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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

All programming decisions have been completed for the 2014 festival. If you're interested in applying for the 2015 festival, check out "How to be a performer at the Richmond Folk Festival"


Performers for the 2014 Richmond Folk Festival

In 2014 The Richmond Times-Dispatch Folklife stage Performers:


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.


Ann Yao Trio
Chinese string ensemble
Orlando, Florida

Ann Yao Trio

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Ann Yao embodies China’s musical past and present with elegance and grace, deftly performing cutting-edge interpretations of traditional material on the zheng, one of China’s most ancient instruments. A five-foot long, horizontal, plucked zither that typically has 21 strings, the earliest known reference to a zheng appears in Chinese literature in the third century B.C.

Born into a musical family in Shanghai, Ann Yao grew up immersed in traditional Chinese music. Her grandfather’s home was an important gathering place for traditional musicians from many regions of China. Ann was learning the zheng from her aunt and uncle by the age of ten; she developed an interest in and later mastered varied regional styles. Ann went on to study zheng at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, joining Beijing’s Central National Music Ensemble after graduation.

After moving to the United States in the 1980s, she joined Music from China, an innovative New York City-based ensemble known for contemporary arrangements of traditional material. Her trio features two other musicians who are associated with this group – Guowei Wang and Yihan Chen – both of whom play instruments of ancient origin, the erhu (two-string fiddle) and pipa (Chinese lute), respectively. Together, these three virtuosic musicians, masters of their respective instruments, raise traditional Chinese string music to new heights of skill and beauty.

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The Bailey Hummingbirds 
gospel brass "shout band"
Portsmouth, Virginia

The Bailey Hummingbirds 

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Led by soaring trombones with their slides pointed heavenward, the Bailey Hummingbirds of Portsmouth are one of Virginia’s and the nation’s most significant “shout bands.” These are all-brass, gospel-based trombone choirs that represent a sacred musical tradition unique to House of Prayer churches, and are central to worship services, inspiring congregants with joyous sounds of praise. The United House of Prayer was founded by the Cape Verde-born spiritual leader Marcelino Manoel de Graca, known as “Daddy Grace,” in 1919 in Wareham, Massachusetts, emphasizing ecstatic experience with the Holy Spirit in worship. To that end, the church’s brass bands applied the era’s jazz instrumentation to gospel hymns.

Virginia’s Hampton Roads region, where Portsmouth is located, was one of the first areas to have a United House of Prayer congregation outside of Massachusetts. Shout bands have a long history in the region; the Hummingbirds carry on this illustrious tradition, and the state’s shout band heritage. Their heavenly sound is created by a lead trombone, with backing from a choir of multiple trombones, a baritone horn, a sousaphone and percussion instruments. The shout band’s massive aural power comes through most clearly when the entire ensemble, typically 20 or 30 strong, plays the “break down.” The Bailey Hummingbirds are among the festival favorites returning to celebrate the Richmond Folk Festival’s 10th anniversary. They last appeared as the Madison Hummingbirds. After Bishop Madison passed away several years ago, they changed their name, according to shout band tradition, to honor the new bishop, Bishop Bailey.

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William Bell

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soul/R&B
Memphis, Tennessee

William Bell

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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

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Balkan brass band
Serbia

Boban and Marko Marković Orkestar

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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

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Tibetan opera, folk song and dance
San Francisco, California

Chaksam-pa

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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

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Indian slide guitar
Kolkata, India

Debashish Bhattacharya & Family

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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

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zydeco
New Orleans, Louisiana

Dwayne Dopsie

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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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Ensemble Shanbehzadeh
Traditional music and dance from the Persian Gulf
Paris, France

Ensemble Shanbehzadeh

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Led by the amazing Saeid Shanbezadeh, Ensemble Shanbehzadeh performs the trance-inducing rhythms, songs and dances of Bushehr, offering a rare glimpse of a fascinating, little-known musical tradition from the Persian Gulf. A master of the neyanban (double-reed bagpipe), Saeid Shanbehzadeh is acknowledged as one of the Bushehr’s finest musicians and musical scholars. Banning Eyre, host of National Public Radio’s AfropopWorldwide, once described a rare U.S. performance by Ensemble Shanbehzadeh as “a mesmerizing set of what may be called the hidden Afro-Persian tradition … transfixing.” Back by popular demand, this entertaining group returns to join in celebrating the Richmond Folk Festival’s 10th anniversary.

