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THURSDAY

Blessed with a presence that Puff Daddy would purchase if he thought he could afford it, Baaba Maal doesn’t bow to Western influences, because he doesn’t need them. If his music comes off like far-flung R&B, it’s probably because your ears grab onto the hooks for fear of the depths beneath them. Maal’s rhythms are as bottomless as his cheekbones are high, and he won’t leave the stage until you fully appreciate the splendor of both. Taj Mahal mines similar terrain from a different angle. Forging a link between American blues and its African roots has been his life’s work, and Kulanjan, his collaboration with master kora player Toumani Diabate, is arguably his finest single achievement. Tonight, all three appear as part of the annual Africa Fete showcase. Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi opens at 8:15 p.m. at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $18. (202) 393-0930. (Brett Anderson)

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