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Performers

The Richmond Folk Festival is now one of Virginia’s largest and most anticipated events of the year. The Festival strives to present the very finest traditional artists from across the nation. In making its selections, a local Programming Committee is guided by the following definition, which is the guide for the National Council for Traditional Arts and the National Folk Festival, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts:

FOLK & TRADITIONAL ARTS – a definition
The folk and traditional arts are rooted in and reflective of the cultural life of a community. Community members may share a common ethnic heritage, language, religion, occupation, or geographic region. These vital and constantly reinvigorated artistic traditions are shaped by values and standards of excellence that are passed from generation to generation, most often within family and community, through demonstration, conversation, and practice. Genres of artistic activity include, but are not limited to, music, dance, crafts, and oral expression.
- National Endowment for the Arts

If you're interested in performing in the 2014 festival, check out "How to be a performer at the Richmond Folk Festival"


The performers of the 2013 Richmond Folk Festival

  • Abdoulaye “Djoss” Diabate and Super Mande

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    traditional music of Mali
  • Alash

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    Tuvan throat-singing
  • Alex Meixner Band

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    polka
  • Aurelio Martinez

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    Garifuna
  • The Brotherhood Singers

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    African American a cappella gospel quartet
  • The Chankas
    Andean danza de las tijeras (Scissors Dance)
  • Christine Salem

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    maloya
  • Chuck Brown All Star Tribute Band
    go-go
  • The Dardanelles

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    Traditional music of Newfoundland
  • Don Carlos

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    reggae
  • James King Band

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    bluegrass
  • Jesse Lége and Joel Savoy

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    Cajun dance hall music

 

The Richmond Times-Dispatch Folklife Stage

 


Richmond Folk Festival In The Schools

Through the generous support of its sponsors, the Richmond Folk Festival will fill Richmond city school auditoriums and classrooms with performances and presentations of deeply-rooted cultural expressions.

The week prior to the festival master musicians and artists will visit several public schools. Together, the artists and students share music, song, craft, stories and memories that will last a lifetime.


Abdoulaye “Djoss” Diabate and Super Mande
traditional music of Mali
Kela, Mali via the Bronx

Abdoulaye

Links:

Abdoulaye “Djoss” Diabaté — The seed of Mande tradition germinates in the New World

Scion of a famous West African griot family and now a leader in the Mandé community in the United States, celebrated singer Abdoulaye Diabaté is a charismatic, larger than life figure whose stirring voice, beaming smile and joyous personality are utterly irresistible. Griots have served as the musicians, storytellers, and oral historians in Mandé society for nearly a thousand years. Abdoulaye will lead a group of stellar traditional West African musicians performing on kora, balafon, percussion and flute whose music and oratory continue to preserve and sustain the Mandé people's connections to their cultural heritage.

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Alash
Tuvan throat-singing
Republic of Tuva (Russian Federation)

alash

Links:

Artist's website

Festival Performance

One of the oldest and most striking vocal traditions of mankind is xöömei (throat-singing) from the heart of Central Asia. Throat-singing is a unique style of overtone singing in which a single singer produces two or three, or even four, notes of different pitches simultaneously – a continuous low drone, and harmonic tones several octaves higher which, with virtuosic skill, are shaped into a melody. Throat-singing evoke sounds of nature—the wind whistling down from the mountains, the deep lowing of the yak, and the high trill of birdsong—all set to the rhythm of trotting horses ridden by the nomadic herdsmen of Tuva, a tiny republic situated between Siberia and Mongolia. Nothing in western vocal music resembles this ethereal and beautiful sound. Largely unknown to the outside world until the 1990s, Tuvan throat-singing expanded western conceptions of the capacities of the human voice, and quickly became a worldwide sensation. The members of Alash are masters of both throat-singing and traditional Tuvan instruments, and leaders in a new generation of musicians who masterfully incorporate elements from western styles in a way that only enhances the breathtaking impact of this ancient traditional form.

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Alex Meixner Band
polka
Palm City, Florida

Alex Meixner Band

Links:

Artist Website

Performance at Village Lanterne

Building upon family musical foundations, Alex Meixner represents the fourth generation in his family’s polka tradition. A dynamic young master of the diatonic button accordion, Alex’s fresh, musical voice has make this wild and crazy guy one of the most exciting performers on the American polka scene. This is NOT your grandmother’s polka, though she would no doubt love it. The Meixner family musical dynasty started with Alex’s violin-playing great-grandfather Leopold, who emigrated from the Austrian province of Burgenland to the U.S. in the mid 1920s. Home to Germanic, Hungarian, and Croatian speaking inhabitants, Burgenland’s blend of diverse musical traditions shaped Leopold Meixner’s repertoire and that of subsequent generations of Meixner musicians. Alex’s father Al brought him into the family musical enterprise at age six, and today Alex leads the band. Its reputation as one of the most dynamic polka ensembles in the country continues to grow. Though only in his mid-30s, Alex already has a career spanning 30 years. He plays a dozen or so instruments and sings in 11 languages. Alex’s talents have featured on the Tonight Show, and his Polka Freak Out recording with Bubba Hernandez garnered a 2007 Grammy nomination.

