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 2018 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 2018 festival, check out "How to be a performer at the Richmond Folk Festival"
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. Here is a look at the artists that participated in 2017.
Announcing the first 10 artists performing at the 2018 Richmond Folk Festival
For Laotian-born Bounxeung Synanonh, captivating an audience is as simple as drawing a few quick breaths of air. He is a master performer on the khaen, an ancient, free-reed mouth organ made from 16 lengths of bamboo. Recognizing its vital place in daily family and social life, UNESCO has inscribed khaen music of the Lao people on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Bounxeung is revered as a keeper of the khaen tradition for the Laotian American community.
Three-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year award, Claire Lynch has long been regarded as one of bluegrass’s finest talents. With a gorgeous, fluid voice, its bold, bluesy flair is unmistakable, and she can launch a lyric straight through the heart.
San Francisco, California
Farah Yasmeen Shaikh carries on the revered tradition of Kathak dance, earning accolades for her expressive dancing and historically rooted choreography. She is also a bridge-builder, using Kathak to, as she says, “help shift perspectives and perceptions of the world today—in a way that both challenges and enlightens us alongside our audiences.”
County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Spellbinding singer and award-winning uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson is setting “a benchmark for the new generation” of Irish musicians, and thrilling audiences with his soulful interpretations of traditional songs from his native Northern Ireland.
blues and boogie-woogie piano
Vancouver, British Columbia
With his dapper zoot suits, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne looks every bit the musician Living Blues hails as “bringing the piano back to the front ranks of contemporary blues.” When Kenny Wayne’s fingers hit the keys, you know you’re in the presence of a true blues boss.
A throwback to first-generation zydeco masters, Leroy Thomas plays what he calls “old school zydeco.” That’s no surprise, given he was born into a zydeco family: his father has inspired countless zydeco drummers, while cousins Geno Delafose and Keith Frank are some of the leading zydeco performers today. A giant on the zydeco scene for over 20 years, Leroy wears out the “zydeco corridor” traveling between Lafayette, Louisiana and Houston, Texas.
Lulo Reinhardt is one of the foremost musical voices in Gypsy jazz today. The great-nephew of the legendary Django Reinhardt, he is heir to a unique musical lineage. The acclaimed musicians of the Reinhardt family have been the touchstone for this irresistible genre throughout three generations of guitarists.
gospel, soul, rhythm and blues
Mavis Staples will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest gospel singers of all time, the breathtaking voice powering one of America’s most celebrated family bands, the Staple Singers. From the traditional gospel music of the 1950s to the 1960s protest songs that underscored some of the decade’s most dramatic social changes, from the self-empowerment anthems of the 1970s to the soulful love tunes and mature roots music of more recent years, Mavis Staples and her family consistently created some of the best and most inspirational music of the past half-century.
Combining a “do-it-yourself” ethos with a desire to revitalize a traditional genre beloved by Puerto Ricans, Orquesta el Macabeo is updating the music in the spirit of the classic sounds created by salsa pioneers. As record label Peace & Rhythm declared when reissuing Macabeo’s debut album this spring: “with every passing year their audience and reputation grows, mainly because they have managed to hit a nerve, connect to salseros craving that old-school sound and message, but also something that speaks to their own contemporary experiences in an unadulterated and honest manner.”
Tamburaški Sastav Ponoć represents a new generation of brilliant players of tamburitza music, the traditional string band music of the Balkans. Tamburitza music has flourished for over a century in ethnic communities across the industrial Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest where Eastern European immigrants flocked to work in the region’s factories and mines. Until recently, it has had limited exposure beyond these communities. But that is changing as this cadre of virtuosic young musicians bring tamburitza out of neighborhood taverns and community halls and onto concert stages across America and the world.