Perched on the edge of the Persian Gulf in southwestern Iran is the ancient port city of Bushehr. For centuries, it has been a crossroads of trade and culture where Persian, Sufi, Arab, Indian and African traditions have blended to create a unique musical culture.

Studying under Bushehr’s old masters, Shanbehzadeh began at age seven to learn the wedding music, love songs, and religious pieces common in the province. He first mastered percussion and singing, then the double flute, the neyanban and traditional dance. Now living in France, he has become a voice of the Persian community there, speaking out against the current Iranian regime and drawing its ire for his refusal to keep silent.

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The Holmes Brothers

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blues, gospel, R&B
Rosedale, Maryland, and Saluda, Virginia

he Holmes Brothers

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Called “the undisputed masters of blues-based American roots music” by the Chicago Tribune, The Holmes Brothers’ inimitable blend of blues, gospel, R&B, soul, funk and American country raises the roof whenever they play. The group includes brothers Wendell and Sherman Holmes, plus drummer Popsy Dixon – all Virginia natives.

Growing up in the Tidewater community of Christchurch, now Saluda, Virginia, Sherman and Wendell were exposed to diverse musical genres in their youth. Their parents listened to traditional Baptist hymns, anthems and spirituals as well as blues music by Jimmy Reed, Junior Parker and B.B. King. Sherman and Wendell also sang in the church choir. Country music entered the mix because the low wattage of black radio stations in Virginia meant programming was interrupted. “We didn’t have a lot of wattage,” Wendell says. “We could be listening to Jimmy Reed and all of a sudden, bang, here comes Hank Williams with a thousand watts, so our genres are blues, country, gospel, and rhythm and blues.”

The 2014 Richmond Folk Festival is an exciting opportunity to bring back “God’s own bar band” for an encore, and to celebrate the Holmes Brothers receipt this year of the nation’s highest honor for folk and traditional artists, the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship.

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Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys

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bluegrass
Gallatin, Tennessee

Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys

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Jesse McReynolds is a living legend of bluegrass, a pioneer of the genre, and one of its most respected innovators. Native to the Appalachian coalfields of southwestern Virginia, Jesse and his late brother, Jim McReynolds, were reared in a musical family that included grandpa Charlie McReynolds. In 1949, while still in their teens, Jesse and his brother began touring as a duo, a partnership that lasted for 55 years. In 1997, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Jim and Jesse with a National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor for folk and traditional artists.

Not only bluegrass musicians admired Jesse’s music. In the 1960s, he inspired such rock stars as Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia, who once followed the McReynolds bus. (The Grateful Dead adapted their habit of allowing taping of concerts from the McReynolds brothers and the bluegrass circuit.) The admiration was mutual.

Inventor of a complex mandolin style, Jesse’s playing involves “splitting the strings” of the dual courses of strings on a mandolin to enable syncopation similar to that of a cross-picked guitar. His unique mandolin technique, resonant voice, and consistently powerful backing band have, over the past six-plus decades, cemented Jesse McReynolds’s position as a living bluegrass legend. Jesse is among the group of outstanding artists returning to celebrate the Richmond Folk Festival’s 10th anniversary.

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Joaquin Diaz

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Dominican merengue
Montreal, Canada

Joaquin Diaz

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Light-fingered accordion master Joaquin Diaz performs merengue, the vibrant dance music of the Dominican Republic. Merengue developed as an upper-class, society dance form with African and European roots during the mid-19th century, primarily in Santiago de los Caballeros, the capital city of the Cibao region in the north of the country. It quickly gained popularity among the poorer classes, both urban and rural, providing a vehicle for social commentary as well for dancing. When Dictator Faraelo Trujillo came to power in 1930, he promoted merengue – with the anti-establishment commentary toned down – as a symbol of Dominican national expression.

Today, merengue is found in two forms: a pop-styled dance club variety and the
deeply rooted folk style called “merengue tradicional" or “merengue tipico.” Joaquin Diaz, who performs in this latter style, began his career at age seven as a street musician in San Domingo. At 17 he was performing at the Olympic Games and touring with Les Ballets Folkloriques of the Dominican Republic. He is widely recognized for his role in revitalizing the traditional merengue style. His driving, rhythmic sound captures the roots of the music as he composes new material within this tradition.
 