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Aurelio Martinez
Garifuna
Playplaya, Honduras and New York City

Aurelio Martinez

Links:

Performance of "Africa"

"Aurelio - The Laru Beya Sessions"

One of the most extraordinary and passionate Central American artists of his generation, Aurelio Martinez is a musical ambassador and champion of the Garifuna, a culturally threatened people living primarily along the Caribbean coasts of Belize and Honduras, but also Guatemala and Nicaragua. Hailing from a small community of Plaplaya in Honduras, he grew up immersed in Garifuna rhythms, rituals and songs. With his powerfully evocative vocals and his talent as a composer, guitarist and percussionist, Aurelio is a central figure in the perpetuation and modernization of this unique musical tradition. Garifuna culture reflects the African and Caribbean roots of Aurelio’s ancestors, Africans who survived the wreak of a slave ship in 1675 and intermarried with local Carib and Arawak peoples, only to be deported from the island of St. Vincent to Central America by the British in the late 18th century. The Garifuna language is Arawakan and their music, called paranda, is quite different from that of the rest of Central America. In 2001 UNESCO proclaimed the language, dance, and music of the Garifuna as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

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The Brotherhood Singers
African American a cappella gospel quartet 
Covington, Kentucky

The Brotherhood Singers

Links:

Artist website

Live performance of "You Send Me"

The Brotherhood Singers are passionate and joyous practitioners of a uniquely American musical tradition, the deeply spiritual art of unaccompanied gospel quartet singing. The group started singing at the 9th Street Baptist Church in Covington, Kentucky, and has now been together 27 years. They have emerged onto the national gospel scene during a resurgence of interest in quartet singing, and one listen to their glorious harmonies makes it clear that this renewed popularity is long overdue. Gospel quartets have their roots in the Negro spiritual tradition. Enslaved African Americans combined English hymns with West African rhythms and vocal traditions to create a musical form that expressed both Christian devotion and the desire for freedom. The written record mentions gospel quartet singing as early as 1851; after the massive international popularity of the Fisk Jubilee Singers starting in the early 1870s, many quartets came to be known as “jubilee quartets.” When the early recording industry turned its attention to Southern African American communities in the 1920s and 1930s, the jubilee quartets were among their most popular stars. From that era emerged some of the Brotherhood Singers’ greatest influences: legendary groups like the Soul Stirrers, the Golden Gate Quartet, and the Dixie Hummingbirds. In addition to performances in church and community settings, the Brotherhood Singers have appeared in major venues across the U.S. and Canada, and toured in Russia and Spain (17 times).

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The Chankas
Andean danza de las tijeras (Scissors Dance)
Peruvian Andes via Portchester, New York

The chankas

Links:

The Chankas is a Peruvian dance troupe based in Westchester County, New York that is carrying on the legendary, ancient danza de las tijeras (Scissors Dance), a highly acrobatic indigenous ritual dance from the southern Andes of Peru. This once repudiated and stigmatized dance is today celebrated as a powerful symbol of Peru’s impressive cultural diversity and the perseverance of millennial Andean traditions in the modern world. Performing in dazzling outfits embroidered with golden fringes, multicolored sequins, and small flashing mirrors, sissors dancers are ritual specialists who mediate between the Andean rural community and the spiritual deities of the natural world, traditionally performing in festivities related to the agricultural cycle. Colonial authorities attempted to suppress the sissors dance because they saw it as an example of idolatry and devil worship. The dance takes its name from the pair of polished iron rods, resembling scissors blades, wielded by each dancer in the right hand, marking the rhythm with metallic percussion as they dance. Together with a violinist and a harpist, a dancer forms a cuadrilla (team) that represents a given village or community. Two or more cuadrillas face each other in a choreographed dancing duel in which they attempt to outdo their opponents through a rigorous series of difficult dance steps and acrobatic maneuvers. Although there are traditional elements to each step, the combination of steps is largely improvised by the dancer in order to demonstrate superior skill to his opponent. These fierce competitions or atipanakuy may last up to ten hours, and physical ability, quality of the instruments, and expertise of the accompanying musicians, are all evaluated to determine the winner. The physical and spiritual knowledge implicit in the dance is passed on orally from master to student, with each cuadrilla of dancers and musicians giving pride to its village of origin.

