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TO JULY 24
World music isn’t just for middle-aged NPR listeners seeking a walk on the exotic side. As the recent success of bhangra and dancehall singles in American clubs has shown, international acts can dazzle even those younger Westerners raised on rock and hiphop. If the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage World Music Festival doesn’t include artists currently topping U.S. dance charts, it does feature musicians that hard-core fans and newcomers alike will appreciate. Electro Bamako (at 6 p.m. Friday, July 18) blends the gorgeous warble of Malian vocalist Mamani Keita with Frenchman Marc Minelli’s drum ‘n’ bass, dub, and techno beats; though the combination can sound forced, Keita’s trill is something to hear no matter what’s behind it. Ghana’s Kusun Ensemble (at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 20) showcases high-pitched call-and-response vocals propelled by percussion as funky as any of the bouncy streetball rhythms that dominate ESPN commercials lately. England-based, Australia-raised, South India-rooted vocalist Susheela Raman (at 6 p.m. Monday, July 21) transforms traditional Carnatic material into slick, folky pop. (She even covers a Joan Armatrading tune on her latest disc.) Zimbabwean favorite Oliver Mtukudzi (pictured; at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 24) closes out the festival; his acoustic-guitar strumming can be a bit lulling at times, but his husky melodies and his band’s polyrhythms generally keep his long compositions potent. The festival runs to Thursday, July 24, on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Grand Foyer. (The July 19 performance will take place in the Concert Hall; see City List for a complete schedule). All performances are free. (202) 467-4600. (Steve Kiviat)