Critic's Choice for the week of December 22-28. 2004 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

Christmas Cheer

Feeling depressed around the holidays? Does the very thought of Christmas fill your soul with an empty, dreadful longing? Have we got an Xmas event for you. Carnatic music, also known as South Indian classical music, originated in the Vedic tradition six thousand years ago. It encompasses a series of rhythmic and melodic variations on 72 scales, based on seven basic musical notes (Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, and Ni), which are said to be the constant companions of Sarawathi, the goddess of music. And this December 25 (aka Saturday), while others are arguing with their drunk Uncle Bob and watching lame college football on ESPN, you can choose instead to hear this music played by Srikanth Chary, Sriram Brahmamandam, and Illora Jha at San Leandro's Badarikashrama. This concert promises to deliver the spiritual sustenance often missing from Western cultural traditions, and, because we can't live on positive energy alone, a vegetarian dinner will be served following the concert. Best of all, it's free. Badarikashrama.org or 510-278-2444. (Eric K. Arnold)

Bluegrass

As the trailblazer in instrumental jazz-bluegrass music 25 years ago in his David Grisman Quintet, the Marin mandolin master (and head of Acoustic Disc Records, responsible for many duo albums with Jerry Garcia) has never strayed long from his traditional grass roots. Once or twice a year, he brings his straight-ahead David Grisman Bluegrass Experience to the East Bay, this time for concerts at 5 and 8 p.m. Sunday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. Expect original tunes and bluegrass classics, all powered by those high, lonesome harmonies. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (Larry Kelp)

Classical

In a week reserved mostly for family and friends, Sunday's organ concert of Olivier Messiaen's La Nativité du Seigneur in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral stands out. Messiaen's nine meditations are interspersed with the poetry of W.H. Auden and T.S. Eliot. Free, 3 p.m. 510-749-6350. (Jason Victor Serinus)

Gospel

An SF nightclub may seem like an odd place for a choir, but the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir has a reputation for confounding expectations. The multiracial, multicultural, religiously diverse ensemble is known for reaching out to varied communities, so a concert in a bar the night before Christmas may not be that much of a stretch. Friday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at Slim's. $15. 415-522-0333 or Slims-SF.com (j. poet)

Latin

Guitarist Ray Obiedo is one of the Bay Area's best-kept secrets. With a résumé that includes stints with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, the Whispers, Bill Summers, Pete Escovedo, and a long list of others, the Richmond native is a gifted producer and arranger. Check him out tonight with his Latin Jazz Project at Jazz at Pearl's in San Francisco. $10. 415-291-8255. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

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