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Christine Salem
maloya
Reunion Islands

Chuck Brown All Star Tribute Band

Links:

Interview with Artist

Artist website

 

Christine Salem comes from a distant spot – the tiny island of La Réunion, an overseas department of France located in the Indian Ocean 500 miles east of Madagascar.  A strong and charismatic personality, she sings socially conscious music in four languages (Creole, Malagasy, Cormorian and Sahili) that is rooted in the maloya, a powerful traditional music of Réunion that she has carried across the world. Salem often accompanies herself with the kayamb, a rectangular rattle made from the flowers, stems and seed of sugar cane.  Her commanding stage presence and rich, powerful voice floating above dense, hypnotic layers of percussion transcend any and all barriers of language or culture.

A hybrid of African rhythms and Indian Ocean music, maloya had its origins in the music of slaves on the island’s sugar plantations. Based upon a call-and-response structure and traditionally accompanied only by percussion instruments, maloya was a ritual music dedicated to ancestor worship.  Over time, it became a lament against slavery, and was eventually embraced by the whole of the island’s population. Maloya was outlawed until the 1960s by the ruling French authorities because of its deep-rooted ties to Creole culture. For the past thirty years, it has been a symbol of the island’s identity. Every cultural, political and social event on the island is accompanied by maloya, which has become a vehicle for asserting political rights.  Today it exists today in an increasing variety of forms, both in terms of texts and instruments.  It is kept alive by 300 documented groups, including a number of world-famous artists like Christine, and is taught at the Conservatoire de La Réunion.  Important as it is as a cultural and moral touchstone, maloya is nevertheless threatened by social changes and by the disappearance of its main exponents and the practice of venerating ancestors. Maloya was inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO for France.

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Chuck Brown All Star Tribute Band
go-go
The DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia)

Chuck Brown All Star Tribute Band

Artist website

Artist Bio on NEA

Videos:
Video 1
Video 2

 

Articles:
At 75, Godfather of Go-go Chuck Brown Is Still 'Bustin' Loose'

 

The Richmond Folk Festival celebrates the legacy of the late “Godfather of Go-Go” with the crankin'est go-go band on the planet paying tribute to the man who started it all. The Chuck Brown Band includes Chuck's daughter KK, The Horny Horns, Sweet Cherie on keys and vocals, Frank Scooby Sirius from Familiar Faces, Mighty Moe Hagans, Karlston "Ice" Ross, Marcus Young. Joining the group will be four living legends of go-go music: Big Tony from Trouble Funk, Sugar Bear from EU, Buggs from Junk Yard and Jas Funk of Rare Essence. The Chuck Brown All Star Go-Go Tribute Band's mission is to party and rock the house for all who loved Chuck Brown and the go-go music he created.

A musical offshoot of funk that blends Latin beats, African call-and-response chants, rhythm and blues, and jazz, go-go was pioneered in the early ’70s by Brown. Likening him to another musical innovator, Bill Monroe, ethnomusicologist Kip Lornell says that Brown was “among the few 20th-century American vernacular musicians who clearly developed and shaped a musical genre from its infancy to a more mature state.” A beloved figure, Chuck Brown passed away unexpectedly last spring at age 76.

The dominant dance beat of the nation’s capital for over 40 years, go-go has developed its own distinctive sound, dance moves, and traditions. Rejecting slickness and placing a premium on crowd interaction and the creation of a continuous party groove where one song often blends into another to keep people dancing, go-go is first and foremost a live, interactive experience. It has continued to thrive regionally around marathon performances, bootlegged recordings of live sets, and the passionate loyalty of its local fans.

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The Dardanelles
traditional music of Newfoundland
St. John’s, Newfoundland

dardanelles

Links:

About traditional music of Newfoundland

Video 1

Video 2


From the far corner of eastern Canada comes this exciting young group, the first ensemble from Newfoundland to appear at the Richmond Folk Festival.  Newfoundland’s musical traditions are anchored in the tunes and ballads brought by settlers from England, Ireland and Scotland. Passed on and evolving through the generations, the music has acquired over the centuries a distinctive Newfoundland flavor, shaped especially by the strong seafaring traditions of the region.  The members of the Dardanelles, all twenty-somethings, are out to show that Newfoundland traditional music is alive, vibrant, and powerful. Not only are they keepers of the beloved classics of the repertoire, but seek out and give new life to rare tunes and moving ballads about life and love on Newfoundland’s windswept seas that might otherwise have been lost to the culture forever. Armed with a love of the jigs, reels and ballads honored in Newfoundland and an abundance of talent, both instrumental and vocal, the group comes on with the energy of a punk band. After rocking the boat at major festival across Canada, the Dardanelles are ready to make waves south of the border.

