Critic's Choice for the week of March 1-7, 2006 

Enthralling Latin jazz, subversive rappers, and Indian-flavored wonderment.


Now that the hyphy movement is getting a national buzz, local hip-hop's annual Bay Area Rap Scene Awards -- a black-tie gala that provides that once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to see your favorite scrappy turf stars decked out in seersuckers and fancy Italian shoes -- has taken on newfound significance. Last year, the awards inaugurated a new hero, local favorite Andre Nickatina, crowned the Bay's #1 underground rapper. He'll perform Saturday at Danville's Six80 Lounge alongside Equipto, the SF-raised emcee who, after years spent running the gamut of college shows and Amoeba Music compilations, has become a rap kingpin in his own right. Also featuring Hazmat, Cognita, First Degree the DE, Smoov-E, Mike Marshall, and DJ Pause, the show kicks off at 9 p.m. and costs $20. (Rachel Swan)


Not only are they the nicest Desi (Middle Eastern and Hindustani music) crew in the Bay Area, the Dhamaal Sound System may be one of the best in the world. Its dhamaal and worldly nights at Club 6 and 1015 Folsom are legendary, and it's even been featured on MTV. This week, the group kicks off a monthlong series of events -- collectively called the Dhamaal Sights and Sounds Festival -- with the opening party for the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble Showcase at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, featuring DJ Maneesh the Twister, tabla player Ferhan Qureshi, visual artist Skip Intro, and MC Samba Guisse (6:30 p.m., free, If you miss that one, you can always catch Non-Stop Bhangra, the "Traditions" classical showcase, and the Karsh Kale CD release party later this month, or the Electric Vardo hoedown coming in April. But why would you want to wait, with music sweet enough to charm the skin off any snake? For a complete list of events, visit (Eric K. Arnold)


Since releasing her aptly titled debut album Jazzmérica, exultant vocalist Alexa Weber Morales has bounced around town as a solo artist and in collaboration with the newly formed Bay Area Latin Jazz Orchestra. A genre-bounding performer who sings in four languages, she's especially well-versed in jazz and Latin music, delivering consistent soul-stirring performances. Thursday night, she performs at Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center with an all-star cast of resident musicians that will leave you entertained and enthralled. $9, 8 p.m. 510-849-2568 or (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


A star graduate of Berkeley High's fledgling music program back in the '70s (a class that also yielded such players as Benny Green, Joshua Redman, and Dave Ellis), the innovative saxophonist, pianist, drummer, and bandleader Peter Apfelbaum has lived in New York for nearly twenty years, leading his own bands and working with artists from Phish's Trey Anastasio to Harry Belafonte. The current Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble commissioned him to compose a new work for the big band, which receives its world premiere Monday night at Yoshi's. In addition to Berkeley High's small combos (one of which took first place at January's Folsom Jazz Festival), the big band will perform as well, joined by Apfelbaum as conductor. $15, shows 8 and 10 p.m. 510-238-9200 or (Larry Kelp)


There's something about emcee KRS-One that reminds you of that really cool commie history teacher you had back in high school -- you know, the one who came to school everyday in the '80s or '90s equivalent of a "Stop Snitching" T-shirt and delivered ecstatic, rambling lectures about Middle East sanctions or ending the embargo in Cuba. KRS is similar; he can sense that a lot of his audience members are just beginning to hate the system, and he just wants to stoke those little flames. Check out the underground dynamo Saturday night at Berkeley's Blake's on Telegraph, where he'll perform with hot local outfits Sol Rebelz and the Attik, plus DJ Sokrates on the ones and twos. $20, 9 p.m. (R.S.)


A Canadian of Punjabi lineage, Kiran Ahluwalia sings ghazals, a classical form with highly ornate lyrics dealing with love. Ahluwalia is also one of the few composers of modern ghazals, all the more remarkable because she's a woman. Her amazing vocal range and melodies that combine Indian scales with Western influences make her a true original. Friday at Berkeley's Ashkenaz; $15, 9 p.m. (j. poet)


San Francisco's Box Set specializes in hooky, primarily acoustic pop-rock that just makes you feel good about yourself for a change, and the group's gig Friday night at Oakland's Uptown only exacerbates the positive vibes -- it's a benefit for Children's Hospital, in honor of recently deceased CH mainstay Jonathan Grisham, MD, a big fan of the band. Box Set will play both as an acoustic duo and a full electric band. $50 admission, doors at 8:30 p.m. (Rob Harvilla)

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