Twilight Dance Series, the annual free concert series on the Santa Monica Pier that organizers say makes Thursday evenings like “part of the weekend,” begins on Thursday, June 29th, eight days after the official start of summer.

For the past 21 years, the concert organizer — Pier Restoration Corporation — has brought to the outdoor stage on the Santa Monica Pier a handful of hit artists, established eclectic-sounding projects, and historic musical icons in the genres of rock, reggae, Latin, soul, world and folk music.

Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, June 29th to August 31st, on the Santa Monica Pier, ocean end of Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica.

JUNE 29th — Poncho Sanchez, a Grammy Award-winning Latin bandleader, will kick off the Twilight Dance Series Thursday, June 29th. The prolific Sanchez is known for keeping a busy and versatile touring and recording schedule. As a conga player, his imaginative rhythms have garnered him the adulation of younger players in Afro-Cuban jazz. A native of Laredo, Texas, Sanchez moved to Los Angeles at the age of four, where he was influenced by the music he heard in the Chicano neighborhood in which he lived, according to Pier Restoration Corporation. The youngest of 11 children, Sanchez taught himself to play guitar, flute, drums, and timbales before settling on the congas.

In addition to recording as a soloist, Sanchez has been featured on albums by the Jazz Crusaders, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Dianne Reeves, Joey DeFrancesco, and Terrance Blanchard.

After more than two decades in music, Sanchez’s efforts paid off when his album, Latin Soul, received a Grammy award as Best Latin Album of 1999. His longevity mirrors that of his mentor, Cal Tjader, and, like Tjader, Sanchez represents a melding of Latin music, jazz, soul, R&B and pop.

“Our main goal is always to keep Latin jazz alive, growing and moving, while being authentic to the music that we love,” says Sanchez. “As I always say in clinics, this music is not just for Latino people. It was born in the United States, and it is American music. It is for everybody!”

JULY 6th — Folk rock duo Amy Ray and Emily Sailers blend the social commentary of traditional folk music in with their melodic rock. A Grammy winner and Billboard top ten alumnus, the group has maintained a steady touring presence and loyal fan base regardless of the current trends in pop music. The group describes its typical fan as “one that eagerly awaits new music from the duo, and greets older songs like old friends.”

JULY 13th — Dick Dale is one of the much-copied progenitors of surf music and is often credited as the founder of the surf guitar style that dominated the airwaves in the early 1960s.

He had the hit songs “Let’s Go Trippin'” in 1961 and “Miserlou” in 1962, the latter of which saw a resurgence in popularity when it was used as the theme song for Quentin Tarantino’s hit film, Pulp Fiction, in 1994.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, Dale was respected for his inventiveness in sound and playing style and he contracted with guitar and amp guru Leo Fender to road-test Fender’s new creations. Dale helped popularize the Fender Stratocaster guitar model, a popular standard among electric guitarists today, and he played left-handed with a right-handed guitar turned upside down, a style that was used by Jimi Hendrix in the late 1960s.

The night’s opening act, Agent Orange, evolved the style of early surf bands and Dale contemporaries like The Fendermen and The Trashmen by fusing it with the Orange County punk rock that was coming out in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

JULY 20th — Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples was first recognized for her work with The Staple Singers and later for her solo recordings. A 40-year-plus veteran of the gospel and soul music scenes, her voice has influenced artists as diverse as Bob Dylan and Prince, according to Pier Restoration Corporation. She has appeared on concert bills with Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Santana and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

JULY 27th — Described as “a double feature of unusual hip-hop with a worldly twist” by organizers, Lyrics Born (a.k.a. Tom Shimura) was born in Tokyo and raised near San Francisco. Lyrics Born play “freewheeling hip-hop” ý la Outkast or Jurassic 5, organizers say.

Opening up the night is Senegalese trio Daara J, which plays a brand of hip-hop mixing French and American rap, reggae, roots, soul funk and Cuban music. Ancient African rhythmic poetry known as “tasso” influences the content and style of the group, organizers say.

“Historically, people in Senegal would use “tasso” to talk about their environment, their living conditions, the situation of the country, and their hopes for the future,” explains Faada Freddy of Daara J.

AUGUST 3rd — A triple dose of Los Angeles area reggae bands comes to the Santa Monica Pier on Thursday, August 3rd.

The Aggrolites came together by accident when five musicians from two different groups were backing the Jamaican ska singer Derrick Morgan on an album. The new fusion of the two bands began to use keyboard riffing and horn-filled rhythms in its brand of rocksteady, ska and reggae.

Joey Altruda’s Classic Riddims features veteran Los Angeles musician and bandleader Altruda, and bandmates playing tribute to the golden era of Jamaican rocksteady, ska and reggae, performing a repertoire largely derived from the vaults of Coxson Dodd (Studio One) and Duke Reid (Treasure Isle).

Chris Murray is the leader of the Canadian ska group King Apparatus. His soul/reggae ballad, “Let There Be Peace,” was featured on a recent Give Em The Boot compilation released by Hellcat Records.

AUGUST 10th — Known as the “Golden Voice of Mali,” multiple Grammy Award nominee Salif Keita fuses traditional African music with contemporary Western styles, including funk, rap and pop. Salif has been in the center of the Afro-pop music scene in New York and Paris.

Opener Ashley Maher plays world/folk/jazz and is said to follow in the footsteps of pioneers like Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. Organizers describe her sound as Joni Mitchell meets Youssou ‘N Dour.

AUGUST 17th — Inti-Illimani is known as a Chilean super group, as the band consists of about 30 wind, percussion and string instruments. The group has appeared on Amnesty International stages with Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Mercedes Sosa, Sting and Wynton Marsalis. The group recently performed at the inauguration of Chile’s first woman president, Michelle Bachelet.

AUGUST 24th — Kiran Ahluwalia is an Indo-Canadian singer who has devoted much of her life to learning the art of Indian vocal music and in particular ghazhal, a poetic song form that arrived in India in the 14th century. Trained in classical Indian singing, she found herself drawn to the ghazhal form and folk songs of Punjab, her family’s home region. Ghazhal is a form that features both structure and improvisation. She is accompanied by tabla, guitar, tanpura and harmonium.

AUGUST 31st — The closer of the Twilight Dance Series is David Grisman, who plays what he describes as “dawg” music, a blend of swing, bluegrass, Latin, jazz and gypsy music. Grisman is known widely for his work with the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia.

Opener Stephane Wrembel plays jazzy, gypsy music, organizers say.

Information, (310) 458-8900.