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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 first round of performers for the 2014 Richmond Folk Festival

 


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.


William Bell
soul/R&B
Memphis, TN

William Bell


A principal architect of the Stax sound, Memphis native William Bell helped catapult this signature soul sound to worldwide fame. Bell got his start in the 1950s backing Rufus Thomas, the “godfather” of Memphis soul and funk. Memphis has always been a cauldron of exceptional American sounds—from the roaring Beale Street scene of blues and jug bands to the rockabilly forays exploding from Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios. When soul and R&B topped the charts in the mid-20th century, the city nurtured another regional sound, known as Memphis or southern soul. Central to the widespread popularity of this distinct sound was Memphis-based Stax Records, one of America’s quintessential regional record labels. After joining Stax as a writer, Bell made his solo debut with 1961’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” a blend of country and soul that quickly embodied the Stax sound. Bell’s defining recording, the song stands as a classic to this day. Other notable recordings include “Born Under a Bad Sign,” long associated with blues legend Albert King, and “A Tribute to the King,” a touching memorial to Otis Redding. Bell’s considerable talents were thrust back into the spotlight after crowd-rousing performance at the Stax 50th Anniversary Reunion concert in 2007. A vital singer throughout, William Bell continues to perform widely, sharing the soul/R&B sound he helped define with crowds in the U.S. and beyond.

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Boban and Marko Marković Orkestar
Balkan brass band
Serbia

Boban and Marko Marković Orkestar


Widely considered the world’s best Balkan brass band, Boban and Marko Marković Orkestar is carrying on a tradition with origins in 19th-century Serbian military bands, and creating some of the most exciting music on the planet. The deeply resonant, richly layered horn-playing of Romani brass bands can be traced to trumpeters who inspired soldiers during the Serbian revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The Marković family hails from a small town in Southern Serbia with longstanding gypsy heritage and a rich musical tradition. Boban’s father, Dragutin, was a musician, as were his grandfathers. At the age of 10, Boban was performing with his father’s orchestra; by his early 20s, he was earning accolades at the Guca festival, a world-renowned brass competition in central Serbia. Six times Boban has won “first trumpet” at Guca, the greatest honor for a Serbian player. In 2006, he was named “Ambassador of the Guca Competition,” affirming his status as a leading Balkan brass band musician. Marko learned as a young child from his grandfather, Dragutin, his father’s first teacher, and began performing with Boban’s orchestra at 14. For his 18th birthday, his father gave him full control of the 13-piece orchestra. Representing the fourth generation of Marković musicians, Marko has become the orchestra’s main soloist and arranger, lifting the family legacy to new heights as the best Balkan brass band performs worldwide.

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Chaksam-pa
Tibetan opera, folk song and dance
San Francisco, CA

Chaksam-pa

Chaksam-pa


Since their invasion of Tibet, the Chinese have suppressed the rich traditions of Tibetan music, dance and drama in an effort to assimilate this ancient culture. As a result, 120,000 Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, have lived in exile since China’s  annexation of Tibet forced them to flee in 1959. But Tibetan arts survive, tenuously, in refugee settlements in India, and in the knowledge of a handful of experienced performers who came together to found Chaksam-pa, a non-profit, traditional Tibetan performing group based in the San Francisco Bay area—the only such ensemble in North America.  Growing up in refugee communities in India, the members of Chaksam-pa were determined to maintain their cultural identity. They studied Tibetan folk traditions, learning songs and dances from the Tibetan masters who had escaped post-1959. The ensemble’s repertoire reflects the diversity of artistic expression in their homeland.  Pentatonic traveling songs from mountainous Kham (Eastern Tibet) are traditionally sung on horseback. Foot-stomping dance songs from the central Lhasa district are accompanied by lutes and feature poetic lyrics. A classical music style, nangma, was known in Lhasa as an entertainment for courtier picnics and festivals. Folk operas, lhamo, influenced by Buddhist morality plays, feature songs and dances and were once performed throughout Tibet.

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Debashish Bhattacharya & Family
Indian slide guitar
Kolkata, India

Debashish Bhattacharya & Family


Among the festival favorites returning to celebrate the Richmond Folk Festivals 10th anniversary is Debashish Bhattacharya, a virtuoso and innovator of Indian slide guitar playing who performs deeply meditative ragas as well as lighting-fast, intricate slide work on the family of guitars he invented. Debashish Bhattacharya was three years old when he discovered a lap steel guitar in his parents’ house, a relic from the Hawaiian music craze that swept through Calcutta in the 1930s after a visit from legendary Hawaiian slide guitarist Tau Moe. Since then, Bhattacharya’s remarkable playing and innovations have propelled him to the forefront of Indian music and attracted world attention. Born in 1963 into a family of accomplished devotional singers, as a child Debashish studied classical singing as well as traditional instruments, including the sitar, immersing himself in the raga tradition, the musical frameworks for improvisation in Indian classical music. Debashish also continued to experiment with the slide guitar. At age 20, he became the first slide guitarist to win the President of India Award. To adapt the slide guitar to the Indian raga, Bhattacharya created several slide guitars that incorporate characteristics of Indian instruments. At 40, Debashish was granted the honorific title of pandit (master), and with his siblings, established Bhattacharya’s International School of Universal Music in Kolkata. He will be joined at the festival by his daughter, Anandi Bhattacharya (vocals and tamboura), and his brother, Subhasis Bhattacharya (tabla).

