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 2015 festival. If you're interested in applying for the 2016 festival, check out "How to be a performer at the Richmond Folk Festival"


Performers for the 2015 Richmond Folk Festival

Ahava Raba

Ahava Raba

klezmer & cantorial
New York, New York

Some of the leading artists in the younger generation of New York City’s Jewish music community have combined their considerable talents and shared vision to form Ahava Raba, a collaboration in music-making that lives up to its name: ahava raba means abundant love, and it is a sacred prayer for peace. Front and center is Cantor Yaakov “Yanky” Lemmer, whose magnificent voice lifts the ensemble, moving audiences with a blend of Jewish traditional music rich with feeling and spirituality. MORE



The Alt

Irish
New York, North Carolina, and Scotland

Three masters of Irish music have joined forces to celebrate the beautiful old songs that constitute the core of the tradition. John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy, and Eamon O’Leary – virtuoso musicians and fine singers with huge repertoires of songs and tunes who could travel in any number of musical directions – have together returned to the trusted and timeless. MORE



Amargue Bachata Quintet with Andre Veloz

Amargue Bachata Quintet with Andre Veloz

Dominican bachata
New York, New York

New York City is home to the largest Dominican population in the United States, and a new bachata star, Andre Veloz, has emerged from this thriving community. Bachata is guitar-driven music that mines themes of pain and heartbreak. As a leading female voice in what has traditionally been a male-dominated genre, Veloz is staking a claim for a leading role as a bachatera. MORE

 

The Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band

Cajun
New Orleans and Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana

Bruce Daigrepont is a gifted singer, master accordionist and composer of songs that have already become classics, not only within the Cajun tradition but in Canada’s French-speaking Maritime Provinces. MORE


Cambodian American Heritage Dance Troupe

Cambodian American Heritage Dance Troupe

Khmer classical dance
Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Washington state

In several Southeast Asian countries and Indonesia, no artistic medium is more intensely practiced or central to national identity than the dance drama derived from the ancient Ramayana. This ancient art form reached perhaps its highest expression in Khmer culture. The Cambodian American Heritage Dance Troupe includes some of the most accomplished musicians and dancers that are preserving this tradition in America.

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The Campbell Brothers

sacred steel guitar (African American gospel)
Rochester, New York

The joy and spirit of African American Holiness-Pentacostal worship services in House of God churches are fueled by the ecstatic sounds of the “sacred steel” guitar. This unique musical tradition, rarely heard outside the church before the early 1990s, has since captivated the ears of the nation and world. Among the finest ambassadors of sacred steel are the Campbell Brothers. MORE


The Church Sisters

bluegrass gospel
Galax, Virginia

Nineteen-year-old twin sisters Sarah and Savannah Church were born in the coalfields of Dickenson County, Virginia. After residing in Haysi, Virginia, for a short while, they moved to Danville, hometown of their mother, Stephanie. At age eleven they won a local talent competition, and their careers took off from there. MORE



Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass

bluegrass
Delaware and Pennsylvania

Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass is a hard-driving, hot-as-a-firecracker bluegrass band with a sound rooted deep in the mountains of southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina. MORE

 

Deacon John's Jump Blues

jump blues
New Orleans, Louisiana

During a career that spans more than half a century, Deacon John Moore has endured as one of the Crescent City’s most talented, adaptive and beloved performers, and one of its most in-demand bandleaders. MORE

 

DJ Grandmaster Flash

DJ Grandmaster Flash

hip hop
New York, New York

“Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge … it’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under,” MC Melle Mel rapped over DJ Grandmaster Flash’s turntables in 1982. The song “The Message” catapulted Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five into America’s consciousness – they were fed up with being marginalized. Out of this visceral energy, clever rhyming, and turntable spinning, hip hop was born. DJ Grandmaster Flash is one of its creators, a living legend of hip hop. MORE

 

Dudley Laufman & His Barn Dance Band

New England barn dances & contra dance
New Hampshire and Virginia

For nearly 70 years, Dudley Laufman has called country dances – in fact, longtime residents of New England tend to call contra and barn dance gatherings “Dudley Dances.” Referred to as the “Johnny Appleseed” of country dancing, Laufman was the charismatic figure at the center of the country dance revival of the 1960s and ’70s. MORE

 

Ensemble Shanbehzadeh

traditional music & dance from the Persian Gulf
Paris, France

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. MORE

 

Feedel Band

Feedel Band

Ethiojazz
Addis Ababa via Washington, D.C.

Known to many as “Little Ethiopia,” Washington, D.C., is the second largest Ethiopian city in the world. A number of master Ethiopian musicians live in the metro area, including Aster Aweke, Mahmoud Ahmed, and Hailu Mergia, major stars from the golden age of Ethiojazz, one of Ethiopia’s defining musical sounds in the 20th century. Having played with these legends for years, the founding members of Feedel Band have stepped to the forefront of the District’s Ethiopian music scene, bringing the sounds of classic Ethiojazz to one of the most prominent immigrant communities in the nation’s capital and beyond.

