The Chicago World Music Festival is one of my favorite events every year, so it pained me to miss so much of it this year. Other events and responsibilities got in my way. And with the demise of the HotHouse, Chicago no longer seems to have a central venue where international acts perform (the Old Town School of Folk Music and Martyrs’ are taking up some of the slack). After missing most of this year’s fest, I made sure to swing by the Chicago Cultural Center last night (Sept. 20) for the the fest-closing open house, a free expo of sorts featuring several acts. I stuck inside the center’s lovely domed room, Preston Bradley Hall, and caught two wonderful acts.
Kiran Ahluwalia sang hypnotic Indian folk songs, sounding fairly traditional even though her band was playing guitar and bass, along with harmonium and tabla. Ahulwalia explained the meanings of many songs before performing them, but the passion was clear even if you didn’t speak the language.
Chango Spasiuk, an accordionist and composer from Argentina, played next, bringing the sitting-room-only audience to its feet with a couple of genuinely felt standing ovations. Apparently, Spasiuk does for the Argentinian rural dance music known as chamané what Astor Piazzolla did for the tango. I’m not enough of a musicologist to verify that this is exactly what he and his musicians were doing, but I can say the music was lovely and nimble.