Chicago becomes worldly

By Kaylee King

Musicians, artists and craftmakers from around the world will gather in Chicago this week for the 10th annual World Music Festival.

The festival runs through Sept. 25 and is hosted by more than 20 venues throughout the city. Big name bands like Calexico will play, as well as many acts that U.S. music charts fail to highlight. Festival creators hope people from Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods will come out and enjoy the music of their native countries.

“For a number of years and still today, our theme is to bring in music from around the world around Chicago,” said Brian Keigher, programs coordinator for the Department of Cultural Affairs and co-curator of the World Music Festival.

Started in 1999 by Michael Orlove, program director for the Department of Cultural Affairs, the celebration began after Orlove discovered there were many other music festivals but no world festival solely celebrating the diversity of the music scene here in Chicago.

Many of the festival’s events are free, open to the public and feature debuting artists.

The World Music Festival is sponsored in large part by the Department of Cultural Affairs, National Geographic TRAVELER magazine, the Mexico Tourism Board, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Comer Science & Education Foundation.

The venues include Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Navy Pier, Columbia’s Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., Daley Plaza and many more places around the city.

“The goal of the festival is to introduce and debut a number of bands,” Keigher said. “Another is to celebrate the diversity of Chicago and its neighborhoods.”

Kennon Brown, media relations manager at the Department of Cultural Affairs, who helps to organize the festival each year, said one of her favorite things about the festival is seeing people from Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods come out and support their favorite musicians, who generally go unnoticed in the United States.

“I have no idea who these bands are and I go to the concert and there are thousands of people who go there and are like, ‘I love these songs,'” Brown said. “People just come out of the woodwork.”

The Department of Cultural Affairs reported that each year the World Music Festival loses money or breaks even, but strives to keep the festival alive.

“We try to make it very economically smart, so people can go check out people multiple times a week,” Keigher said.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band Cordero is excited to play at the festival after releasing their Spanish-language album, De Donde Eres. Cordero has played at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., before, but never at a world music festival like Chicago’s.

“This is Cordero’s first all-Spanish album, and it has been embraced by the world music community,” said Heather West of Bloodshot Records, Cordero’s Chicago-based record label. “The Chicago World Music Festival is their first, but they have many more in the works, including the APAP Festival in New York and the Rock En Espanol festival in Boston.”

The album’s title-which means “where you are from”-discusses the struggles of Ani Cordero moving from place to place after immigrating from Puerto Rico.

“The album is a reflection of the confusion a lot of immigrants have about who they are and where they’re from,” West said.

Keigher sees the festival growing in the upcoming years and hopes that the budget will increase in order to pull in more acts.

We hope to find a home and continued relationship for Chicago,” Keigher said. “This is a unique, city-run festival that we get to showcase.”