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Don Carlos
reggae
Kingston, Jamaica via Port St. Lucie, Florida

Don Carlos

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3


With his glorious dreadlocks, wise eyes and warm smile, reggae legend Don Carlos is a photographer’s dream. He’s also a reggae-lovers dream in that the music of this iconic artist with a 40-year career is as vital, melodious, and roots oriented as ever. Born Ervin Spencer, Don Carlos was raised in Waterhouse, a deprived district of west Kingston, Jamaica, from which many talented reggae artists including King Tubby The Jays, Junior Reid and King Jammy emerged. A founding member of legendary band Black Uhuru formed in the early 1970’s, Don Carlos went on to pursue a successful solo career, and has released or collaborated on nearly 40 albums. While Carlos’ individual success peaked in the 1980’s with the dance hall mania, he continues to tour extensively. His collaborations and live performances with rock-reggae groups Slightly Stoopid and Rebelution have helped to bring this special artist to the attention of younger audiences, and contributed to his increasing worldwide popularity. Singing of peace and love, generosity and righteousness, Carlos doesn't leave out thanking Jah for everything. "I love you but Jah loves you more", he says. "Love Jah, and you will have everything -- all wisdom."

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James King Band
bluegrass
Danville, Virginia

James King Band

James King Band

Videos:
The James King Band - A Few Old Memories

James King Band -2013 Bluegrass Calendar

Article:
An Interview with James King, Playing at the UH Bluegrass Fest

James King is a musician who appreciates that he's different from many of his peers in sticking with his traditional roots. "I've been playing bluegrass pretty much the same way for about 40 years, so it just comes natural to me," said King. "I really don't think I could play any other kind of music." King’s fans wouldn't want it any other way, and to prove it they voted him a 12-time winner of the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music's Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year award. For many, King's emotive renderings of songs capture what bluegrass music is about. "I think the beauty of bluegrass is that it's music that can reach people on so many different levels," King said. "I've always wanted to be the kind of singer that brings those emotions to whoever is listening."

King was born in Martinsville, Virginia, and grew up in Carroll County, a fertile breeding grounds for bluegrass and old-time musicians. Although his father, Jim, and his uncle, Joe Edd, were both noted bluegrass players, King admits it took him awhile to catch on. "I listened to rock 'n' roll when I was a kid — Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and all that," King said. "My dad kept telling me that once I really listened to the beauty that's in bluegrass, I wouldn't ever let it go. He was right."

As James entered his teens, he began to take the music seriously too, particularly the music of his fellow Virginians, the Stanley Brothers. One of James' most important mentors was Ted Lundy, a member of a famous Galax musical family. Lundy’s raw and heartfelt brand of bluegrass exerted a particularly strong influence. Following a stint in the Marine Corps, King relocated to Wilmington, Del., where he started a band with Lundy's sons, T.J. and Bobby. They introduced the young singer to radio DJ and producer Ray Davis who paired King with Ralph Stanley for two well-received albums released in the mid-1980s, Stanley Brothers Classics and Reunion. Since then, King has recorded five additional albums, including These Old Pictures, which earned him a nomination for the International Bluegrass Music Association's award for Vocal Performance of the Year.

These days, the James King Band, comprised of Barry Crabtree (banjo), Dorse Sears, (mandolin), Merl Johnson (fiddle) and John Marquess (bass), is among the busiest in the business. Despite the recent death of his 18-year-old daughter, Shelby Ann, in car wreck, King said he's more determined than ever to deliver his music to his fans. "It's an exciting time for me, and proof that good things can still happen even during tough times," King said. "That's what I live for."

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Jesse Lége and Joel Savoy
Cajun dance hall music
Eunice, Louisiana

alash

Links:

Artist Website

Video - "Cajun Country Revival"

Jesse Lége and Joel Savoy make music the way music should be made – full of spontaneity and joy. Together, they play Cajun dance hall music from the prairies of Southwest Louisiana where generations of Cajuns, young and old alike, come together to enjoy themselves socializing and dancing. Musical cross-pollination in America not the exception, it’s a rule that applies to Cajun music just as to many other vernacular genres. Cajun music developed in Louisiana from a blending of older French and Acadian lyrics, themes and tunes with country, western, blues and Caribbean influences. The affinity between the soulful sounds of Cajun music and classic country has always been easy to discern. There are Cajun songs based on country songs, and there are country songs based Cajun songs. In the dance halls of Southwest Louisiana bands had to be versatile enough to play the popular tunes of the day, and it was not uncommon to hear a good deal of honky-tonk music in a Cajun dancehall. Jesse and Joel “ are putting some of that “country” back in Cajun music.

Fiddler Joel Savoy, son of Marc and Ann Savoy, grew up in a musical family noted for its keeping of Cajun culture. As a musician, record producer and supporter of traditional events, he has been a driving force in the Cajun renaissance of the new millennium. Founder of the highly-respected, Grammy-winning label Valcour Records, Savoy is equally at home playing the old fiddle repertoire of Cajun masters like Dennis McGee as he is playing swing or honky-tonk. Taking the stage with Joel and a stellar band is Cajun legend Jesse Lége. Growing up in rural Gueydan, Louisiana, in a one-room house, with eight siblings and no electricity, Jesse spoke Cajun French and learned music from relatives, neighbors, and the family's much-loved battery-powered radio. He’s been playing and singing traditional Cajun music for over 30 years, and is one of the tradition’s most admired Cajun songwriters, accordionists and singers, known especially for his high, clear, soul-stirring voice. Jesse has been honored with every award a Cajun musician can receive from the Cajun French Music Association and was recently inducted into the Cajun Music Hall of Fame.

