Les Filles de Illighadad and Los Wembler's de Iquitos are among the highlights in this year's two-day lineup. Info
This year's Madison World Music Festival brings together nine acts from across four different continents, split between a Friday stage at the Memorial Union Terrace, a Saturday stage at the Willy Street Fair (in the lot next to Prism Dance Club), and back over to the Terrace for a headlining performance from Angolan singer Vivalda Dula. The festival always has an intriguing mix of sounds and a lot of excuses to dance, but this year (at a time when getting visas for international artists can only be getting harder) has some particularly exciting catches. One is Los Wembler's de Iquitos (Friday, 7 p.m., Terrace), a Peruvian band that formed in 1968 and began melding the rhythms of cumbia music with the electrified glimmer of psychedelic rock. The band's bio explains that the members picked up on a host of influences from across Latin America and around the world early on via the radio, but the music still proudly captures a very specific sense of place. Its hometown of Iquitos is a large but isolated city in the Peruvian Amazon, and the mix of dense urbanity and dense forest is palpable—at times you'll hear imitations of jungle-bird calls over the band's trippy, humid grooves. Los Wembler's still write new material and released a new album, Vision del Ayahuasca, earlier this year.
Hailing from central Niger, Les Filles de Illighadad (Saturday, 6:15 p.m., Willy Street) are another standout at this year's festival, challenging the way audiences think about the Tuareg music that groups like the wonderful Tinariwen have popularized in the West. The band's music combines exuberance with austerity, using both acoustic and electric guitars, loping rhythms from handclaps and the tendé drum, and vocal parts that swirl around each other in sinuous, overlapping melodies. The band is also blending together different practices from within Tuareg music and upending some gender conventions in the process—members Fatou Seidi Ghali and Fatimata Ahmadelher are apparently among the first Tuareg women to take up the guitar. Of course, "all-female" or "female-fronted" or whatever are not genres, but in taking up the guitar and forming a band, they've given us an incredibly spacious and powerful way to experience these sounds. Be sure to browse the full World Music Fest lineup. —Scott Gordon