On the threshold of its fifth decade of bringing the world to Houston, the Houston International Festival will seed the parks and plazas around City Hall with the vibrant rhythms of this year's featured region, the Caribbean. As the cradle of reggae, ska and salsa, and a crucial way station in the development of the blues, the Caribbean is well-represented among this weekend's hometown performers as well — such as longtime Latina rocker Norma Zenteno, reggae/soca locals Irie Time, hip-hop/salsa dynamo Karina Nistal and reggae songstress Neutral Sister, who recut her song about her late sister, "Hold On," as "Hold On Haiti" earlier this year and performs Saturday with Trinidad native Mr. Blacc Sheep. This year's winner of iFest's "Furthest Distance Traveled" award, meanwhile, goes to Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate, whose skill with the banjo-like ngoni brought him to the attention of Béla Fleck, who enlisted Kouyate for last year's The African Project LP. iFest is also bicoastal, as the Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band, whose namesake is the heir apparent to Chick Corea's salsa throne, heads down from Nueva York and politically charged Latin hip-hop/funk firebrands Ozomatli stop by from L.A. Jamaicans the Mighty Diamonds and Easy Star All-Stars, renowned in hipster circles for their dub reworkings of Radiohead, Pink Floyd and most recently the Beatles, add some pungent island smoke to the romantic bolero-derived expressions of the Dominican Republic's Puerto Plata Bachata Acoustic Trio. Finally, a host of Houston, Texas and Gulf Coast performers — Robert Ellis & the Boys, Mark May and Miss Molly, Brave Combo, Marcia Ball, Sisters Morales, the New Orleans Hustlers Brass Band, Mitch Jacobs, J. Paul Jr. & the Zydeco Nubreeds and the Joe Ely Band with David Grissom on guitar — bring it all back home. See much more on iFest at blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks and www.ifest.org.
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