Now residing in Montreal, he explores various accordion styles, including Tex-Mex conjunto, French musette, Cajun and Québécois. With his intricate accordion solos and electrifying vocals, Diaz is a master showman who thrills audiences with his sizzling accordion playing.

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Kayton Roberts & Friends

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country & western
Greenbrier, Tennesse

Kayton Roberts & Friends

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A member of Hank Snow’s famed Rainbow Ranch Boys for three decades, Kayton Roberts is a master of the classic steel guitar, respected by country music aficionados for his unmistakable sound and lifelong contributions to the golden age of country and western and honky-tonk music.

A native of Ona, Florida, Kayton met fellow Floridian Chubby Wise at a barbershop in northern Florida; at the time, Chubby was the fiddler in Hank Snow’s band. Kayton soon left his day job in the appliance department at Sears to play rhythm guitar with Hank Snow, moving to Nashville in 1967. The next year he moved to the steel guitar in Hank’s band, and the rest, as they say, is history. His style of playing harkens back to an earlier era, when steel guitarists played without pedals. During his time with the Rainbow Ranch Boys, Kayton toured across the country and around the world, and played on the Grand Ole Opry countless times. He was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2012.

The 2014 Richmond Folk Festival is Kayton’s first appearance in Richmond. He will be joined by veteran fiddler Gene “Pappy” Merritts, as well as John England (lead guitar, vocals), Rob McNurlin (rhythm guitar, vocals) and bassist Roger Carroll, another Hank Snow alumnus and Kayton’s longtime bandmate.

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Kostas Fetfatsidis and Evan Karapanagiotides
Pontic Greek
Tewksbury, Massachussetts, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Kostas Fetfatsidis and Evan Karapanagiotides

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Kostas Fetfatsidis and Evan Karapanagiotides are young Greek American musicians who are keeping rarely heard, centuries-old sounds from isolated villages in northeastern Greece alive in America’s Greek diaspora community. It may seem ironic, but diaspora communities are sometimes the best keepers of tradition. Far from the homeland, heritage becomes more precious, and maintaining traditions sustains and nurtures the spirit of family, community and cultural identity.  

Both Kostas and Evan trace their heritage to the Pontic region, near the Black Sea. Traditional music from this region has a Near Eastern flavor, a reminder of centuries of cultural domination by the Ottoman Empire, and the connections that bridge the long-contested political boundaries between Greece and countries such as Turkey and Albania. This music strikes Western ears as haunting and mysterious, calling to mind its origins in remote settings. Kostas plays tulum, a bagpipe associated with shepherds in the old country, as well as kemenche, a Pontic lyra. Evan plays kemenche and daouli (percussion), and also sings in the Laiko style, which was popularized in the second half of the 20th century by Stelios Kazantzidis, whose singing influenced Karapanagiotides.

Greece’s current political and economic struggles weigh on the hearts of the Greek diaspora Kostas and Evan play for at community events and social gatherings. The duo strives to ease these anxieties when they play, creating a sense of nostalgia, and transports their listeners, emotionally, back home.

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Le Vent du Nord

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Québécois
Quebec, Canada

Le Vent du Nord

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One of the festival favorites returning to celebrate the Richmond Folk Festival’s 10th anniversary, Le Vent du Nord is, hands down, the best traditional Québécois band around. With its bouncing, rhythmic fiddle style, unique tunes, spirited step dancing, and ancient songs, the traditional music of Québec is among the richest and most engaging on earth. For centuries the songs, tunes, and dances brought to New France (Canada) by French immigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries have been passed down in the towns and villages of Québec at soirées and other family and community gatherings. When Canada became a British colony in 1763, these traditions were preserved in relative isolation in French-speaking communities throughout Québec. While the songs and stories were kept in the mother tongue, tunes and dances were influenced by the music of Irish and Scots neighbors, evolving into a distinctive French Canadian body of music.

The members of Le Vent du Nord – hurdy-gurdy player, pianist and vocalist Nicolas Boulerice, fiddler Olivier Demers, guitarist Simon Beaudry, and accordionist Réjean Brunet – grew up immersed in the traditional music of the region. They bring the spirit and energy of Québec to every show, performing the old tunes and traditional chansons à répondre (call-and-response songs) that members learned from their families, as well as writing new tunes and songs that they are adding to the tradition.

