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

Communal Tashlikh

Come celebrate the New Year and cast your burdens into the James River!

In the spirit of sharing diverse cultual expresssions, the Richmond Folk Festival invites festival-goers to participate in a beautiful Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) tradition, the tashlikh ceremony, along the banks of the James River. It offers everyone a wonderful introduction to Jewish culture.

Read more about the Tashlikh ceremony

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.


Performers for the 2016 Richmond Folk Festival

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

Adonis Puentes & the Voice of Cuba Orchestra

Cuban son
Cuba by way of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada


Adonis Puentes has said, “My mission in life is to share my music, giving people joy.” Propelled by the rhythms of his sextet, the Voice of Cuba Orchestra, the multitalented Puentes—an accomplished guitarist, percussionist, and songwriter—transports listeners to Cuba, his birthplace, through the mesmerizing sounds of son.

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Balinese All Stars

Balinese All Stars

gamelan orchestra
Los Angeles, Colorado Springs & Denver, metropolitan New York City, and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

The sound of the Balinese gamelan is instantly recognizable: at once earthy and ethereal, it is a centuries-old music that is both deeply traditional and nearly avant-garde in its stylistic complexity and innovation. The Balinese All Stars are a multigenerational collective of exceptional musicians and dancers whose members live, teach, and dance all across the United States, and who gather together for special performances to present this rich tradition.

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The Beat[box] Goes On: Rahzel, Nicole Paris and Ed Cage

The Beat[box] Goes On: Rahzel, Nicole Paris and Ed Cage

beatboxing
New York City and St. Louis, Missouri

Two of the biggest names in beatboxing today, preeminent master Rahzel and innovative artist Nicole Paris, are redefining the limits of the human voice. Beatboxing is a form of vocal percussion considered the “fifth element” of hip hop culture, completing the quintet of hip hop art forms along with DJing, MCing, graffiti, and breakdance.

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BeauSoleil Trio: Doucet, Doucet, and Reeds

BeauSoleil Trio: Doucet, Doucet, & Reed

Cajun
Lafayette, Louisiana

BeauSoleil translates as “beautiful sunshine.” It’s also the name of the 18th-century Acadian rebel leader, Beausoleil Broussard, for whom “the most famous Cajun band in the world” is named. Although BeauSoleil has performed in different configurations since its founding 41 years ago, it began as an acoustic trio. At this year’s festival, BeauSoleil’s Michael Doucet, David Doucet and Mitchell Reed offer up glorious twin fiddle and fiddle-accordion pairings with acoustic guitar, beloved sounds from the heart of Cajun tradition. The BeauSoleil Trio pays homage to past Cajun masters with delightful stories of the musicians from whom they learned and with beautiful tunes performed with freshness, immediacy, and unmatched virtuosity.

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Ben Hall

Ben Hall

“Travis-style” thumb-picked guitar
Okolona, Mississippi by way of Nashville


Ben Hall is an exciting young guitar master keeping the Kentucky tradition of “Travis-style” thumb picking alive and relevant for old and new generations of fans alike. Thumb picking is a type of fingerpicking in which the performer plays both rhythm and lead parts simultaneously, the thumb keeping a regular, alternating bass rhythm while the fingers pick the melody and fills. As Hall notes, “There's famous stories of so many great guitar players who play other styles listening to this and saying, ‘I had no idea that's one instrument.’”

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The Branchettes

The Branchettes

traditional African American gospel
Raleigh, North Carolina

Hailing from the North Carolina Piedmont, Lena Mae Perry and Wilbur Tharpe are outstanding gospel performers, known for their joyful renditions of spirituals and hymns delivered by Sister Perry’s soul-stirring vocals paired with Tharpe’s sanctified gospel piano. In various configurations, The Branchettes have been performing for more than 40 years, bringing their old-time style to audiences and congregations both near and far.

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Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

Southern Italian pizzica tarantata
Salento, Italy

In southern Italy, the music that accompanies the trance-like dance ritual of tarantism nearly vanished before becoming the most prominent symbol of a regional resurgence. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (CGS), a seven-member ensemble from the Salento peninsula of Apulia, known as the “the heel of the boot” of Italy, led this revival of interest in the music and dance of Salento. In the process, the group became the biggest stars of Italian traditional music.

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Chico Simões

Chico Simões

Brazilian mamulengo
Taguatinga, Brazil

“I don’t speak Portuguese, I don’t speak English: I speak puppet,” says mamulengueiro Chico Simões. Chico Simões began studying mamulengo (a puppet tradition from northeastern Brazil) in 1981 from mestres (master puppeteers) in the Brazilian countryside where the tradition is still practiced, and founded his own puppet theater, the Mamulengo Presepada, in 1985. He has become an international ambassador for this tradition, teaching about its history and performing thousands of puppet plays worldwide, from street corners to prestigious puppetry festivals.