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Khac Chi Ensemble
Vietnamese
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Khac Chi Ensemble

Artist Website

Videos:
Khac Chi bamboo music at Pacific

Rare Music

Khac Chi introduction and solo Vietnam's monochord


Leading festivalgoers through an ethereally beautiful soundscape of haunting melody, animated rhythms and exotic timbres, this premier ensemble offers an exploration of the rich and sophisticated musical traditions of Vietnam. Showcasing over a dozen rare and unique instruments made of bamboo such as the dan bau (one-string zither), the dan t’rung (suspended bamboo xylophone) and k’ni (a one-stringed stick fiddle with a resonating chamber held in the player’s mouth), the group’s performances feature music of the mountain people of Vietnam, as well as classical, folk and contemporary music of the country.

Khac Chi Ensemble consists of two remarkable musicians: Ho, Chi Khac and Hoang, Ngoc Bic. Chi is the world's foremost virtuoso on the dan bau (a native Vietnamese instrument equipped with possibly the world’s first whammy bar), as well as a composer and music researcher. Currently teaching Vietnamese instruments at the University of British Columbia, Chi continues to perform internationally with his ensemble. Bic is an exceptional vocalist, arranger and multi-instrumentalist. She specializes on the dan bau and a number of very rare instruments, and was the first woman ever to receive First Prize for dan bau in the 1988 Vietnam Competition of Professional Instrumentalists. Bic has toured internationally both as a solo artist and with the Khac Chi Ensemble. She also teaches Vietnamese music at the University of British Columbia.

The duo’s superb musicianship has garnered numerous awards for excellence, as well as invitations to perform at major festivals such as the WOMAD Festivals in UK and USA, Kaustinen Folk Music Festival in Finland; SFINKS Festival in Belgium, Mela Festival in Norway, World-Ethnic Music Festival in Czech Republic; Festival d’ete, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Rain-Forest World Music Festival in Malaysia, the concerts in Brunei, Taiwan, South Korea and many others.

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Lurrie Bell
blues
Chicago, Illinois

Lurie Bell

Artist Website

Video

“If there is a Chicago Blues child who perhaps epitomizes the blues life, it’s Lurrie Bell…the premier guitarist in the Windy City.” (Boston Blues News) Best known for his rough and tumble blues with blistering guitar and gravely, growling vocals, Lurie Bell, born in 1958, is the son of famed blues harmonica player Carey Bell. Lurrie picked up his father’s guitar at age five and taught himself to play. Clearly a prodigy, his music was shaped by the Chicago blues legends who frequently visited his home, and also by the seven years he spent from age seven to 14 with his grandparents in Mississippi and Alabama, where he immersed himself in gospel music. Returning to Chicago, by the 1970s he was recording with his dad and playing behind a variety of established stars like Willie Dixon and Koko Taylor, and was widely acknowledged as a star on the rise. But a battle with personal demons ensued that kept him out of the studio and off the road for a decade. Since re-emerging triumphant in the mid-1990s with a succession of four highly acclaimed records, Bell is fulfilling his early promise. Living Blues Magazine’s Critics Poll named him Most Outstanding Guitar Player in 2007, and Male Blues Artist of the Year in both 2008 and 2012. He has received multiple Blues Music Award nominations and in January 2013 his magnificent acoustic gospel recording The Devil Ain’t Got No Music was honored with the Prix du Blues award from the prestigious French L’Academie du Jazz for Best Blues Recording of 2012. At the festival, audiences will have the opportunity to experience this blues master in both electric and acoustic settings.

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Marshall Ford Swing Band
western swing
Austin, TX

Marshall Ford Swing Band

Artist Website

Video

The musical legacy of western swing fiddle legend Johnny Gimble lives on in the piano playing and singing of his granddaughter Emily and her delightful band. With tasty guitar runs, sultry and playful vocals, and a rock solid, rhythm section, this band invokes the spirit of the great western swing bands of the past. These talented 20-somethings are modern day carriers of Texas’ western swing torch are performing swing tunes more than twice their age and, as The Austin Chronicle states, “really nailing it.”

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Mighty Sam McClain
soul and R&B
Epping, New Hampshire

Mighty Sam Mcclain

Links:

Artist website

Video: "Give it up for Love"

Video: "Can u stand the test of love"

Mighty Sam McClain is one of America’s finest living soul and R&B singers, one of the original masters of southern soul/blues from the 1960s.  He carries on the tradition of singers like Bobby Bland, Solomon Burke, Otis Clay, James Carr and Otis Redding, but in his own individual style. After more than four decades of musical ups and downs, Mighty Sam is today making some of the best music of his long career, and finally gaining the recognition at home that he has long enjoyed abroad.
           