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Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes

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gospel
Richmond, Virginia

Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes

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For more than five decades Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes, one of Virginia’s premier gospel ensembles, has been bringing its music and ministry to congregations in the Tidewater and Piedmont. For Evangelist Ingram, it’s always been a family affair, and three generations are now represented in the group. Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes’ commanding, spirit-filled performances demonstrate the extraordinary depth of talent in American gospel. For too long this exceptional, world-class family group has been one of the state’s best-kept secrets.

Maggie Ingram spent her childhood in the cotton and tobacco fields of the Mulholland Plantation in Coffee County, Georgia. After marrying and having five children, her family moved to Miami, Florida, and became active in the ministry at their local church. Within a few years Maggie had formed the Ingramettes with her children. After her husband left, she moved the family to Richmond and joined Love’s Temple Church of God in Christ and began singing in and around the city. She also expanded her ministry into the greater community with programs like “Family Day” activities instituted in Virginia prison camps.

Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes are a Richmond institution, and the festival’s 10th-anniversary celebration would not be complete without the group’s magnetic and uplifting presence.

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Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano

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Mexican mariachi
Los Angeles, California

Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano

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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

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Hawaiian
Hawaii

Masters of Hawaiian Music

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Videos


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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Tezcatlipoca Voladores
Mayan sundance
Tajín, Veracruz, Mexico

Tezcatlipoca Voladores

 


The “Flying Man” Sundance is one of the most spectacular rituals in the western hemisphere – an amazing acrobatic feat with ancient history and deep religious significance. It was first described by Christopher Columbus, who wrote of an amazing dance he witnessed in what is now southern Mexico during his fourth voyage in 1502. Rooted in Mayan Civilization, the Sundance has continued in villages in the Veracruz region in the 500 years since Columbus saw it. The dancers retain religious practice in the age-old dance, while other elements have changed to reflect European influence.

The dance requires five people – four “flyers” plus a Priest, who represent the rising and setting sun as they ascend and descend the eighty-foot-tall pole central to the ritual, which represents our earthly connection to the divine. Once everyone ascends the pole, the Priest offers the Creator a song, playing a flute to represent lightening while dancing on a drum to signify Mother Earth’s heartbeat. As the Priest plays, the four flyers peacefully descend, making 13 revolutions before landing. This number, 4 x 13 = 52, symbolizes Venus, the morning star, and her influence on the earth.

The Tezcatlipoca Voladores are from Tajín, Veracruz, Mexico, where this tradition is believed to have originated. They are one of the festival favorites returning to celebrate the Richmond Folk Festival’s 10th anniversary.

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Urban Traditions

As American society has become increasingly urban, new traditions have emerged that reflect and express experiences of city life. This year the festival showcases several traditions that share common origins in the urban experience. They forcefully demonstrate that what is considered “traditional” changes over time, that living culture is not static. This dynamic process is the result of an irrepressible creativity within communities, and is an affirmation of the human artistic spirit in the face of changing, and sometimes challenging, circumstances.

African Americans were the primary contributors to the urban shift in American’s population demographics in the 20th century, as many moved from the South in search of increased opportunity elsewhere. The seismic shift from rural to urban environments was accompanied by many harsh social and economic realities. The experiences of the street reshaped what had come before; from older forms, new traditions developed.

These new forms influenced each other and express facets of life that are related. Jazz pianist Lafayette Gilchrist and beatboxer Shodekeh were both inspired and influenced by go-go bands like Trouble Funk. The messages of hip hop profoundly resonated with young Native Americans, who have adapted and transformed it to speak to their own communities; despite the distance between them geographically and culturally, there is a strong connection between Native American hip hop artist Supaman and Baltimore beatboxer Shodekeh.

These urban expressions are now a part of the fabric of American culture, and are vital because they are meaningful to community life. In the case of Supaman, exciting new traditions emerge as long as they resonate with the experiences and identity of an artist’s community.


Trouble Funk

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go-go
Washington, D.C.

Trouble Funk

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While, from a national perspective, one might describe it as an overlooked vernacular musical style, the Washington D.C. area’s unique, homegrown music called go-go RULES in the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) and is, in fact, experiencing a revival. Trouble Funk was one of the leading bands during the golden era of go-go in the 1980s, contributing to the music’s spread from all-night dance parties in inner-city Washington to audiences worldwide. Trouble Funk’s intensified percussion and innovative use of electro-funk and early rap lyrics produced a brand of go-go that fit more squarely within African American urban musical expression on the East Coast, and earned them a loyal and passionate following that not only continues today, but is once again growing.

