The National Folk Festival Adds More Performers to Its 75th-Anniversary Lineup

Eleven more outstanding performers—including Greensboro native Rhiannon Giddens—add to the array of cultural traditions that will be showcased on seven outdoor stages during the National Folk Festival, coming to downtown Greensboro from September 11 – 13, 2015

Greensboro, N.C., June 24, 2015  — The National Folk Festival today announced that it has added another group of traditional artists to the 2015 schedule. For its 75th anniversary, the Festival will feature 300 artists on seven stages in downtown Greensboro from September 11 – 13, 2015. The three-day Festival is FREE to the public. 

“The richness and variety of American culture never ceases to amaze. The National Folk Festival brings together all of these astonishing artists—who represent so many different facets of our nation’s cultural landscape—in one place. Each one of them is a national treasure. And there’s more to come. It’s going to be a very special 75th anniversary year,” said Julia Olin, Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), which is co-producing the Festival with ArtsGreensboro.

More than 40 people of different backgrounds—and with a deep knowledge of traditional music and art forms—came together from across North Carolina to serve as the local Festival Programming Advisory Committee. “The local Programming Advisory Committee gave us great insights into the Triad and North Carolina cultural communities,” Olin continued. “Their thoughtful input was an invaluable addition to the Festival programming process.”

Tom Philion, President and CEO of ArtsGreensboro, said, “This second group of performers further highlights how diverse and exciting the Festival’s programming will be. We’re thrilled that these artists, who are the true keepers of their unique musical, artistic, and cultural traditions, will be celebrating the National Folk Festival’s 75th anniversary in Greensboro—the Festival’s first time ever in North Carolina.”

“The Festival is free to the public, thanks to the support of sponsors, foundations, the City of Greensboro, and so many others who are helping to make this one of the largest events of its kind in North Carolina,” Philion added.

Approximately 300 artists—musicians, dancers, puppeteers, storytellers, potters, and craftspeople—will appear during the 75th National Folk Festival, with at least 30 different groups performing on seven outdoor stages throughout downtown Greensboro.

Newly announced artists include:

·      AurelioGarifuna: Aurelio Martinez is a musical ambassador and champion of the Garifuna, a culturally threatened African Amerindian ethnic minority living primarily along the Caribbean coasts of Belize and Honduras, but also Guatemala and Nicaragua. He grew up immersed in Garifuna rhythms, rituals, and songs. With his powerfully evocative vocals and his talent as a composer, guitarist, and percussionist, Aurelio is a central figure in the perpetuation and innovation of this unique musical tradition.

·      Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstarsklezmer: Led by trumpeter Frank London, the Klezmer Brass Allstars include members of the world’s leading klezmer bands. Combining their knowledge, talents, and decades of research into the traditional roots of klezmer, the Allstars set out to capture the sound and ethos of the raucous, earthy old-country klezmorim of the 19th century. Frank and the Allstars deliver performances described by one critic as “a frenzied eruption of klezmer … like a street party to which everyone’s invited, it quickly gets hot, sweaty, and dizzyingly intense.”

·      Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka & the San Francisco Taiko DokoJapanese taiko drumming: Seiichi Tanaka is a Grand Master of the ancient Japanese form of ritual drumming known as taiko that combines percussive sound with physically demanding choreographic movement. Originating 1,400 to 2,000 years ago, taiko drums were probably first used as a military device, then later incorporated into agricultural rituals. After World War II, taiko drumming evolved into a more complex musical form, employing a variety of different-sized drums in dramatic ritual performance. Seiichi Tanaka, the only Grand Master in the United States, is a central figure in the evolution of modern taiko, as well as the establishment and development of the taiko movement in North America.

·      Henry Butler & Jambalaya ­– New Orleans piano professor: Henry Butler is the Crescent City’s reigning keyboard king. Versatile and gifted, this brilliant pianist’s mastery of jazz, funk, Caribbean, classical, R&B, blues, and stride piano styles is unrivaled. His music is an amalgam of influences, as exciting and eclectic as his birthplace. Critics rave about this virtuoso pianist who mixes soul with brains. As Dr. John says, Henry is “the pride of New Orleans and a visionistical down-home cat and hellified piano plunker to boot."

·      Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers bluegrass: Joe Mullins has built a life on “banjo picking and broadcasting”; 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. Over the past three decades, he has devoted his life both to bluegrass performance and to disseminating great bluegrass, gospel, and country music over the radio. 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.

·      Lloyd Arneach Cherokee storyteller: “There is a great power and wisdom in the old stories,” says master storyteller Lloyd Arneach. A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, Arneach learned the old stories told by two of his uncles while he was growing up. It wasn’t until later, after a career of teaching about his traditional culture, as well as a stint working for AT&T, that he took up storytelling full time. Lloyd’s humorous, informative, and moving stories will engage festival audiences of all ages.

·      Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes  – gospel: For more than five decades, Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes, one of Virginia’s premier gospel ensembles, has brought its music and ministry to congregations in the Tidewater and Piedmont. It’s always been a family affair for Evangelist Ingram—three generations are now represented in the group, including daughter Reverend Almeta Ingram-Miller, and granddaughter Cheryl Maroney-Beaver. Their commanding, spirit-filled performances demonstrate the extraordinary depth of talent in American gospel.

