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As musical categories go, few are less restrictive than world music. It's not that small a world, after all, and it's given us enough cultural traditions and musical legacies to keep an artist inspired for decades.

All of which makes the return of Colorado Springs' World Music Series — nearly abandoned last year after budget cuts — a cause for celebration. The shows begin Monday, June 14, with Bomba Estéreo, a seriously talented, heavily buzzed-about electro-tropical band from Colombia.

In this week's cover story, we look at this summer's offerings from both musical and organizational viewpoints, while also considering the slightly complicated question of exactly how world music came to be, you know, whatever it is. From '50s exotica forward, the genre does have a somewhat checkered history, but current innovators (such as the pan-cultural M.I.A., South African psychedelicists BLK JKS, and the artists in this year's Series) offer glimpses of its promising future.

And while you're back in that part of the book, you can further examine the diversity of musical offerings coming our way via interviews with soulful pop sensation Janelle Monáe, post-punk legends the Psychedelic Furs and, of course, ragtime blues rebel Pokey LaFarge. Just free your mind, and your world will follow.

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