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HOUSTON The Houston International Festival invites you to join us for the second big weekend on April 28 & 29 in downtown Houston.

OK, I am going to just say it.We had great opening weekend on April 21 & 22, 2012. Thanks to all who came out to chow down in the International Food Plaza; imbibe in the Budweiser Specialty Beer Garden, the Corona Cantina, the Tango & Malbec Wine Bar, and the iFest Lounge; shop in Market Row, the Fine Arts District and the African and Caribbean Bazaar; explore the colorful and authentic cultural exhibits in the Chevron Argentina Living Museum; play in Green Mountain Energy Kid s World; and, of course, enjoy the music and dance on nine stages, from the international touring acts on the Bud Light World Music Stage and Center Stage Presented by KHOU to the Argentine folk dancers on the H-E-B Cultural Stage and in the Living Museum s Estancia.

Now it s time for Round Two of the 2012 Houston International Festival spotlighting Argentina.

Check out Rico LIVE, the blog of iFest Performing Arts Director, Rick Mitchell!

For the purposes of this blog, we are going to assume you are already familiar with the weekend s headliners on the Bud Light World Music Stage; the legendary funk band WAR on Saturday, and reggae icons Steel Pulse on Sunday. We are also going to assume you are acquainted with the Gulf Coast regional favorites on the Americas Stage presented by Univision, including Lil Nathan and the Zydeco Big Timers on Saturday and the Texas Tornados and Del Castillo on Sunday.

In fact, let s assume you are already planning on coming to the festival this weekend. Now the question becomes how to chart a course through the festival that will allow you to catch as much good music as possible, including some acts you might not have had the opportunity to see play live before.

Allow me to make some suggestions.

Colombian Folkloric Ballet, April 28 and 29, 1 p.m. KHOU Center Stage

The Colombian Folkloric Ballet was established in 1983 to promote and preserve Colombian culture in the Greater Houston area and in the United States. The group has a reputation for presenting high-quality productions, including the annual Mi Colombia musical at the Hobby Center, and a televised appearance at the 2008 Latin Grammy awards held at Houston s Toyota Center. The group features some of Houston s most talented young dancers, taught by professional teachers and choreographers from Colombia.

Bombino, April 28, 2:30 p.m., Bud Light World Stage

Guitarist Omar Bombino Moctar hails from the caravan outpost of Agadez, in the West African nation of Niger. His electrifying jams recall the celebrated desert blues of the late Ali Farka Toure and fellow Tauregs Tinariwen, as well as rock and blues guitar gods Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Page. His debut album, Agadez, was cited on a number of influential Top 10 World Music critics lists, and he is currently embarked on his first North American tour.

Jacqui Sutton with the Frontier Jazz Orchestra, April 28, 2:30 p.m., Americas Stage

Jacqui Sutton arrived in Houston in 2008 after a successful career as a stage actress on the West Coast and in New York. A lyric soprano, she is now becoming known as one of the city s finest jazz vocalists. As indicated by the title, her debut album, Billie and Dolly, honors the unlikely kindred spirits of Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton, and her Frontier Jazz Orchestra features several of Houston s top jazz players playing unconventional arrangements that sometimes call for banjo and cello.

Rene Casarsa s TangoTime, April 28, 2:30 and 5 p.m., KHOU Center Stage

Pianist Rene Casarsa, an Argentine native who has lived and performed all over the world, is Houston s most respected tango musician. His group Tango Time includes the best tango players and dancers in Houston, including dancers Mauro Marcone and Elizabeth Wingfield, Susana Collins and Marcos Zapata, and bandoneonist Pablo Fernandez, a recent arrival from Buenos Aires. Casarsa has recorded several albums of solo piano that demonstrate the history of tango music, and its relationship to European classical music and American jazz. For these performances, he has put together a quartet of excellent musicians, and a choreographed program of dance.

Rich Del Grosso Band, A Tribute to Lightnin Hopkins, April 28, 4:30 p.m. 29-95 Texas Entertainment Stage

Rich Del Grosso moved to Houston a few years ago after establishing himself as one of the best, and also one of the few, pure blues mandolin players in the country. In 2009, his album Live From Bluesville, was nominated for Acoustic Album of the Year at the Blues Music Awards. For this set, Del Grosso s band featuring Tony Vega on lead guitar will be joined by local blues legend Milton Hopkins in a tribute to Milton s older cousin, the late Lightnin Hopkins, in honor of the centennial of his birth. (The Rich Del Grosso Band also plays at 12:30 p.m. April 28 on the Americas Stage.)

Joe Louis Walker, April 28, 4:30 p.m., Americas Stage

Joe Louis Walker came up in the San Francisco Bay Area blues scene of the 1960s his roommate for several years was Mike Bloomfield. After devoting himself to gospel music for a decade, Walker returned to the blues in the 80s and he has been burning down the house with his electrifying vocals and hair-raising guitar solos ever since. Walker s latest album is appropriately titled Hellfire. This appearance marks his long-overdue Houston International Festival debut.

