Critic's Choice for the week of July 21-27, 2004 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


How about some highlife, soukous, Afrobeat, Latin, funk, and reggae, all in one? Sounds good, right? Well, that's what you can expect from Sila and the Afro-Funk Experience, a band fronted by Kenyan musician and bandleader Victor Sila. With vocals sung in both Swahili and English, not to mention bottomless grooves perfect for boogying on down to, Sila's fusion-friendly sound is both futuristic and traditional. Liberian DJ Jeremiah opens, playing along with an (unnamed) master drummer, all of which promises to make Saturday evening yet another night of memorable world music at the 'Naz. 9 p.m., $13. 510-525-5054 or (Eric K. Arnold)


Beth Ditto's voice can start your car, reupholster your furniture, or chuck it all and simply blow up your house. As the (loud)mouthpiece for Northwestern blues-punkers the Gossip, she yelps and howls and exorcises like a classic blues diva with a Punk Planet subscription. But now she's on Punk Planet's cover, the public face of a fabulously minimalist down-and-dirty indie punk monstrosity. Bow down Thursday night at SF's Bottom of the Hill. $10, 9 p.m. 415-621-4455 or (Rob Harvilla)


The lead singers of Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali are Rizwan Mujahid Ali Khan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan, great-nephews of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan himself. Like their famous relative, they sing the praises of Allah backed by tabla, harmonium, and a hearty male chorus that urges the lead singers to ever greater heights of ecstasy with backing vocals and polyrhythmic hand-clapping. Monday at SF's Great American Music Hall. 8 p.m., $20, seated. 415-885-0750 or (j. poet)


Though a gifted pianist, composer, educator, author, and mom, Rebeca Mauleón hasn't released an album in six years. Joining Mickey Hart as part of his Planet Drum ensemble, she went on the road instead, before she got a generous Meet the Composer grant, settled at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in SF, and started teaching at SF City College. But now she's back with Latin Fire, her latest album, featuring Giovanni Hidalgo and Cubano drum whiz Jimmy Branley. It's muy caliente, as her CD release parties tonight and Thursday at Yoshi's promise to be. 8 p.m. ($16) and 10 p.m. ($10) both nights. 510-238-9200 or (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Considering his acute sensitivity for interpreting the folk music of his Norwegian homeland, singer and string wizard Lief Sorbye is anything but sensitive in his plugged-in Celtic rock band Tempest. With a nod to forebears such as Jethro Tull, the Oakland-based group has busily combed the American countryside, rousing club and festival audiences over more than two thousand gigs with its mix of intricate electric guitar-mandola-fiddle interplay, Irish-Scottish jigs, Norse folk, and driving rock rhythms, leaving a ten-CD legacy in its wake. Friday at Berkeley's Starry Plough, Tempest celebrates its birthday and the release of its three-CD box set The 15th Anniversary Collection, which mixes studio and live performances. (Larry Kelp)


Guinea's Bembeya Jazz was one of the first supergroups to emerge from post-colonial West Africa, founded in 1961 and armed with four lead guitars, a blazing horn section, and the special fusion of local folk melodies with a jazzy, Afro-Cuban rhythmic structure. Many of the band's founding members are still in the lineup, whose fierce, irresistible groove is still in evidence. Tonight (9 p.m.) and Thursday (7:30 p.m. with a lecture and demo) at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. $15 each night. 510-525-5054 or (j.p.)


The Russian National Orchestra, directed by Charles Ketcham, snaps us out of our summer lethargy this Sunday afternoon. Cross-cultural to the max, the Zellerbach program includes our own John Adams' Chairman Dances and Short Ride on a Fast Machine, local music savior Gordon Getty's Joan and the Bells (premiered and recorded by the orchestra for Pentatone Classics) with stellar soloist Vladimir Chernov, artistic director and composer Mikhail Pletnev's When You Are Old, and Tchaikovsky's wrenching Symphony No. 6 in B minor. $32-$60. 3 p.m. 510-642-9988 or (Jason Victor Serinus)


If you've just got to have Kaya now, look no further than the Oakland Box on Tuesday night, when the joint's Creative Music Series continues. Dedicated to new, interesting, and innovative ideas, this session promises to be all three: Appearing will be Inner (f)Ear Ballet, a multimedia ensemble combining music, dance, and video into atmospheric substance. You'll also get Joseph's Bones, an instrumental reggae band that prominently features trombones -- word is the band will be performing a note-for-note version of Bob Marley's classic Kaya album, which should make for some easy listening, and maybe some "Easy Skanking" as well. 8:30 p.m., $7-10; (E.K.A.)


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