarabia is most excited to catch.

Ragamala: A Celebration of Indian Classical Music

“What a way to introduce yourself to global music. It’s an all-nighter, first of all. And for people who might not be into classical music, trust me, it’s different with Indian classical, because of the instrumentation and the talent.” Sept. 13. Chicago Cultural Center. 6 p.m.

Los Wembler’s de Iquitos

“I’m a huge fan of cumbia music from Colombia, but there’s also a version from Peru called chicha. This is one of chicha’s legendary bands. The instrumentation is pretty minimal — maybe some congas, a scraper, guitar, and vocals— but you can dance to this stuff all night.” Sept. 14. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. 3 p.m.

Girma Bèyènè

“There’s a specific period of Ethiopian music from the late ’60s until the Derg regime took over in 1974 and basically outlawed live music. Bèyènè was an arranger, producer, and piano player; he only sang during that time, like, four songs. After hearing his voice now, I think, Wow, what a loss.” Sept. 14. Promontory. 7 p.m.; Sept. 15. Constellation. 7 p.m.

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