Chico Trujillo, April 28, 6:30 p.m., Center Stage Presented by KHOU

Chico Trujillo is the most popular band in Chile there are YouTube clips showing soccer stadiums full of fans bouncing up and down and one of the most popular party bands in South America. The band s exuberant sound is rooted in cumbia, which originated in Colombia but is now regarded as pan-Latin dance music, and incorporates elements of bolero, reggae and traditional Chilean music under the flag of alternative youth culture. These performances mark the band s Houston debut, and promise to be a party to remember. (Chico Trujillo also plays at 4:30 p.m. April 28 on the Bud Light World Music Stage.)

Barandua, A Tribute to Mercedes Sosa, April 28, 6:30 p.m. H-E-B Cultural Stage

This Houston-based, nationally-known South American folk group will present a tribute to the late, great Argentinean folk singer Mercedes Sosa, who has been called South America s answer to Joan Baez for her purity of voice and politically-conscious lyrics. On April 29 at 4:30 p.m. on the H-E-B Cultural Stage, Barandua will host a workshop on nueva cancion, the form of politically-conscious folk singing and songwriting popularized by Sosa that emerged in Latin America in the 1970s.

SOJA, April 29, 2:30 p.m., Bud Light World Stage

SOJA is a reggae band on the move, having sold more than 150,000 albums worldwide, with fans that follow from town to town like a wandering tribe of Deadheads. Buenos Aires has a particularly devoted fan base. Formed in Washington D.C. by singer-guitarist Jacob Hemphill, the group cites influences from Bob Marley to Johnny Cash and Rage Against the Machine. The band s most recent album, Strength to Survive, was produced by John Alagia, who previously has worked with Dave Matthews and John Mayer, among others, and is a fine representation of the band s politically-aware pop-reggae sound.

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, 4:30 p.m,, Bud Light World Stage

Seun Kuti is the son of Fela Kuti, who is to contemporary Afropop what James Brown is to funk and Bob Marley is to reggae it is impossible to imagine what the music would sound like without him. Egypt 80 is his late father s former band, playing extended funk grooves underpinned by Nigerian tribal drumming, with a full horn section and, shall we say, animated female dancers. From Africa With Fury: Rise, Seun Kuti s second album, was co-produced by Brian Eno and John Reynolds, and was nominated for a 2012 Grammy in the World Music category. On a weekend full of sets not-to-be-missed, this one stands out as potentially historic.

Pedrito Martinez Band, April 29, 5 p.m. Center Stage Presented by KHOU

Pedrito Martinez is considered by his musical peers to be one of the world s greatest living percussionists, with his jaw-dropping facility on bata, congas and timbales. He is much in demand as a sideman on recordings and performances he recently performed with Paul Simon and Sting at New York s Carnegie Hall and he previously played the festival as a member of the popular touring band Yerba Buena. Born in Havana, Cuba and based in New York, Pedrito s sound is rooted in Afro-Cuban rumba and the polyrhythms and chants of Santeria. His band includes second percussionist Jhair Sala, from Peru, bassist Alvaro Benavides, from Venezuela, and pianist/vocalist Araicne Trujillo, from Cuba. (The Pedrito Martinez Band also performs at April 29 at 2:30 p.m. on the Americas Stage.)

Roky Moon & Bolt, April 29, 6:30 p.m. 29-95 Stage

With a sound that recalls the great glam-rock bands of the Seventies David Bowie, T-Rex and topnotch musicianship, Roky Moon & Bolt has been one of Houston s hottest club bands since its local debut in 2009. The group s debut album, American Honey, was released last year. The band recently announced it is breaking up, and this will be one of their final farewell performances.

Sur with the 1st UU Sanctuary Choir, April 29, 6:30 p.m. H-E-B Cultural Stage

Sur specializes in the native American folk music of the Andes, featuring musicians from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico playing in the ancient tradition of the Incas, with modern twists such as their covers of Santana and the Eagles. In this set, they will be joined by the First Unitarian Universalist Church Sanctuary Choir performing Misa Criolla, a uniquely Argentine 20-minute musical interpretation of a Catholic Mass that features folk instruments and choral vocals. (Sur also plays April 29 at 12:30 p.m. on the Bud Light World Stage.)

Hector Del Curto s Orchestra and Dancers, April 29, 6:30 p.m., KHOU Center Stage

Hector Del Curto s orchestra and dancers return for an outdoor encore following their triumphant April 21 concert performance of Eternal Tango in the Hobby Center s Sarofim Hall. Del Curto plays the bandoneon, an Argentine accordion and the essential melodic and textural instrument in tango music. As a teenager, he played in the classic Argentinean dance orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese. More recently, he has served as the orchestra director for the spectacular Broadway show Forever Tango and currently tours with pianist Pablo Ziegler, Astor Piazzolla s last music director, whose Nuevo Tango ensemble is considered to be the living heir to Piazzolla s legacy of brilliance. Del Curto s musicians and dancers include several current and former members from the cast of Forever Tango. If you missed them last week, you now have a second chance to see and hear some of the finest tango musicians and dancers in Argentina, and the world. (Hector Del Curto s Orchestra and Dancers also perform on Center Stage April 29 at 2:30 pm.)

See you there! For tickets, click on

Check out Rico LIVE, the blog of iFest Performing Arts Director, Rick Mitchell!

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