Ed. Note: Here are Houston International Festival Director of Peforming Arts Rick Mitchell's choices for can't-miss acts for the festival's second weekend, spread over five categories. Rick should know; he books all the artists. Rocks Off will follow with a few more picks of our own a little later on this afternoon. Remember, Saturday's schedule for the Bud Light World Stage has been altered to account for King Sunny Ade's cancellation. See more information at www.ifest.org.
WORLD MUSIC Los de Abajo: A product of the political punk-ska scene in Mexico City, this band takes its name from a famous Mexican novel that argues real revolutionary change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. Their music is a high-energy mix of Afro-Latin rhythms with rock and hip-hop, and they recently attracted the interest of David Byrne's Luaka Bop label. I have no idea what the live show is like, but I wouldn't mind a mosh pit... (2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 25, Bud Light World Stage) ROOTS Janiva Magness: The reigning Memphis Blues Awards female blues vocalist of the year, Magness spent years paying dues before signing with Alligator Records a few years ago. Her album What Love Will Do is a well-chosen mix of classic soul covers (Al Green, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye) and down and dirty blues. She can belt with the best of them, but Janiva is at her best on the sultry ballads. The title of her new album, The Devil Is an Angel Too, pretty much sums it up. (2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 25, Louisiana Stage)
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CARIBBEAN Taj Weekes and Adowa: From the island of St. Lucia, Weekes describes reggae music as "the poor man's cry, music you can sit and listen to." He has released two critically acclaimed albums notable for the poignant poetry of his lyrics and the tight riddims of his band, Adowa. But what is really striking about Weekes is his voice, a ghostly cry that seems to originate from somewhere back in the ancestral memory. (3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24, Bud Light World Stage; 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24, HEB Cultural Stage) LATIN
La Excelencia: La Excelencia calls its sound "salsa dura," or hardcore salsa, in the classic tradition of such '70s icons as Fania All Stars and Eddie Palmieri. From the first, they have been completely independent, self-managed and they run their own record label. Their 2009 album Mi Tumbao Social was hailed as one of the best salsa albums in years, if not decades. They are the talk of the town in New York and have built a fervent following in Europe. This will be their visit to Houston; expect serious dancing in front of the stage. (5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24, Bud Light World Stage; 8 p.m. Saturday, April 24, Center Stage) HIPPER THAN YOU'D THINK Zydepunks: This New Orleans band has been building a following in Houston. Imagine Gogol Bordello jamming with the Balfa Brothers in a bar off Bourbon Street: Dueling accordions, gypsy fiddle, barefoot dancing, punk-rock energy, real musicianship.