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Grupo Rebolú

Grupo Rebolú

Colombian
New York, New York

Grupo Rebolú, the only Afro-Colombian ensemble of its kind in the United States, brings rich, rhythmic and eminently danceable music from Colombia’s Caribbean coast to this year’s festival. MORE

The Harris Brothers

The Harris Brothers

Appalachian blues songsters
Lenoir, North Carolina

The Harris Brothers come out of the American songster tradition, drawing from diverse currents of vernacular music, including Appalachian bluegrass and old-time and the distinctive blues styles of the upland South, as well as country, jazz, and rock. MORE

Leonardo Sandoval

Leonardo Sandoval

tap
São Paulo, Brazil via New York City

Leonardo Sandoval has taken the dance world by storm with his innovative, grassroots approach to tap. A native of Brazil, this 26-year-old dancer delights audiences with a Brazilian-infused style of tap dancing, whether he’s performing in a concert hall or taking tap back to its roots dancing on the street. MORE

 

Oneida Nation Social & Smoke Dancers

Oneida Nation Social & Smoke Dancers

Haudenosaunee song & dance
Oneida Nation, Wisconsin

The Oneida Nation Social & Smoke Dancers of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin are a group of young Oneida who started dancing as high school students. Despite many now having graduated, they are still dancing today, with older members assuming responsibility for mentoring younger dancers, and passing on these age-old traditions. MORE

 

Feedel Band

Reverend John Wilkins

blues & gospel
Memphis, Tennessee

Reverend John Wilkins’ music is a potent blend of soul music from Memphis, his hometown, with sounds from the North Mississippi hill country just across the state line where his familial and musical roots are deep. Wilkins soaked up hill country blues and the pre-blues sounds of fife and drum music at community picnics and house parties, but his most important influence was his father, a bluesman, gospel singer, and minister. MORE

 

Riyaaz Qawwali

Riyaaz Qawwali

South Asian qawwali
Houston and Austin, Texas

Qawwali is the improvisational vocal tradition of Sufism, a mystical, meditative form of Islam. Originating seven centuries ago, it consists of sung poetry with verses that explore the meaning of divine love. Vocals start slow, singing of love, devotion, and gratitude. As the music builds through repetition, singers engage in call and response, and the beat of clapping and the tabla hand drum grow quicker. At its height, the music moves audiences and performers together into ecstatic trance. Based in Texas, the members of Riyaaz Qawwali, all of South Asian heritage, are intent on sharing this meditative, transfixing, and joyous music with American audiences. MORE

 

Shemekia Copeland

blues
Chicago, Illinois

When Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer first saw a teenaged Shemekia Copeland perform, he predicted, “I think she will be the next great female blues singer. … The blues world has been waiting for someone like Shemekia for a long time.” MORE

 

Sleepy LaBeef

Sleepy LaBeef

rockabilly
Smackover, Arkansas

Standing 6 feet 7 inches tall, and with a booming baritone voice, Sleepy LaBeef is a larger-than-life, first-generation rock and roller. The youngest of 10 children, he was born (just six months after Elvis) in Smackover, Arkansas, only 30 miles from the Louisiana line, and was raised on a melon farm. This icon of rockabilly music started touring when he was old enough to drive, and he’s never been off the road for more than a few weeks since. MORE

Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra

big band free jazz
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Part visionary jazz ensemble, part cosmic myth, and part communal living experiment, the Sun Ra Arkestra has seemingly explored the entire history of American jazz. During their five decades together, they have tested the limits of the musical idiom: from big band, ragtime and swing, to bebop, hard bop and free jazz, and beyond. MORE

 

The Virginia Luthiers

The Virginia Luthiers

masters of Appalachian music
Southwest Virginia

For generations, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia have produced an abundance of extraordinary traditional musicians. The Richmond Folk Festival is proud to present The Virginia Luthiers, a group of the region’s finest pickers: Wayne Henderson (guitar), Jimmy Edmonds (fiddle), Gerald Anderson (bass), and Spencer Strickland (mandolin). As their name suggests, each is also a master builder of acoustic instruments. MORE

Zedashe

Zedashe

Georgian polyphonic chants, songs & dances
Sighnaghi, Republic of Georgia

Based in the medieval fortress city of Sighnaghi in the Caucasus Mountains, Zedashe performs Georgian traditional music, arguably the earliest polyphonic tradition in the Christian world. The nine-member ensemble performs chants, songs and dances, rarely experienced beyond the borders of Georgia, that were nearly lost during two centuries of Russian and Soviet domination. MORE

 


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.