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Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

Conteño

conjunto tejano and norteño
Brownsville, Texas

Conjunto has kept communities on both the Texas and Mexico sides of the Rio Grande River dancing since the 1930s. Starting in the 1950s, new forms of popular music led to national and regional variation, producing norteño (from the Spanish word for “north”) in northern Mexico and conjunto tejano in Texas. The award-winning band Conteño, hailing from the border city of Brownsville, Texas, is taking the dance music of their community back to its roots, playing both conjunto tejano and norteño, a move both innovative and reverent.

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The Fairfield Four

The Fairfield Four

African American gospel quartet singing
Nashville, Tennessee

The Fairfield Four is the most distinguished traditional African American a cappella gospel quartet working today. Organized in 1921 by Reverend J.R. Carrethers, assistant pastor of the Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, this year the legendary Nashville-based group celebrates 95 years of bringing the gospel message to audiences worldwide.

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Gary U.S. Bonds with 
Gene “Daddy G” Barge

Gary U.S. Bonds with
Gene “Daddy G” Barge

The Norfolk Sound
Norfolk, Virginia, by way of Long Island & Chicago

Its many partisans argue that Norfolk, Virginia is the true birthplace of rock ’n’ roll, celebrating the contributions of the incomparable Gary U.S. Bonds, the first and biggest star of the revolutionary Norfolk Sound, and legendary saxophonist Gene “Daddy G” Barge, the bandleader behind its greatest hits.

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Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie

Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie

zydeco
Eunice, Louisiana

One of the nation's most exciting performers of zydeco, Geno Delafose heats up the clubs and honky-tonks of Southwest Louisiana every weekend with this irresistible dance music—that is, when “The Creole Cowboy” is not busy operating his Double D Ranch in Eunice. For Geno Delafose, life is divided equally between being a cowboy at home and a world-class zydeco accordionist on stage.

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Homayoun Sakhi & Salar Nader

Homayoun Sakhi & Salar Nader

Afghan rubâb and tabla
San Francisco Bay Area, California

The evocative music of Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader tells a story of hope and perseverance, both of the Afghan people and of their traditional music. Like so many others, their families fled Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and the years of Taliban control; in so doing they took their musical traditions to new places, both geographical—making a home in the United States—and metaphorical, as their music rubbed shoulders with contemporary sounds. Individually and together, Sakhi and Nader have become two of the defining artists in Afghan music today.

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Jason D. Williams

Jason D. Williams

rockabilly
Memphis, Tennessee

When Jason D. Williams sits down at the piano and pounds the keys—with his fingers, and elbows and boots—hollering about hillbillies, holy rollers, and drinking sweet wine, he declares that the 60-year-old tradition of rockabilly is alive and kicking. Having learned from some of the music’s founding artists, Williams has now taken his place among today’s leading proponents of the rockabilly sound and swagger.

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Jason D. Williams

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

bluegrass
Xenia, Ohio

Joe Mullins has built a life on "banjo picking and broadcasting" and that's why the bluegrass band he leads is called the Radio Ramblers. Carrying the family torch lit by his highly respected father, Paul “Moon” Mullins, Joe is a driving force in the world of bluegrass. A masterful Scruggs-style banjo picker and gifted singer known for his soaring high tenor, he leads a top-notch band that can do it all, delivering impeccable instrumentals and superb harmony singing with equal ease.

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Kaynak Pipers Band

Kaynak Pipers Band

Bulgarian kaba gaida
Sofia, Bulgaria

The Kaynak Pipers Band was founded in 2013 with a mission to reignite the popularity of the iconic Bulgarian instrument, the kaba gaida. Three short years later, their performance at the 2016 International Bagpipe Conference in Glasgow, Scotland took the bagpiping world by storm. Now this vibrant ensemble is bringing their ancient, inspiring music to American audiences.

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Jason D. Williams

Kevin Locke

Lakota hoop dance and flute
Wakpala, South Dakota

Kevin Locke, a member of the Hunkpapa Band of the Lakota Sioux, is known worldwide as a master hoop dancer, a preeminent player of the Northern Plains courting flute and a traditional storyteller, as well as a cultural ambassador and educator. Trained from childhood in all forms of Lakota musical, oral, and dance traditions, his Lakota name, Tokeya Inajin, meaning “The First to Arise,” is indicative of his pioneering role in preserving and reviving seriously endangered traditions of Northern Plains Indian culture.

