Over the next two weeks, Rocks Off will be previewing acts performing at this year's Houston International Festival Saturday and Sunday and April 24-25 broken down by genre (loosely, anyway) and with a guest pick from a true insider: iFest Director of Performing Arts Rick Mitchell. We begin with that notorious catch-all category, "world music"...
Shark Attack: Hailing from the Bay Area (Galveston, not San Francisco), Shark Attack infuses reggae with plenty of Texas twang; listen to the swooning steel guitar of "Ammunition" or the way "Hotshot" goes from dazed-and-confused dub to a lickety-split Johnny Cash-style train shuffle. Besides regular appearances at Scout Bar, Shark Attack is a frequent opener on touring reggae bills around the area. (2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 17, Chron.com Entertainment Stage)
Tekumbe: Although based in Norman, Okla., Tekumbe plays upbeat acoustic music rooted in the rhythmic styles of the Caribbean and accordionist Franz Mutis, vocalist/percussionist Camilo Mutis and rhythm guitarist Alan Garrido's native Colombia. Of these, cumbia - including the sped-up Colombian courtship dance known as the mapale - will likely be most familiar to Texan ears, but the band also mixes in the Spanish- and West African-derived vallenato and the gaita of neighboring Venezuela (Gaita is also an instrument similar to the bagpipes) with dashes of salsa, reggae and jazz. Tekumbe's first album, last year's Sabor a Guyabe, addressed violence, drug trafficking and kidnapping in the Colombian members' homeland. (2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 18, Roomstore Latin Stage)
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Grupo Kache: Houston salsero Rudy Rincon (right) and his Grupo Kache compadres have been moving hometown crowds and beyond (New York, Colorado) since 1996, also opening for Marc Anthony at the Woodlands and accompanying Puerto Rican Salsa romantica star Eddy Santiago on several Southwestern tours. Rincon appeared on two songs on Pearland Tejano group Avizo's Grammy-nominated The Power of Friends LP, and Kache is now working on the follow-up to 2001's Tuyo. (6 p.m. Saturday, April 17, Roomstore Latin Stage) Rick's Pick
Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba: Kouyate recently shared a World Music Grammy with Bela Fleck for his work on the title track to Fleck's album Throw Down Your Heart, on which he explored the African roots of the banjo. Kouyate, from the West African nation of Mali, is a virtuoso of the ngoni, the most direct African ancestor to the banjo. His band, Ngoni Ba, has a sizzling new album called I Speak Fula out in America, and is making its debut American tour. Think of it as West African bluegrass. Better yet, think of it as West African rock and roll. (2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 18, Bud Light World Stage)