Every year as summer turns into fall, something wonderful happens in Chicago: The World Music Festival! It kicked off last night, September 8, at SummerDance with an amazing, high-energy band, Underground System — a band from Brooklyn, but their musical style, Afrobeat, hails from Nigeria. The temperatures dipped into the 50’s and there was a pretty strong constant cool wind off the lakefront, yet once this hot band got going, the outdoor dance floor in the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park was hopping. I had to strip off my coat to cool off!
Their show was incredible. Never had I seen such wild dancing except in movies. It was exciting: With each song, the drum beat pulled us in, and there was no way to not dance. This band was unique in that the front line was women, dancing in unison while singing, playing flute, drumming and including a tenor saxophonist who could really belt it out – while dancing! She was petite — the sax was almost as big as she — but she played with resounding power. They were backed by more than one drummer plus bass and guitar.
The good news is even if you missed Underground System last night, you can catch them tomorrow, September 10, at Navy Pier. It’s Chicago Music Festival’s Women of the World concert series from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Ecos Del Pacifico Afrocolombia and LePercolateur, also featuring female frontwomen, will also be playing. Don’t miss this!
The World Music Festival lasts over two weeks and is a marathon of music from around the world. Get your calendar handy and click here for the full schedule so you can plan to experience musical acts you would never otherwise get to see. I regret not jumping on this sooner, as last night was an event I’ve wanted to catch: An all-night (yes, you read that right: from 6:30 p.m. till 10:00 a.m. the following day) celebration of Indian music divided between Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center, which are right across the street from each other.
But there’s still time to make it to Millennium Park by 3:00 p.m. today, September 9, to hear the Bharath Symphony, a musical celebration of India and commemorating the 70th Anniversary of India’s Independence — and so many other great acts around the city happening soon. One would need a clone to be present at them all at once, so choose wisely, and hopefully what you miss this year you can catch next year.
For example, while there’s Duo Scofano-Minetti, an Argentine group, playing at SummerDance tonight (including Tango lessons), there are two other World Music Fest events happening tonight as well at distant parts of the city. Concerts happen almost daily — some are indoors, some are outdoors; some are all ages, some are 21+ only — so take your vitamins and get your sleep to maintain your stamina so you can see and hear as much as possible.
The World Music Festival is a delightful dive into world culture. It includes not just music but dance lessons and performances; yoga and gong meditation; a movie that’s a Saharan Desert style homage to Prince’s “Purple Rain” and a global peace procession and picnic in Humboldt Park.
To really make these next two weeks special, consider pairing up your musical experiences with visits to many of the restaurants around Chicago that serve exquisite ethnic food. Immerse yourself in the world, right here in Chicago!