Sounds from Cuba, Gambia, Puerto Rico and other musical points beyond. Info
This year's Madison World Music Festival, split between the Memorial Union and a Willy Street Fair stage, brings in songwriters from Sweden, West Africa, and Eastern Europe, among other locales. More so than in past years, the lineup emphasizes artists who combine folk-music traditions with contemporary instrumentation and production, like Cuba-born, Paris-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Yaité Ramos Rodriguez's project La Dame Blanche (Saturday, 9 p.m., Terrace). Rodriguez's 2018 album Bajo El Mismo Cielo threads a melodic backbone of cumbia music into a pounding electronic landscape that draws on rap and dancehall. The production on tracks like "Ave Maria" and "Olvidate" is both exuberant and hardened, and Rodriguez's songwriting makes her disparate influences meld together rather than itchily contrast. Her ambitions clearly go beyond making eclectic music you can dance to (though she certainly does that); between the album's flowing minor-key melodies and slick, cavernous reverb is a heart-tugging affinity for music that has empowered and comforted people across many lands and eras.
Other highlights this year include Puerto Rico band Orquesta El Macabeo's punk- and ska-inflected Afro-Latin jazz (Friday, 4:30 p.m., Terrace) and the masterful kora (a 21-stringed West African instrument) of Sona Jobarteh (Friday, 5:15 p.m., Memorial Union Play Circle), who was born in London but hails from a long line of Gambian griots.
Before the actual music, the festival kicks off with a screening of the 2017 documentary Burkinabè Rising: The Art Of Resistance In Burkina Faso (Thursday, 7 p.m., Union South Marquee). Director Iara Lee chronicles a community of artists that has flourished in the wake of Burkina Faso's 2014 revolution, during which mass protests ended autocrat Blaise Compaoré's 27-year rule. Against the backdrop of a successful but bruising struggle, the musicians and visual artists profiled in the film work not just on their own projects, but also on rebuilding the country's political and cultural landscape through creativity. —Scott Gordon