iFest features Caribbean sounds, other bands you should check out

As Houston prepares for a new iteration of iFest focusing on Caribbean music, the Houston Chronicle offers a list of music and musicians to check out. Here’s what they had to say.

Nobody can discover every emerging band. But Rick Mitchell, the former Chronicle music critic who is now the director of performing arts for the Houston International Festival, has an ear for up-and-comers. So it is that the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a band the New York Times “had no idea” existed until last month, was an iFest performer two years ago.iFest also does a nice job of hooking performers from beyond this country’s two coasts and bringing artists to this city sometimes for the first time — this year’s focus is on the Caribbean. The four-day festival, which begins this weekend, can be great for discovery (several of the bands below), a nice outdoor platform for some local and regional acts, and it’s also not short on party-friendly acts such as George Clinton and Ozomatli and the dance-ready sounds of Eddie Palmieri.

Here are a few I’m most eager to see, though as is often the case, there are a few scheduling conflicts. But it’s worth checking www.ifest.org because some performers will perform multiple times during the two weekends.

1. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba Kouyate hails from Mali, and he creates mesmerizing music on his banjo-ish ngoni. If his music exudes a bluesiness, that speaks more to the roots of blues than the griot music he grew up hearing. Somebody out there thinks he has crossover potential because Kouyate’s album I Speak Fula was issued by independent rock label Sub Pop. 2:30 p.m. Sunday

2. Taj Weekes This year’s iFest is teeming with reggae, including Steel Pulse, the legendary British group and the Easy Star All-Stars, a more modern band best known for its reggae takes on rock albums like Dark Side of the Moon. But Weekes, who hails from St. Lucia, is the guy I’m most interested in seeing, a smart and classic reggae practitioner in an era dominated by dancehall. His very high voice is as distinctive as any in the genre. 2 p.m. April 24.

3. Mighty Diamonds One of reggae’s great groups, the Mighty Diamonds have been around for more than 40 years. The trio has been serving up inimitable harmonies since its first album Right Time in 1976. It’s an essential recording for any reggae collection. 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

4. Los de Abajo Lesser known than Ozomatli in the States, Mexico’s Los de Abajo makes music every bit as lively as that band’s, fusing rock, pop and ska with salsa and cumbia. The songs I’ve heard were spirited and steered with certainty by the percussion. I can’t imagine they won’t be even more energetic live. 2:30 p.m. April 25

5. King Sunny Ade Ade comes by his handle honestly: He’s a regal figure in world music, a Nigerian guitar master who has become the most famous face for a type of juju music, which is sinuous and groove-based. His guitar playing is, in addition to being very influential on many American players, awe inspiring to witness. 6 p.m. April 24.

6. Janiva MagnessMagness gets filed under blues, which certainly isn’t an accident as she’s very comfortable in the genre. But time spent in Detroit left plenty of Motown in her soulful delivery. She growls like she means it. 2:30 p.m. April 25.

7. La Excelencia There’s some social activism to La Excelencia’s music, but the New York group is generous enough to serve up rhythms that make one’s feet move as quickly as the mind. Willy Rodriguez’s piano is a slinky devil, and the blasts of brass punctuate the music with panache. 4 p.m. April 24

8. Bajata Roja Legends With Puerto Plata Puerto Plata might be the weekend’s oldest performer, but the 83-year-old native of the Dominican Republic sings with a casual but crisp voice that remains plenty spry. He’s a bit of a songster, running through old tunes of various sorts: meringues, sons, guarachas, boleros and more. He’s usually supported by guitarists who work as intricately and meticulously as spiders. 6 p.m. Saturday.

9. Local bands Los Skarnales remains as kinetic a performing band as I’ve ever seen and is perfect for outdoor festivals. Wild Moccasins will have just returned from an East Coast tour and will play songs from a great new album due in May. And if your thing is classic country, Robert Ellis & the Boys know the classic songbook inside out. There’s much more. Check www.ifest.org for a full schedule.

For more from the original report go to http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ent/6958283.html

Image: Dominican singer Puerto PLata (left)

One thought on “iFest features Caribbean sounds, other bands you should check out

  1. To me, haitian music is very popular and sweet. Wouldn’t be a great idea to add some romantic and spicy haitian creol music in the new iteration of ifest? I know for sure people would enjoy listening to some “compas”.

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