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A special fusion

Like other giants of African music over the last quarter century such as King Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti, Zimbabwe's Thomas Mapfumo found a distinctive, compelling method for fusing traditional music with modern instruments and song forms. Mapfumo's "chimurenga" sound uses the mbira — or thumb piano — music of his homeland as the foundation for lilting, melodic, intricately rhythmic songs of great beauty and deep socio-political resonance that today stand as some of Africa's most significant cultural treasures. Although Mapfumo is still refining his chimurenga style, his great new LP with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, "Dreams and Secrets," is a daring amalgam of African music, high volume rock and jazz that attests to the continued vitality of Mapfumo's musical curiosity and imagination. Thomas Mapfumo performs Friday at the Wild Hare and Saturday at HotHouse. HotHouse: 31 E. Balbo St. 312-362-9707.

David Byrne, Sunday at the Park West: Although David Byrne has long portrayed himself as an outsider artist with a penchant for the strange and surreal, his solo music has always been most effective when he drops the conceptual claptrap and focuses on no-nonsense pop. And that's exactly what he does on his engaging new LP "Look into the Eyeball." Byrne's stylistic obsessions (Latin music, soul, electronics) are present throughout, but they ornament rather than drive a varied collection of direct, hooky, inviting pop tunes. Sold out.

David Lindley, Friday at the Old Town School of Folk Music: A seeming master of any instrument with strings and a performer with an equally unlimited stylistic range, Lindley is one of the few musicians whose risumi includes stints with Jackson Browne, El Rayo-X and '60s psychedelic world-beat wizards Kaleidoscope. Lindley's most recent records with touring pal/drummer Wally Ingram dauntingly survey reggae, bluegrass, rock, Middle Eastern music and much more with humor, tunefulness and abundant virtuosity. 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-728-6000.

Phill Niblock, Saturday at the Renaissance Society: Following a successful 2000 presentation, the Lampo organization is sponsoring this return appearance by minimalist composer/visual artist Niblock, whose works artfully explore microtonal modulations of static sound blocks, often through a mix of live performance and tape manipulation. This concert is scheduled to feature a number of prominent local musicians performing works for voice, flute, cello, saxophone and hurdy-gurdy. 5811 S. Ellis Ave. 312-666-4412.

Other Concerts

Sting, Friday at the Allstate Arena: To borrow a question from a recent ad featuring Sting: What do rock stars dream of? Well, some obviously dream of becoming successful enough to fill overpriced, echoing barns with fans happy to hear familiar hits for the umpteenth time. And on that score, Sting — who is not currently supporting a new LP — isn't likely to disappoint the faithful. 6920 Mannheim Rd., Rosemont. 312-559-1212.

Q101 Jamboree 2001, Saturday at the Tweeter Center: Ah, springtime. Flowers are budding; birds are nest building, and the cavernous acoustic black hole formerly known as the New World Music Theater will be throbbing to the anguished convulsions of aggro-rock. This year's version of Q101's annual roar of spring makes a token nod at hip-hop with Run-D.M.C., but mostly milks the heavy rock cash cow with appearances by Linkin Park, Staind, Papa Roach, Disturbed, Fuel, Crazy Town, Alien Ant Farm and others. I-80 and Harlem Ave., Tinley Park. 708-614-1616.

Black Crowes and Oasis, Sunday at the Tweeter Center: When America's answer to the Faces joins forces with modern Britain's answer to the Beatles (well, at least in the minds of the Gallagher brothers) you can be certain of three things: '70s riffs will be in, introspection will be out and general on stage cantankerousness may reach unprecedented new levels. For what it's worth, the Crowes' new LP "Lions" is just what one would expect: a blend of rudimentary southern-boogie-blues riffing and sometimes appealing Stones-y balladry. I-80 and Harlem Ave., Tinley Park. 708-614-1616.

Johnny Dowd, Saturday at Schubas: The titles of songwriter Johnny Dowd's first two records — "Wrong Side of Memphis"and "Pictures from Life's Other Side" — strongly hinted at the dark folk-blues visions they contained, but the title of Dowd's new record "Temporary Shelter" offers no clue that he's apparently been backpacking in the Twilight Zone. Sounding like a cross between the Residents, the Cramps and Wild Man Fischer, Dowd frames grimly surreal narratives with often atonal notes and chords that vividly evoke the bizarre realms he recreates. 3159 N. Southport Ave. 773-525-2508.

Also: Iggy Pop, Friday at the Vic; Medeski, Martin & Wood, Friday at Symphony Center; Cappadonna, Saturday at House of Blues.

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