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L’Orchestre Afrisa International

L’Orchestre Afrisa International

Congolese soukous
Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California


Emerging out of the urban centers of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), soukous is one of the most influential music genres to come out of Africa in the last century. The celebrated soukous ensemble, L’Orchestre Afrisa International, has embarked on a much-anticipated reunion tour, and this year brings the compelling dance sounds of “one of Africa’s most enduring and prolific bands” to the Richmond Folk Festival.

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Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

Maceo Parker

funk
Kinston, North Carolina

Sax virtuoso Maceo Parker is among the “founding fathers of funk,” a masterful musician whose legendary hooks make him the most sampled musician of all time. Having been on the scene when funk first burst onto dance floors in the turbulent 1960s, Parker “connects the history of funk in one golden thread, the cipher which unravels dance music down to its core.”

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Marquise Knox

Marquise Knox

blues
St. Louis, Missouri

If there is an artist who could be said to truly connect the past, present and future of the blues, it is a 25-year-old bluesman named Marquise Knox. Born and raised in St. Louis with family roots in Grenada, Mississippi, Marquise burst onto the blues scene at the age of 16, astonishing veteran bluesmen and audiences alike with performances that evidenced a musical spirit and understanding well beyond his age.

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Marquise Knox

Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy

Cape Breton and Ontario fiddling
Nova Scotia and Ontario, Canada

If Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, has a musical ambassador, it might be Natalie MacMaster, whose virtuosic fiddling and energetic step dancing have brought the island’s music international acclaim. Cape Breton boasts a complex, beautiful style of fiddling brought to Canada by early 19th-century Scottish immigrants. “It is very family oriented,” says MacMaster, “and passed down from generation to generation.” The music, she says, “is part of how you live.”

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Paddy Keenan & Jimmy Noonan

Paddy Keenan & Jimmy Noonan

Irish
Loudon, New Hampshire and Boston, Massachusetts


Music brings people together across Ireland, whether at home, at a neighborhood house party (often called a ceili) or at the local pub. Building on their long friendship, master musicians Paddy Keenan and Jimmy Noonan bring the undeniable vitality of these informal musical gatherings known as sessions, or seisúns, to the stages of the Richmond Folk Festival.

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Phil Wiggins House Party

Phil Wiggins Blues House Party

Piedmont blues and dance
Washington, D.C.

The blues of the Piedmont, the hilly region stretching from Georgia to the Chesapeake, is one of the oldest forms of the blues. It draws heavily on earlier fiddle and banjo string band music that was equally popular among rural blacks and whites, and served as a staple at country parties, hoedowns, and square dances. While country blues began as dance music, it is today most often heard in concert settings. Phil Wiggins Blues House Party brings together legendary bluesman Phil Wiggins and urban dance virtuoso Junious Brickhouse to “reconnect the dance with the dance music … getting people off their butts and doing what this music was meant for.”

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Sheila Kay

Sheila Kay Adams

Appalachian songs, stories, and ballads
Marshall, North Carolina

Seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and musician Sheila Kay Adams is a national treasure. She performs the old mountain ballads, stories, and songs with a sense of conviction, honesty, and dignity that reveals a deep respect for tradition, and demonstrates the emotional intensity of the unadorned human voice.

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Sri Lankan Dance Academy of NY

Sri Lankan Dance Academy of NY

traditional Sri Lankan dance
Staten Island, New York

In recent years, the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island has earned the moniker “Little Sri Lanka,” in honor of the vibrant immigrant community that has developed in this New York City borough since the first Sri Lankan family arrived in the late 1960s. Now numbering about 5,000 people, this is believed to be the largest Sri Lankan enclave in the United States, receiving enthusiastic notice for introducing American audiences to traditional Kandyan dance through the work of the Sri Lankan Dance Academy of NY.

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Union Bank & Trust
Virginia Folklife Stage Performers

Cora Harvey Armstrong

Gospel
Richmond, Virginia

Faith is at the center of Cora Harvey Armstrong’s 50-year career in gospel music. She was born and raised in the tiny Newtown community of King and Queen County, Virginia. Her family members were dedicated church attendees, and deeply spiritual. Armstrong remembers being enthralled by church music at an early age; she surprised her family and congregation with her ability to play piano by ear at the age of five.

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David and Mason Via

David and Mason Via

Bluegrass/Singer-Songwriters
Patrick Springs, Virginia

Songwriter and performer David Via, of Stuart, Virginia, started singing in church at age three and playing guitar at age twelve. During his long career, David has performed with Tony Rice, Curtis Burch, and Ronnie Bowman, among others, but he is best known as a songwriter. He has penned numerous chart-topping songs for artists including Ronnie Bowman, Dede Wyland, and Larry Keel.

