Ben Kweller, Fujiya & Miyagi, and more

 

SUNDAY 2.15

Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited

The Cedar

A giant of African music, Thomas Mapfumo essentially wrote the soundtrack for the independence movement that transformed the white government of Rhodesia into the nation of Zimbabwe. For his efforts, he was jailed by the regime of Ian Smith and had his music silenced, but emerged triumphant, honored as the Lion of Zimbabwe, only to eventually run afoul of the Mugabe government for his outspoken criticism of corruption. Transcending all the politics is Mapfumo's wonderfully intoxicating music, which he dubbed "chimurenga," variously translated as "struggle" or "liberation war." He created it by reworking the traditional rhythms and melodies that had been played on the mbira or thumb piano for guitar, at the same time writing new material that eschewed Western pop and tapped traditional sounds but with fresh themes. Mapfumo and his family currently live in exile in Oregon, his music again banned by Mugabe in Zimbabwe. But he continues to write and record, reportedly recently working on a new album in South Africa. With DJ Paul Harding. $20/$22 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

 

MONDAY 2.16

Sophie Milman

Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant

Born in Russia, raised mostly in Israel, finally settling in Canada in her teens, Sophie Milman burst on the jazz scene in her early 20s with a sly and sultry sophistication seemingly beyond her years but maybe not her international experience. With a breathy, soulful approach that seems to naturally settle into samba, a pop song recast with jazzy nuances, a knowing scat run, or the breadth of jazz standards, Milman handles mature music and emotion with aplomb, adding her own shadowy tones in the bargain. Her quartet—pianist Paul Shrofel, bassist Kieran Overs, saxophonist Chet Doxas, drummer Mark McLain—is equally lithe and resourceful. Milman's second album, 2007's Make Someone Happy, was a worldwide hit and won a Canadian Juno Award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. She's reportedly gathering material for her third. $25 at 7 p.m.; $20 at 9:30 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. Also Tuesday. —Rick Mason

 

TUESDAY 2.17

Ben Kweller

Varsity Theater

A warning to Ben Kweller fans: His new record is a departure from his usual extremely catchy indie pop songsmithing. That Kweller sound is evolving into something very different, at least for the time being. If you combine dobro, piano, perfectly mournful pedal steel, and sawdust from the honky-tonk floor, you come close to the wistful, sweet, and sad alt-countryish melodies of his newest, Changing Horses. And the Varsity is always the perfect place to appreciate expertly crafted and thoughtful tunes. Tuesday's double bill is bound to be a beautiful night of music, especially with the gorgeous melodies of openers the Watson Twins, who made a name for themselves singing out on Jenny Lewis's solid Rabbit Fur Coat in '06. Their own release, Fire Songs, was a pretty, chilled-out, overlooked gem of last year. 18+. $20. 7:30 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. Jen Paulson

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