Sam McClain’s musical odyssey began seven decades ago in Monroe, Louisiana singing gospel in his mother’s church at age five.  He left home at 13 to escape an abusive stepfather, and hooked up with a local R&B musician, “Little Melvin” Underwood, touring the Chitlin’ Circuit first as Melvin’s valet and later as lead vocalist. By the mid-1960s he had recorded several singles, among them Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams,”  “In the Same Old Way,” and “Fannie May,” which were regional hits.  But his musical career never really took off and for fifteen years he struggled, first in Nashville, then in New Orleans, working odd jobs and enduring periods of homelessness. From cotton fields to the Apollo Theater to the park bench, Sam lived the songs that would jump-start his career in the mid-1980s when the Neville Brothers recognized his extraordinary talent and arranged for Sam to tour and record in Japan in 1989. 

Shortly after that, New Orleans producer Hammond Scott teamed McClain up with a group of Boston-based musicians, which brought him to New England. Recordings for Audio Quest and Telarc brought him Grammy and Blues Music award nominations and a host of new admirers. In 1996, after decades of frustration with the music industry, McClain took personal control of his career, founding his own management and publishing companies. His own record label followed, along with some of his best recordings to date. Today Sam is producing his own work, picking the musicians he wants to work with, and writing much of the material he performs.  The results have earned him widespread acclaim.  He’s been described as "America’s best purveyor of red-clay soul blues…" In Europe, he’s known as “The Soul of America.” 

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Nathalie Pires
Portuguese fado
Perth Amboy, New Jersey

Nathalie Pires

Links:

Interview with artist

Artist website


A stunning new talent, Nathalie Pires proudly represents what is arguably the oldest urban folk music in the world: fado, the soul of Portugal. Her intense, expressive voice has gained her ever-growing recognition as one of today's leading "fadistas," a huge honor considering she was born and raised in a Portuguese American community – Perth Amboy, New Jersey to be precise. A form with deep and tangled roots, fado (“fate” or “destiny”) has been Portugal’s best-known song form for well over a century. Born in the bustling side streets and alleys of old Lisbon in the early nineteenth century, fado contains influences from Portugal’s African and South American colonial empire and traces of traditional dance music such as the fofa and lundum, combined with Portugal’s native ballad tradition. The emotional core of the fado is saudade, best described as an “indefinable yearning.” The traditional fadista, dresses in black, and uses a shawl as a prop to accentuate the drama of the song. Surrounded by a filigree of exquisite guitar work, the passionate lyrics of fado are delivered with barely controlled raw emotion. Among the host of honors Nathalie has already received, one of the most personally meaningful was bestowed by her idol, fado legend Amália Rodriques whose foundation awarded Nathalie the 2011 Amália Rodriques Medal of Merit for being an “ambassador of fado” and representing Amália with dignity outside Portugal. In this same year, fado was recognized as a world treasure, and added to UNESCO’s list of “Intanglble Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

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The Prusinowski Trio
traditional music from Central Poland
Warsaw, Poland

The Prusinowski Trio

Links:

Video

Band website

The Prusinowski Trio is a group of Polish musicians who follow the traditions of village masters they have learned from – with a wondrous ability to mix the feel and power of village dance music with their own contemporary sensibilities and language of improvisation. At the center of an explosion of interest by young Poles in the music of their heritage, the group combines music with dance, and the traditional with the modern.

The trio is actively involved in documenting the music of the last generation of village players, so that it can be passed on, rejuvenated, enjoyed, and most importantly, danced, by the next generation.  It is a rich tradition indeed, full of complexity, drive and enduring melodies. The band gives special thanks to Andrzej Bienkowski, a professor at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, who for 30 years has traversed Poland to document and record village music.  His Warsaw flat has become a salon for the new wave of musicians who are embracing the singing, playing and dancing of their homeland. It was Bienkowski who first inspired the group through his great archive of folk music, and led the band to all of the masters and mentors of the style they are playing.

The trio’s unique style is the result of their attempt to find new ways of interpreting the most important elements of village music from Mazovia, Poland’s flat, central region. The mazureks (mazurkas) and polkas as danced in the central Polish villages have a special quality – time stretches and beat emphases determined by the stepping and spinning of the dancers.  Andrew Cronshaw writing for fRoots Magazine described them as “wonderfully wiggly cross-rhythms – a triple beat but with stresses that can cross it in fours, fives or sevens. . .” The Prusinowski Trio brings mazurkas – sung, played, danced and improvised – to a new, youthful audience, with the addition of wind and brass propelling their sound into another realm. 
 
Since 2008, the band has performed across Europe, Asia and North America as well as at home, and in 2012 was featured at the prestigious WOMEX world music fair in Thessaloniki, Greece.