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Dori Freeman

Dori Freeman

Appalachian singer and songwriter
Galax, Virginia

Dori Freeman is a remarkably gifted 24-year-old singer and songwriter from Grayson County, on the musically-rich Crooked Road. Dori comes from a family rooted in art and tradition. Her grandfather on her mom’s side, Willard Gayheart, is a locally-loved artist and guitar player; her paternal grandfather was an award winning flat-foot dancer and musician, and her father, Scott Freeman, is a multi-instrumentalist and music instructor. 

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Harold Mitchell

Harold Mitchell

Emcee Extraordinaire
Galax, Virginia

If you have attended the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention in the last 40 years, you will recognize the familiar voice of Galax native Harold Mitchell. Always impeccably dressed and sporting a white cowboy hat, Harold has served as the instrument-contest emcee at Galax since 1972.

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Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan

Northern Indian Khyal Singing
Annandale, Virginia

Indian classical music has evolved over the centuries, and its many diverse forms reflect the great diversity of the subcontinent of India. Hindustani classical music is traditionally practice-oriented, and learned without formal notation, through the traditional “guru-shishya” or teacher-student tradition. Khyal is a modern genre of Hindustani classical singing in North India.

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The Hurdle Brothers with Reverend Tarrence Paschall

The Hurdle Brothers with Reverend Tarrence Paschall

Tidewater gospel
Portsmouth, Virginia

Brothers Wilbert, Robert, and Melvin, and Wilbert’s son Dyrell Hurdle individually boast gospel careers that span decades, with each brother singing separately in numerous groups, including the Gospel Harmonaires, the Royal Lights, the Gospel Kings, and the Norfolkaires. They joined together to form the Hurdle Brothers in 2000 when a friend and pastor of Sixth Street Baptist Church in Suffolk was in need of a group for their Men’s Day on short notice. They have been singing with their band ever since, playing at churches and festivals across the South, and performing original arrangements of traditional songs and Wilbert’s own compositions.

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The Legendary Ingramettes

The Legendary Ingramettes

Gospel
Richmond, Virginia

For more than five decades, Evangelist Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes brought their music and ministry to congregations in the Tidewater and Piedmont. For evangelist “Mama” Maggie Ingram, who sadly passed away on June 23, 2015, music was always a family affair, and three generations were represented in the group. Their commanding, spirit-filled performances demonstrated the extraordinary depth of talent in American gospel music.

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Reverend Frank Newsome

Reverend Frank Newsome

Old Regular Baptist a cappella gospel
Haysi, Virginia

An elder in the Old Regular Baptist Church, Frank Newsome is a master practitioner of lined-out hymn singing, one of the oldest musical traditions in Virginia. Newsome was born in 1942 in Pike County, Kentucky, where his father worked as a coal miner.

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Shadowgrass

Shadowgrass

Bluegrass
Virginia and North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains

Last summer, then 11-year-old Presley Barker won the adult guitar competition at the annual Galax Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention, the veritable Super Bowl of guitar contests. Presley has joined forces with four other young local musicians to form Shadowgrass, one of the most thrilling bluegrass bands to emerge from the musically-rich Crooked Road area in recent memory.

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Sherman Holmes

Sherman Holmes

Blues/Gospel
Saluda, Virginia

The year 2015 marked the end of an amazing journey for the Holmes Brothers, a group with humble beginnings on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula who performed a joyous and moving blend of blues, gospel, soul, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and country for more than 50 years. Sadly, 2015 saw the passing of both Wendell and Popsy, ending the Holmes Brothers’ remarkable run. Despite these devastating losses, Sherman has remained dedicated to carrying on his musical career, collaborating with a range of blues artists, and forming the Sherman Holmes Project with Wendell’s former apprentice Brooks Long and harmonica legend Phil Wiggins.

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Trio Sefardi

Trio Sefardi

Sephardic Folk Songs
Northern Virginia

Trio Sefardi is inspired by a passion for Sephardic music, playing with La Rondinella, the Western Wind, and National Heritage Fellow Flory Jagoda. When the Sephardic Jews were forced into exile from Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century, many settled in other Mediterranean countries but preserved their native language, Ladino, and their oral culture.

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Unique Sound of the Mountains: Larry Sigmon and Martha Spencer

Unique Sound of the Mountains:
Larry Sigmon and Martha Spencer

Old Time
Callaway and Whitetop, Virginia

Since the passing of his longtime performing partner Barbara Poole in 2008, Larry Sigmon had been performing rarely until old-time musician and advocate Martha Spencer arrived to interview him for her online documentary project, Mountain Music Magazine. Martha encouraged Larry to play some tunes, joining him on bass and playing Barbara’s signature spirited double-slap style. The two took to each other immediately, and the “Unique Sound” was reborn.

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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"