A regional offshoot of funk pioneered in the 1970s by Chuck Brown, go-go blends Latin beats, call-and-response chants, R&B, and jazz over a signature rhythmic pattern laid down on snare, kick drum and high hat cymbals. Go-go is best enjoyed live because the interaction between band and audience – during marathon, non-stop performances, with one song blending into another in a continuous groove – is integral to the go-go experience.

An original founding member, bassist/lead talker Tony “Big Tony” Fisher remains at the group’s center. Trouble Funk is among the festival favorites returning to celebrate the Richmond Folk Festival’s 10th anniversary.


Throwdown on Brown: Breakdance Competition
urban dance
Champion dancers from Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic

Throwdown on Brown: Breakdance Competition

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Rapid-fire head spins, twirling windmills, and breathtaking backspins are hallmarks of breakdance, an urban dance style that, along with graffiti, emceeing and DJ-ing, is a primary expression of hip-hop culture. Born on the streets, “breaking” has become a worldwide phenomenon. Practitioners are called B-boys, B-girls, or breakers. The style is rooted in African American percussive dance forms that mixed with Latino and Caribbean styles on New York City streets in the 1970s. Many cite the crowd-thrilling energy of the “Good Foot Dance” introduced by James Brown in 1969 as one of the direct inspirations for the breakin’ style. Particularly in the Bronx, breakdancing took off and became popular as part of informal dance competitions between dancing groups, or “crews.” Dance moves eventually incorporated elements of Brazilian capoeira and kung fu to further dazzle the crowds. In part because it offered an alternative to street gang activity, hip-hop culture and breakin’ spread throughout American cities during the 1970s and ’80s.

Invitational competitions will be staged on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at the Dominion Dance Pavilion, featuring some of the most electrifying dancers from Richmond and the surrounding region. At least eight dancers will compete daily, and the competition will include a panel of expert judges, a live DJ, and an MC.


Shodekeh
beatbox
Baltimore, Maryland

Shodekeh

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With over a quarter century of experience, Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero is a groundbreaking beatboxer and vocal percussionist who pushes the boundaries of the human voice. A native of Baltimore, he currently serves as faculty and musical accompanist for Towson University’s Dance Department.

Beatboxing is a form of vocal percussion closely associated with hip hop culture. Along with freestyling, shout outs, and call-and-response vocals, it comprises a major part of an MC’s repertoire. Imitating and often replacing a drum set, drum machine or drum loop through a series of noises or popping sounds made with the mouth, beatboxing exemplifies the hip hop philosophy of creating meaningful artistic expressions with limited resources at its most extreme; it replaces the source of the break beat – that is, the record turntable – with the human voice. Beatboxing has become a ubiquitous feature of the American urban soundscape.

In recent years, Shodekeh has moved from beatboxing’s hip hop roots to explore innovative collaborations with a wide range of traditional artists, including Tuvan throat singers, Lithuanian folk singers, and funk and jazz musicians. He is constantly striving to rhythmically channel the vast spectrum of sounds around him. At the festival, he will be performing with, among others, fellow Baltimore resident Lafayette Gilchrist, a jazz pianist with whom Shodekeh collaborates on Lafayette’s go-go influenced compositions.


Supaman
Native American hip hop
Crow Reservation, near Billings, Montana

Supaman

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Christian Takes Gun Parrish, aka “Supaman,” demands an audience’s rapt attention when they first see his enigmatic, rhythmic, and visually arresting collage of traditional arts. He is, simultaneously, a Fancy Dancer, a hip hop artist, a beatboxer, and a voice for the Crow Nation.

Merging the urban themes and imagery of hip hop with Native American culture and identity seems natural to Supaman. "Native Americans grasp that culture of hip hop because of the struggle," he explained to NPR. "Hip hop was talking about the ghetto life, poverty, crime, drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy; all that crazy stuff that happens in the ghetto is similar to the reservation life. We can relate to that."

Supaman stumbled accidentally into his unique cultural synthesis. He used to dance and perform hip hop separately, until one performance ran long. Informed that he did not have time to change out of his Fancy Dress regalia before his hip hop performance, Supaman spun records and beatboxed in traditional attire. He never looked back. With a seemingly incongruous mix of traditional elements – vivid regalia, sacred dance steps, drum loops and break beats, and percussive beatboxing – Supaman has crafted a voice entirely his own that powerfully speaks to the experiences of the younger members of the Crow Nation.