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Rhythm of Rajasthan
Rajasthani music and dance
Rajasthan, India

Rhythm of Rajasthan

Articles:
About Kalbelia Dance

About Manganiyar Musical Legacies

Melancholic desert melodies

Videos:
Promotional videos
Dance performance

Rajasthan ("the land of the kings") is India's largest state by area. Located in the northwest and sharing a border with Pakistan, it encompasses much of the Great Indian Desert (Thar Desert). The archaeological ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization are here, the oldest yet discovered on the Indian subcontinent. Representing the rich and vibrant musical culture of this ancient land is Rhythm of Rajasthan, an ensemble organized in 2007 by folklorist Nitin Nath Harsh to bring Rajasthan's intriguing musical traditions to the world. The ensemble features superb singing, percussion and instruments such as the sarangi (bowed lute) and algoza (double flute), enhanced by the swirling movements of Kalbelia dance.

The musicians and dancers of Rhythm of Rajasthan are from western Rajasthan and represent three traditions. The Kalbelia are a nomadic community of Hindu snake handlers, whose traditional occupation was to catch snakes and sell the venom. The Langas and Manganiars are both hereditary classes of musicians, a tradition that dates back more than 500 years. They sing in the same dialect but have different styles and repertoires shaped by the tastes of their patrons. In earlier times, the Langas and Manganiars performed exclusively for wealthy landlords and the nobility, providing music and dance at weddings, births, and other ceremonies. While both groups are Muslim, their music has traditionally served the Hindu community as well; many of their songs praise Hindu deities and celebrate Hindu festivals. Today, there are approximately 1,000 musicians in Rajasthan who were born into their profession. As the traditional system that supported hereditary musical occupations fades into history, Rajasthani musicians and dancers have expanded their public performances to include international audiences. But there is growing concern about the continuation of these arts and their transmission to younger generations at home. The group's appearance at the Richmond Folk Festival offers audiences a glimpse into an astonishing, centuries-old musical world on the eve of inevitable change.

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Spanish Harlem Orchestra
salsa dura
New York, New York

Spanish Harlem Orchestra

SPanish Harlem Orchestra

Video:
Sacala Bailar

Article:
Spanish Harlem Orchestra, El Barrio ensemble gets inot the Grammy groove

 

Now in its eleventh year, the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra is one of the most formidable and authentic Latin jazz combos of the present day. In live performance the group is electrifying, as OpusOneReview reported: "Spanish Harlem orchestra's New York Salsa ripped through the tent like a tropical typhoon…the Hernandez arrangements, as complex as any jazz band charts, are an organized, multi-layered assault involving two trumpets, two trombones, sax/flute, piano, congas, bongos, timbales, claves, cowbell, guiro, all totally tight with…[a] smiling, dancing, vocal trio."

While salsa music now enjoys worldwide popularity, its roots are in New York's Spanish-speaking neighborhoods that remain its creative center. Emerging from the barrios during the late 1960s, "salsa" was born from the encounter of Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms and sounds with big band jazz. Salsa dura, or "hardcore salsa," became a vehicle for expressing a Latino identity through its driving dance beats and lyrics laden with political and social commentary.

Directed by world-renowned pianist, arranger, and producer Oscar Hernández, the 13-member all-star ensemble has reintroduced the classic sounds of New York City Salsa to music lovers worldwide. For all of its appeal to contemporary audiences, Spanish Harlem Orchestra owes its front-line status to an unwavering respect for the music's rich history. As Hernandez notes, this is "… a group of musicians who understand first-hand the tradition of this music and all the great artists who were responsible for the tradition."

Indeed, Hernandez is all about tradition. Although born into a large Puerto Rican family living in the Bronx, it was the nearby Spanish Harlem neighborhood that shaped his cultural musical sensibilities. Hernandez started playing the trumpet at age 12, then switched to piano shortly after. By the time he finished his teen years, he was making a living as a professional musician and gigging with some of the most talented Latin jazz artists of the '70s. He spent much of the '80s producing, arranging and playing piano for Panamanian vocalist Rubén Blades while simultaneously leading his own band, Seis del Solar.

After two decades of session work, composing, arranging and producing, Hernandez was approached by producer Aaron Luis Levinson in 2000 about the idea of assembling and recording a Latin jazz orchestra. Spanish Harlem Orchestra quickly established itself as a standard bearer of Latin music. The group's debut recording in 2002 scored a Grammy nomination for Best Salsa Album and a Latin Billboard Award for Salsa Album of the Year. Grammy wins followed in 2005 for Best Salsa/Merengue Album and again in 2010 for Best Tropical Latin Album.

Preserving a musical legacy and introducing it to new audiences in a new century, says Hernandez, is more important than being the musical flavor of the month. "Spanish Harlem is kind of a microcosm of Latinos in New York," says Hernandez. "It's an important place culturally for our people and our music. Just like Harlem was extremely important culturally for African Americans, so was Spanish Harlem for Latinos. We're not a bunch of flyweights who took the name as some kind of ethnic gimmick. We're the real deal, and we earned the right to take that name."

