Aleppo Ensemble

Aleppo Ensemble

Aleppian wasla music and whirling dervish dance from Syria
New York, New York

The Aleppo Ensemble is a New York-based group devoted to performing and preserving the rich heritage of wasla music, song, poetry, and dance from Aleppo. The group’s mission has been made all the more urgent in recent years with the physical and cultural destruction of Aleppo, long the cultural capital of Syria where Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions came together. Through their work, they strive to reach Syrian refugees as well as Syrian Americans whose history in the U.S. goes back over a hundred years, two groups that share the fear that they are witnessing the destruction of their homeland. The Aleppo Ensemble’s music and story is a timely reminder that cultural traditions are often deeply held across time and place, often in spite of historic humanitarian crises.

Balla Kouyaté & Mamadou Diabaté

Balla Kouyaté & Mamadou Diabaté

balafon masters
Boston, Massachusetts, and Vienna, Austria 

Two masters of the West African balafon, Balla Kouyaté from Mali and Mamadou Diabaté from Burkina Faso, have joined forces to showcase their approaches, both deeply traditional and yet modern and inventive, to this ancient instrument. Each performance from Kouyaté and Diabaté is a treat for audiences and artists alike, full of the thrill of the unexpected, as these two artists at the peak of their powers explore new musical terrain together. 

CASYM Steel Orchestra

CASYM Steel Orchestra

steel pan orchestra
New York, New York

CASYM is a thunderous orchestra consisting entirely of steel pans—percussion instruments fashioned from 55-gallon oil drums and played with rubber-tipped mallets. The virtuosity of its members and the versatility of its repertoire demonstrates this instrument’s incredible range. Annual participants in the New York Caribbean Carnival, CASYM is not just a musical group but also an organization that uses music to inspire youth of Caribbean heritage to imagine a brighter future.

Conjunto Guantanamo

Conjunto Guantanamo

Afro-Cuban
New York, New York

Cuban musicians draw from a sonic landscape rich with varied influences, including folk and popular, religious and secular, and Spanish and African-derived sounds. New York City’s Conjunto Guantanamo weaves these diverse threads together. Mingling traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms, like son montuno, cha-cha-cha, mambo, and rumba, with the energy of New York City’s Latin music scene, Conjunto Guantanamo celebrates Cuban folklore as the spirit breathing life into its sound.

Julie Fowlis

Julie Fowlis

traditional Scottish song, pipes, and whistles
North Uist, Scotland  

Scottish singer and piper Julie Fowlis has been called “the new face of Gaelic song.” For all her undeniable star power, this singer with an otherworldly voice is known for not only singing in Scots Gaelic but also for her commitment to keeping this endangered language alive. Beloved for her ability to speak directly to the audience, whatever their language, Fowlis creates what The Times of London has described as “a masterclass in intimacy” in her haunting Scots Gaelic.

Mangum & Company

gospel brass “shout band”
Charlotte, North Carolina 

Led by soaring trombones with their slides pointed heavenward, Mangum & Company is a group of outstanding musicians representing many of Charlotte, North Carolina’s United House of Prayer congregations. Shout bands are all-brass, gospel-based trombone choirs that represent a sacred musical tradition unique to United House of Prayer churches, and are central to worship services, inspiring congregants with joyous sounds of praise.

Native Pride Dancers

Native Pride Dancers

powwow dance traditions
St. Paul, Minnesota 

Colorful regalia, resounding drumming, and fancy footwork are part of the rich panoply of experiences at a Native American powwow. The Native Pride Dancers brings this excitement and artistry to audiences across the world, sharing their stories and teaching about the innovative blend of modern and traditional Native American dance styles featured in their performances.   

Petroloukas Halkias & Vasilis Kostas

Petroloukas Halkias & Vasilis Kostas

traditional music from Epirus
Boston, Massachusetts, and Epirus, Greece

One of the foremost representatives of Greek demotic (folk) music, Petroloukas Halkias is a living legend and master of the clarino (clarinet). At 85 years old, he is a keeper of the musical traditions of Epirus, a region in northwest Greece known for music with strong melodic lines, mournful lyrics, and slow rhythms. Vasilis Kostas, a groundbreaking performer on the laouto (a long-necked, fretted lute with four paired strings), represents the next generation brought up in this tradition. The two met four years ago, sparking a musical partnership that is redefining the typical relationship between clarinet and laouto.

Plunky & the Oneness of Juju

Plunky & the Oneness of Juju

funk and go-go orchestra
Richmond, Virginia

 For over 50 years, Richmond saxophonist and bandleader J. Plunky Branch has been at the vanguard of Afro-centric jazz, funk, house music, and go-go, weaving these interrelated musical forms into a forward-looking message of empowerment, positivity, and cultural awareness. At this year’s Richmond Folk Festival, he’s launching a new Afro-funk go-go orchestra that revisits his classic mid-1970s Oneness of Juju band while exploring new musical horizons.

Riley Baugus

Riley Baugus

Appalachian songs and ballads
Walkertown, North Carolina

Although it is called “old-time,” the music Riley Baugus plays is, as he says, both old and new, “a living, breathing example of music and tradition that still lives in the mountains near my home.” Growing up in the rural community where he still lives, Baugus was surrounded by music—at home through the records his parents played, and in the community by attending jams at the homes of family friends.

Saraswathi Ranganathan

Saraswathi Ranganathan

Carnatic veena
Chicago, Illinois

Carnatic music has been the common thread connecting diverse cultural communities in South India for thousands of years. The veena, a 24-fretted lute made with two resonating gourds, is the primary stringed instrument of this classical tradition. In Chicago, the great midwestern metropolis that is literally and figuratively thousands of miles from South India, veena player Saraswathi Ranganathan is winning accolades and fans for her mastery of the instrument. 

Stax Music Academy Alumni Band

Stax Music Academy Alumni Band

Memphis soul
Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis has always been a cauldron for uniquely American sounds, from the blues of Beale Street to the rockabilly of Sun Studios. When soul and R&B topped the charts beginning in the late 1950s, the city nurtured another regional sound that came to be known as Memphis soul, with Stax Records leading the way. Fifty years later, the Stax Music Academy (SMA) carries on the legacy of this definitive regional record label.