Houston International Festival
An Afro-Cuban dance ensemble straight out of Havana, socially conscious Nueva York salsa ensemble and the Maestro of the Mothership himself, George Clinton? Must be the second weekend of iFest. What makes Houston's long-running educational, cultural and musical banquet unique is that unless you already know who's from across the globe and who's from down the street, it can be hard to tell the difference. Weekend two's got the ska, with Houston crooners the Suspects and their rowdy punk-tinged local counterparts Los Skarnales, while Mexico City's Los de Abajo (a favorite of David Byrne) gives two-tone a south-of-the-border spin. There's a prize African booking in Senegalese pop star Baaba Maal, while not far away Texas Johnny Brown and award-laden Detroit native Janiva Magness play and sing nothin' but the blues. Kids of one age have to choose between dancing to the zydeco strains of Lil' Brian Terry & the Zydeco Travelers and Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas or the charms of singer-songwriter Sara Hickman, while their older siblings (or even parents) might opt for local indie-pop favorites the Wild Moccasins and raggle-taggle gypsies Sideshow Tramps (if they're not dancing to zydeco themselves). Will the HSPVA Jazz Band go Dixieland for its turn on the Louisiana stage? Will Houston reggae rogues Idiginis and D.R.U.M. mine a deeper groove than Jamaica's Taj Weekes & Adowa? Will locals Los Pistoleros de Tejas and Sister Sister y Los Misters, Puerto Rico's Monte Adentro or Cuba's Cecil and Raniel Pinto Orchestra be the hottest act on the Latin stage? That all remains to be seen, but not the fact that iFest is once again about to live up to all three words of its name.