Lafayette Gilchrist & the New Volcanoes

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jazz
Baltimore, Maryland

Lafayette Gilchrist & the New Volcanoes

 


A native of Washington, D.C., this self-taught pianist/composer has resisted the pull of New York City’s jazz factory, preferring to make his home in Baltimore, where he plays genre-defying live shows that leave the crowd wanting more. Gilchrist’s distinct regional sound is flavored with the funky go-go beats that surrounded him while growing up in D.C.

Go-go influences run through not only Gilchrist’s playing, but have also shaped how he thinks about music. “As a kid in D.C., go-go was in every nook and cranny of town,” Gilchrist told Geoffrey Himes of the Washington Post. “Every kid in school could bang out a go-go beat. . . . When I first heard rap and hip-hop, it didn’t seem out of line with what I already knew. … I realized how [Chuck Brown] would add extra measures to the bridge, [and] I understood that you could mess with musical forms.”

Despite his tendencies to break musical molds, Gilchrist has deep roots in jazz tradition. While attending the University of Maryland, Baltimore City, he apprenticed under some of the city’s leading jazz musicians, including saxophonist Carl Grubbs, a student of John Coltrane’s. Baltimore is where he cultivated his unique sound. The Richmond Folk Festival marks a significant milestone in that journey. Gilchrist has chosen the Richmond Folk Festival for the live premier, and CD release, of The Go-Go Suite, his jazz tribute to go-go.

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The Virginia State University Gospel Chorale
gospel choir
Petersburg, Virginia

Virginia State University Gospel Chorale

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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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West African Highlife Band

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West African highlife
Oakland, California

West African Highlife Band

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The West African Highlife Band brings together an all-star group of distinguished West African music veterans who bring the classic sound from highlife’s golden age. Highlife originated in Ghana in the early 20th century and then spread to Sierra Leone and Nigeria, among other West African countries, by 1920. Polyrhythmic and uplifting, highlife is characterized by multiple guitars, which lead the band, plus horns and vocals. It is infectious music, with a groove that builds as bands play for hours. Bandleader Babá Ken Okulolo’s explains, “In Africa, music is created to help people rise above the pain and suffering of daily life, to transcend all evils with the joy of music. This is music that connects body, mind, and spirit. It is happy music.”

Born into the Urhobo ethnic group in Nigeria’s Delta Region, Babá Ken was raised in a family of traditional dancers and musicians, learning his people’s stories, rhythms, and songs. As a young man, he embarked upon what would become an international career. Originally a mainstay on the Nigerian music scene, he later toured Europe with various groups – including such West African luminaries as King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti and highlife master Victor Olaiya – and eventually settled in the San Francisco Bay area. A well-respected musician and instructor, his lectures, demonstrations, and classes in African percussion, musical techniques, and cultural appreciation have been shared in schools, museums, and universities.

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Whitetop Mountaineers

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old-time
Whitetop, Virginia

Whitetop Mountaineers

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Hailing from one of southwest Virginia’s most beloved musical families, Martha Spencer and Jackson Cunningham are a young duo who deliver traditional Blue Ridge duets with an unvarnished honesty that captures the essence and stark beauty of the style. In addition to their fine singing, they are accomplished instrumentalists whose performances include lively fiddle and banjo, soulful mandolin, and high-energy Appalachian dance.

The duo grew out of the famous Whitetop Mountain Band, which had included several generations of the Spencer family, and with which Martha and Jackson still often perform. Martha’s great-grandfather, Bud Spencer, was an award-winning Appalachian dancer. Her uncle, Albert Hash, was a legendary fiddler and instrument maker. Albert’s impact on the region’s traditional music community can still be felt, from the stringband music program he started at the Mt. Rogers School – Martha is a graduate – to local luthiers, including Jackson. A multi-instrumentalist, Martha plays guitar, fiddle, bass, and banjo, in addition to her singing and flamboyant flatfoot dancing. Jackson is one of the region’s up-and-coming luthiers, who learned his craft from Albert Hash’s daughter, Audrey Hash Ham. To this duo, he lends his powerful mandolin playing and high-lonesome singing, completing the Whitetop Mountaineers’ deeply traditional sound.

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