Out of Africa

And back in song

SUN 2/20

The '90s vogue for African music may have turned a few talented performers into international stars, but it also obscured the rich diversity of the continent's music and bypassed a lot of great musicians who aren't named Youssou N'Dour or Angélique Kidjo. Worse, African sounds were quickly pigeonholed as a bourgeois plaything, a redemptive badge of multicultural virtue and a suitably exotic garnish for your six-dollar latte. The U.S. marketplace remained unaware of an African musical world every bit as varied, danceable and expressive as Anglo-American pop.

So if you think African music is something that Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel invented to pay their mortgages, turn an ear to the St. Louis African Chorus. With a drum, vocal and dance repertoire that stretches from the Sahel to the Cape (and also includes American gospel), SLAC was one of the first U.S.-based groups to visit Africa and perform music in African languages. The chorus heads to Nigeria in May, but at 2 p.m. it brings joy to the Missouri History Museum's MacDermott Grand Hall (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue). The free performance is in conjunction with the museum's harrowing new Captive Passage exhibit about the transatlantic slave trade. SLAC performances are always a hot ticket, so step lively if you want to catch the show. Call 314-652-6800 for more. -- Jason Toon

"The Voice" of Familiarity
Belongs to Vusi

WED 2/16

Unfortunately, in your day-to-day life you encounter them: people who suck. From lunch-line butters to bad drivers, from know-it-alls to know-nothings, these offenders really wake up that ulcer. But none of these irritants compares to the music snob. Confidential to said snob: No matter how "cool" you are, you still have at least one silly CD, be it the House of Pain "Jump Around" single or even a Dave Matthews Band disc (guilty!). After all, "Jump Around" is catchy, and DMB has some decent guest musicians -- like Vusi Sidney Mahlasela Ka Zwane (pictured). This South African sang on a version of DMB's Everyday, and now he's appearing at the Touhill Performing Arts Center (on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus, 1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5 to $15. -- Alison Sieloff

Still Ugly
She's Hideous returns

FRI 2/18

Let's face it: Not all of us are gorgeous. Busted noses, chipped teeth, puckered cicatrices of acne scars writhing across noses -- let's not even get into the things lurking under that turtleneck. Still, you ain't got nothing on Wanda. The star of Eric Dienstfrey's one-act musical comedy She's Hideous, Wanda apparently took a bath in Ugly Creek and then drank the water. No matter -- her boyfriend, The Artist, thinks she's perfectly wretched in a mesmerizing fashion, and he memorializes her visage on canvas. But is this appreciation or exploitation of her unique beauty? With an atonal score and zippy lyrics, She's Hideous confronts the standards of what makes someone (or something) beautiful or ugly. If you missed this unique production at the ArtLoft in October, you can catch it at 7:30 p.m. at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (in Steinberg Hall on the Washington University campus, Forsyth and Skinker boulevards; 314-935-4523). Admission is free. -- Paul Friswold

Czech Your Head

FRI 2/18

Fans of choral music, rejoice: Jitro, the Czech Girls Choir, performs at 8 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis (4431 Lindell Boulevard; 314-533-7662 or www.stlcathedralconcerts.org). Oh, but the girls don't perform alone. No, the St. Louis Children's Choir performs with them, effectively doubling your choral pleasure. And if you're not already a fan of the vocal music, this is certainly an excellent introduction to the art. Tickets are $15 to $35. -- Paul Friswold

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