Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Global Grooves

A Hungarian ska group. A Bulgarian wedding band. An Indian electric guitarist.

To say the least, offerings at the Wisconsin Union Theater’s fifth World Music Festival are eclectic. But they’re also stylistically and culturally diverse, and representative of the festival’s goal.

“We have a mission, which is to bring music that is unfamiliar to Madison,” says Esty Dinur, chair for artistic selection. “We’re part of the university, so we see what we do as educational—but in the most fun way.”

Held September 12 to 20 at the Memorial Union Terrace and other venues across the city, the free music festival draws musicians that might not otherwise perform in Madison. Often, the artists are popular in their own countries but haven’t yet traveled to the United States, Dinur says. But once they perform here, as well as at other festivals in the region, many return—and find enthusiastic and full audiences waiting for them.

While organizers never choose a “theme” for the festival, some connections emerge organically as the event comes together, Dinur says.

This year’s festival boasts several bands from Eastern Europe, including the Plastic People of the Universe, a band from the Czech Republic inspired by the Velvet Underground that formed in 1968 and performed in opposition to the Soviet occupation. “It’s amazing to have them,” Dinur says. “It’s their first time touring in the United States.”

Also performing are Hungarian pop-ska band Little Cow; Reelroad, a Russian folk revival band that started out in 1999 playing Irish folk music; and Kabile, a six-piece traditional Bulgarian wedding band.

Dinur expects electric guitarist Prasanna to be a hit with audiences. “He’s known as the Indian Jimi Hendrix,” she says.

Also exciting are “four acts from the Muslim world,” Dinur says. She’s looking forward to presenting Mamak Khadem of Iran, Gaida Hinnawi of Syria, Baba Zula of Turkey and Etran Finatawa of Niger.

Through these and other acts, the festival does more than simply bring good music to Madison, Dinur believes.

“It’s kind of a political statement—make music, not war.”

Concert Schedule:

Friday, September 12
Memorial Union Terrace (rain: Wisconsin Union Theatre)
Dragon Knights and World Percussion Ensemble, 5 p.m.
Prasanna, India, 5:30 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 7 p.m.
Mamak Khadem, Iran, 7:30 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 9 p.m.
Nation Beat, Brazil/USA, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 13
Memorial Union Terrace (rain: Wisconsin Union Theater)
Dragon Knights, 4 p.m.
Little Cow, Hungary, 4:30 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 6 p.m.
Plastic People of the Universe, Czech Republic, 6:30 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 7:15 p.m.
Reelroad, Russia, 7:45 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 9:15 p.m.
Maraca, Cuba, 10 p.m.

Sunday, September 14
The Annex
Weapons of Mass DeFunktion, 6:30 p.m.
Little Cow, Hungary, 7:30 p.m.
Plastic People of the Universe, Czech Republic, 9 p.m.

Thursday, September 18
Memorial Union Terrace (rain: Der Rathskeller)
Student and Community Showcase, 5 p.m.
Kabile, Bulgaria, 8:30 p.m.

Friday, September 19
Memorial Union Terrace (rain: Wisconsin Union Theater)
Gaida Hinnawi, Syria, 5:30 p.m.
Dya Singh, India, 7:30 p.m.
Baba Zula, Turkey, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 20
Willy Street Fair
Chiwoniso, Zimbabwe, 1:45 p.m.
Zazhil, Mexico, 3:45 p.m.
Etran Finatawa, Niger, 5:45 p.m.
17 Hippies, Germany, 7:45 p.m.

Visit the World Music Festival website for recent additions, musician bios, and a full schedule of events including classes and workshops.

Photos of Reelroad, Prasanna and Baba Zula are courtesy of the Wisconsin Union Theater.

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