Mid Atlantic Arts FoundationThis tour engagement of Spanish Harlem Orchestra is funded through the Mid Atlantic Tours Program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Stooges Brass Band
New Orleans parade band
New Orleans, Louisiana

Stooges Brass Band

Artist Website

Video: "Wind It Up"

Nowhere in the U.S. is music more a part of the fabric of life than in New Orleans. For generations, brass bands, or parade bands, have been an integral part of the scene. Their origins are linked to 19th century military bands, but New Orleans musicians took the instruments and created a new, looser, less regimented music, combining African rhythms and polyphony with European forms to produce the earliest jazz. The tradition continues today with exciting young bands like the Stooges. Whether leading a second-line parade in the back streets of the Crescent City or serving as American cultural ambassadors in Tajikistan or Pakistan, the Stooges Brass Band immerses its audiences in a high-energy experience that's contemporary, yet deeply rooted in New Orleans’ rich musical legacy. The band’s innovative blend of traditional New Orleans brass sounds and contemporary hip-hop beats earned the Stooges the title of "Best Contemporary Brass Band" at the 2011 Big Easy Music Awards, and growing international recognition as one of the Big Easy’s elite brass bands.

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Thomas Maupin and Daniel Rothwell with Overall Creek and guest dancer Kory Posey
Appalachian buck dance and string band
Smyrna and Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Thomas Maupin and daniel rothwell

Articles:
Thomas Maupin, Champion Buckdancer

Thomas Maupin: "When I'm a-dancing"

Videos:
Thomas Maupin Champion Buckdancer

Kory in Old Time Buck Dancing

Thomas Maupin & Band Rehearsal

 

Old-time buck dancing is not about choreography. It’s not about a set routine, fancy costumes, or a lot of flash. Instead, this traditional Appalachian freestyle solo dance with roots in Africa and Europe, particularly the British Isles, is about an active engagement with the music. Often playfully competitive, buck dancing has long been a feature of rural dances and house parties. Emphasizing rhythms created by the heel and toe, the dancer’s feet become a percussion instrument in the old-time string band.

Seventy-five-year-old Thomas Maupin, likely the most renowned Tennessee buck dancer of his generation, knows this better than anyone. He says, “Lot of dancers you mostly have to see. I have always concentrated one ear on the music and the other ear on the sound of my feet, trying to match it with the tune that’s being played. I’m part of that band, that’s the way I try to be.”

Maupin grew up on a farm in Eagleville, Tennessee with his nine brothers and sisters. All of them were self-taught buck dancers. His own dancing was most influenced by that of his older brother Ollie and his grandmother, who liked to dance barefoot.

Maupin says that he has his grandmother’s timing, but adds his own unique flourishes. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Maupin began to enter dance competitions; since then, he has won 60 titles, including winning the National Old-time Buck Dancing Championship six times. Maupin is a recipient of a 2011 Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award and is the subject of a recent documentary, Let Your Feet Do the Talkin’.

Maupin will be joined at the festival by grandson Daniel Rothwell, a fine clawhammmer banjo player, leading the Overall Creek band. The two have been dancing and playing together since Rothwell was small, and he sites his grandfather as the main influence in his music. “My banjo playing, the rhythm, is definitely based probably off of his dancing lick,” Rothwell says. Maupin treasures the fact that he and his grandson are able to share in the old-time tradition, “Daniel came along playin’ my music, so we’ve been good partners. He’s helping me grow old.”

Joining Maupin and Rothwell and Overall Creek will be their friend and fellow champion buck dancer Kory Posey, a 28-year-old who already has a roomful of trophies and is the 2012 National Old-time Buck Dancing Champion. 

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Yves Lambert Trio
Québécois
Montreal, Québec, Canada

Yves Lambert Trio

Videos:

Medley Irish

Le Pére Tanasse

Accordionist and singer Yves Lambert is a towering figure in the Québecois traditional music revival, regarded by his fellow Québecois as a “leading light in the traditional aesthetic of our cultural heritage.” In 1976, he was one of the founding members of the supergroup La Bottine Souriante, and for 26 years was the heart and soul of this internationally renowned Québecois band. In 2003, searching for new musical adventures, and always attentive to the next generation of musicians, he surrounded himself with young talent and created the Bébert Orchestra in 2004, and the Yves Lambert Trio in 2010. The Yves Lambert Trio showcases the interplay between maturity and youth to create an exciting musical dialogue, as the ensemble mines the rich musical heritage of Québéc, giving new life to the forgotten or undiscovered gems of the tradition. Yves Lambert’s charisma and talent, coupled with Tommy Gauthier exquisite work on fiddle and guitarist Olivier Rondeau’s virtuosity and passion, the nuances of the group’s arrangements, its eclectic rhythmic and sonic palates, and distinct harmonies make this trio a one-of-a-kind musical experience.

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