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

Interested in performing at the 2017 Richmond Folk Festival?

Programming discussions take place from November to May with most programming decisions complete by June 1st prior to this year's festivals. All artists must follow the same process. If you're interested in applying for the 2017 festival, check out "How to be a performer at the Richmond Folk Festival"


Performers for the 2017 Richmond Folk Festival

Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo

Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo

Afro-Venezuelan parranda
El Clavo and Caracas, Venezuela

La Parranda El Clavo and their clarion-voiced leader Betsayda Machado have inspired international acclaim for the exuberant sounds of their Afro-Venezuelan heritage. The New York Times declared them “the kind of group that world-music fans have always been thrilled to discover: vital, accomplished, local, unplugged, deeply rooted.”

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Dale Ann Bradley

Dale Ann Bradley

bluegrass
Middlesboro, Kentucky

A five-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year award, Dale Ann Bradley is acknowledged as one of bluegrass music’s greatest contemporary singers, with a pure, shimmering soprano that brings alive the stories she sings. Though she has established a successful Nashville music career, she stays true to her Appalachian roots, with deft guitar picking, gospel-inspired harmonies, and “nothing doctored up” personal songwriting that bring listeners to the heart of bluegrass music.

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Eddie Cotton, Jr.

Eddie Cotton, Jr.

soul blues
Clinton, Mississippi

Bluesman Eddie Cotton, Jr.’s music is rooted in the church. His father was a Pentecostal minister, shepherding the Christ Chapel Church of God in Christ that he founded in Clinton, Mississippi, just west of Jackson. While music was central to church services, his family and his congregation shunned secular music. Nonetheless, Cotton reflects, “The deepest of the blues I’ve ever played is in church.… The style they play on is nothing but blues.”

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Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka & the San Francisco Taiko Dojo

Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka & the San Francisco Taiko Dojo

Japanese taiko drumming
San Francisco, California

Seiichi Tanaka is a Grand Master of the ancient Japanese form of ritual drumming known as taiko. Taiko combines percussive sound with physically demanding choreographic movement to create a mesmerizing musical performance. “Teaching the discipline of mind and body, in the spirit of complete respect and unity among the drummers, that is my policy,” says Sensei Tanaka. “Heart, skill, physical strength, and courtesy—these four elements are based on Japanese martial arts. I have the same philosophy for my taiko.”

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The Green Fields of America

The Green Fields of America

Irish
East Coast of the U.S.

Four decades ago, renowned musician and folklorist Mick Moloney gathered some of the finest Irish American musicians and dancers to perform at the Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife. Overwhelming interest in that program led Moloney and friends to form The Green Fields of America, the first group on either side of the Atlantic to bring together Irish vocal, instrumental, and dance traditions on the concert stage, sparking a renaissance that continues to this day. The group’s ever-changing lineup draws on the legacy of immigrant musicians who created a rich new repertoire in America out of diverse traditions from across the Emerald Isle. As Moloney says, “The personnel has changed but the concept has remained constant over the past 30 years: to show in one major ensemble some of Irish America's finest musicians and dancers.”

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Hot Club of Cowtown

Hot Club of Cowtown

western swing and hot jazz
Austin, Texas

As its name implies, the Hot Club of Cowtown pays homage to two legendary groups from the 1930s: the swinging guitar and violin of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s Hot Club of Paris, decamped from that city to the territory of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Now celebrating 20 years together, the Hot Club of Cowtown is widely recognized as one of the finest ensembles in western swing and hot jazz today.

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Innov Gnawa

Innov Gnawa

Moroccan Gnawa
Brooklyn, New York

This Brooklyn-based sextet, led by Maâlem Hassan Ben Jafeer, envelops audiences in the trance-inducing sounds of the Moroccan Gnawa tradition, a pre-Islamic music associated with Sufi mysticism. Guided by a maâlem, a master artist vested with deep spiritual responsibility, musicians perform elaborately structured all-night trance rituals (lila) to engage the spirits in the healing and purification of both individuals and community. While historically a culture of the dispossessed, Gnawa has in recent years gained immense popularity in Morocco as a national symbol.

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Jan Knutson

Jan Knutson

jazz guitar
Berwyn Heights, Maryland

Only days before he performs at the Richmond Folk Festival, Jan Knutson will turn 19. But the tunes this young musician plays with such virtuosity and subtlety express the history of American vernacular guitar traditions. Knutson’s repertoire draws from the Great American Songbook, Gypsy jazz, and jazz’s heritage of guitar improvisation. Such is the level of skill he exhibits that his mentor, the guitar master Frank Vignola, says Knutson “is destined to be one of the next generation’s great guitarists."

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Nicolae Feraru

Nicolae Feraru

Romanian cimbalom
Chicago, Illinois

Nicolae Feraru is a revered musical master in Chicago’s Romanian and Hungarian immigrant communities, who, in 2013, received a National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor for traditional artists. Now 67, he retains the same undiminished love of the cimbalom (hammered dulcimer) that he exhibited as a child, when he ate bread while practicing so as not to waste time on meals. “The music, this is my life,” says Feraru.

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Paulin Brothers Brass Band

Paulin Brothers' Brass Band

New Orleans brass band
New Orleans, Louisiana

The Paulin Brothers' Brass Band carries on the venerable legacy of their father, the late Ernest “Doc” Paulin. Doc Paulin’s Dixieland Jazz Band was beloved in New Orleans for seven decades. Traditional New Orleans jazz embodies the creolized culture of that city, combining African, European, and Caribbean musical aesthetics into a distinctly American sound. The music had two birthplaces: the club and the street parade. Whatever the setting, Doc Paulin's band approached the music with a discipline and verve that made them a touchstone of New Orleans jazz. He mentored countless younger musicians, including his sons, who champion his memory and the jazz band tradition.

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In the Classroom

Through the generous support of its sponsors, the Richmond Folk Festival will fill Richmond area school auditoriums and classrooms with performances and presentations of deeply-rooted cultural expressions.
 
The week prior to the festival, master musicians and artists visit several area schools. Together, the artists and students share music, song, craft, stories and memories that will last a lifetime.

Artists and schools will be announced in September.