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Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers
zydeco
New Orleans, LA

Dwayne Dopsie


Dwayne (Dopsie) Rubin performs high-energy zydeco that has been described as “relentless, pulsating and funky.” The youngest son of zydeco pioneer Rockin’ Dopsie, Sr., he is carrying the family tradition into the 21st century, taking zydeco in directions that simultaneously look to the past while incorporating funk, soul, and other new musical soundscapes. Springing from the rich cultural mix of southwest Louisiana and East Texas, zydeco combines traditional black French Creole music with blues and R&B to create irresistible dance music. A driving, accordion-led music with signature frottoir (rubboard) percussion and electric guitars, zydeco is a relatively modern sound that emerged after the Second World War. Born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, a center of Creole and Cajun culture, Dwayne played rubboard as a small child but, by the age of 7, already showed a remarkable talent for the accordion. He formed the Zydeco Hellraisers at 19; now in his mid-30s, Dwayne calls New Orleans home, and tours the world with his three-row button accordion. “This is my calling,” he says, “zydeco music is in my blood and it is my heart and soul.”

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Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano
Mexican mariachi
Los Angeles, CA

Masters of Hawaiian Music


For decades, the mariachi ensemble has been acclaimed as the national musical expression of Mexico. Just 75 years ago, mariachi from the state of Jalisco was not any better known than other regional Mexican musical styles. In the 1930s, these ensembles attracted the attention of Mexico City’s emerging electronic media industry, propelling mariachi to prominence worldwide. NEA National Heritage Fellow Natividad “Nati” Cano has led the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles-based Mariachi Los Camperos for over 50 years, bringing the group to international acclaim. With soaring, impassioned vocals, a magnificent violin section and superb showmanship, Los Camperos is considered by many to be the finest mariachi ensemble in the world. The group accompanied Linda Ronstadt on her breakthrough mariachi recordings and the subsequent concerts, taking mariachi to millions of new listeners. Los Camperos have performed at the White House for two presidents, at major festivals throughout the nation, and in the National Council for the Traditional Arts’ national tour “Masters of Mexican Music.” The ensemble has frequently headlined at Mexico’s premier mariachi celebration, the annual Encuentro de Mariachi in Guadalajara, and was featured in a PBS documentary about the event. Los Camperos performed at the very first National Folk Festival in Richmond in 2005, and are among the festival favorites returning to celebrate the Richmond Folk Festival’s 10th anniversary.

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Masters of Hawaiian Music: Led Ka’apana, George Kahumoku, Jr., & Richard Ho’opi’i
Hawaiian song and instrumental traditions
Hawaii

Masters of Hawaiian Music


Slack-key guitar, falsetto singing and the ukulele are among the musical traditions most strongly identified with Hawaiian cultural identity. Each of these three master musicians has devoted their lives to sharing, innovating, and perpetuating one or more of these quintessential Hawaiian living musical traditions. Ledward “Led” Ka’apana is a master Hawaiian slack-key guitarist, widely regarded as one of its greatest innovators. He is also renowned as one of the finest singers in the traditional falsetto style. A great ambassador for Hawaiian music, he was awarded the NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 2011, the nation’s highest honor for folk and traditional artists. Like Led, George Kahumoku, Jr. is a master slack-key guitarist known for virtuosic playing, in his case on a jumbo 12-string guitar, as well as his commitment to promoting Hawaiian music. An advocate for Hawaii’s diverse heritage, George farms and shares fresh produce with friends and students alike. Richard Ho’opi’i joined with his late brother, Solomon, to form The Ho’opi’i Brothers, who were also recipients of a National Heritage Fellowship (1996). Inspired by family, their distinctive sound was marked by its open, robust, and harmonic style of falsetto singing, or leo ki'eki'e, with characteristics carried over from ancient chant. They accompanied themselves on ukulele.

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Virginia State University Gospel Chorale
gospel
Petersburg, Virginia

Virginia State University Gospel Chorale


Just down the road in Petersburg is the acclaimed Virginia State University Gospel Chorale, a treasure of Virginia’s living cultural heritage. With four decades of performing history carrying on one of our country’s most celebrated musical traditions, the VSU Gospel Chorale is among the most distinguished groups of its kind, not only in Virginia, but also in the entire nation. The group’s recent triumphs on America’s Got Talent have only served to raise its profile to new heights, and garner even broader, well-deserved acclaim. Past scheduling conflicts—primarily annual Homecoming traditions—have prevented the Chorale’s festival participation in the past, but, as luck would have it, not this year. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting way to celebrate the festival’s 10th anniversary than by showcasing the talent and traditions of one of Virginia’s most dynamic and beloved gospel ensembles. Founded in 1971, the Chorale provides gospel music for VSU and the community, performing for varied commitments across the country, including public concerts, tours, church events, recording sessions, and VSU ceremonies, plus music conventions and Gospel festivals. The group combines rousing music and singing with vibrant choreography. With a current membership that is 130 strong, plus ten musicians, the VSU Gospel Chorale creates a captivating experience for audiences wherever the ensemble performs.

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