·      Pine Leaf BoysCajun: The Pine Leaf Boys are at the forefront of several young Cajun bands that have breathed new life into the music, bringing a high-energy sound to dance halls in French Louisiana. Playing “with an unabashed rock ’n’ roll energy conducive to the elbow-flying, hip-swiveling spirit on the dance floor” (Geoffrey Himes, New York Times), the group has updated the fiddle-and-accordion-driven sounds of Cajun music for a new generation, while maintaining their Cajun musical legacy. While the band has a passion for reviving and revitalizing forgotten Cajun classics, digging for songs “buried under a rock for decades,” the Pine Leaf Boys also remind listeners that Cajun music is not frozen in time.

·      Rahim AlHajIraqi oud: A 5,000-year-old musical tradition from the heart of Mesopotamia is alive and well in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That’s where renowned Iraqi oud virtuoso Rahim AlHaj—who, in 1991, made a harrowing escape from Baghdad and Saddam Hussein following the Persian Gulf War—lives. Sharing his thoughtful and expressive compositions and masterful improvisations with audiences across America and the globe, AlHaj is a cultural ambassador for the deep musical heritage of his homeland. His music evokes the experience of exile and of new beginnings in his adopted country.

·      Rhiannon GiddensAfrican American string band, gospel, and balladry: To the delight of her many friends and fans, singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens will be returning to her hometown of Greensboro to celebrate the 75th National Folk Festival. An untiring explorer of—and advocate for—traditional music, Giddens is best known as the frontwoman of African American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, whose 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig earned the group a Grammy® for Best Traditional Folk Album.

·      Thomas Maupin, Daniel Rothwell & Overall Creek with Kory PoseyAppalachian buck dance and old-time music: Seventy-seven-year-old Thomas Maupin is the most renowned Tennessee buck dancer of his generation. He grew up on a farm in Eagleville, Tennessee, with nine brothers and sisters. All of them were self-taught buck dancers. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Maupin began to enter dance competitions; since then, he has won 60 titles, including the National Old-time Buck Dancing Championship six times. Maupin is a recipient of a 2011 Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award, and is the subject of the documentary Let Your Feet Do the Talkin’.

These artists join the first group of artists announced in May:

·      Dale Watsonhonky-tonk & country: A true son of the Texas musical outlaw tradition, Watson is king of uncompromising deep country.
·      Marquise Knoxblues: Channeling the power of old-school masters, this prodigiously talented 24-year-old is the future of the blues.
·      Los Tres Reyestrío romántico: The gorgeous harmonies and dazzling guitar work of a beloved Latin style are honed to perfection by this celebrated trio.
·      Mythili Prakash Dance EnsembleBharata Natyam: A rising international star, this young Indian American dancer is a master of a 3,000-year-old South Indian tradition.
·      The Dardanellestraditional music of Newfoundland: Young keepers of jigs, reels, and seafaring ballads, this group performs with the energy of a punk band.
·      Sheila Kay AdamsAppalachian songs, stories, and ballads: This North Carolina treasure is the seventh generation of her family to carry on an unbroken, 350-year-old singing tradition.
·      Babá Ken Okulolo & the West African Highlife Bandhighlife: Acclaimed Nigerian bassist Babá Ken and his all stars deliver the irresistibly danceable sounds of classic highlife.
·      Yuqin Wang & Zhengli XuChinese rod puppetry: Masters of an ancient tradition with strikingly lifelike puppets that have fascinated audiences for millennia.

More performers will be announced over the next month. Visit the website often for updates and information on all the performers.


About the 2015 National Folk Festival: Co-produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) and ArtsGreensboro, the National Folk Festival is beginning its three-year residency in downtown Greensboro this year, when it will celebrate its 75th anniversary from September 11 – 13, 2015. The FREE, three-day event is America’s longest-running festival of traditional arts; it will highlight both long-standing traditions and the heritage and culture of North Carolina’s newest immigrant groups, and set the stage for a continuing and permanent North Carolina Folk Festival, beginning in 2018, after the “National” moves on.

Belk is the presenting sponsor of the 2015 Festival. With downtown Greensboro as the backdrop, audiences will enjoy seven stages featuring continuous musical entertainment—from rockabilly to old-time to mariachi, and from funk to Cajun to jazz. Attendees will also be able to dance non-stop to a variety of musical genres at the dance pavilion; dine on regional and ethnic foods; experience folk art demonstrations and performances by N.C. artists; and share the fun of the Family Activities Area with their children.

About the National Folk Festival: Since it was first presented in St. Louis in 1934, the National Folk Festival has celebrated the roots, richness, and variety of American culture. Championed in its early years by Eleanor Roosevelt, it was the first event of national stature to present the arts of many nations, races, and languages on equal footing. It was also the first to present to the public musical forms such as the blues, Cajun music, polka bands, Tex-Mex conjunto, Peking Opera, and many others. An exuberant traveling festival that embraces the diverse cultural expressions of the American people in the 21st century, the National Folk Festival is FREE to the public, and is produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) in partnership with communities around the country.
About the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA): The National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) is one of the nation’s premier non-profit cultural organizations dedicated to the presentation and documentation of folk, tribal, and ethnic arts in the United States. Founded in 1933, it is the nation’s oldest producing and presenting organization with such a focus. Its programs celebrate and honor deeply rooted cultural expressions—music, crafts, stories, and dance passed on through time by families and communities as well as by tribal, ethnic, and occupational groups. The NCTA stresses excellence and authenticity in presenting artists to the public in festivals, tours, concerts, media programs, exhibitions, recordings, and other activities, and works in partnership with communities across American to establish new, sustainable traditional arts events that bring lasting social, cultural, and economic benefits.

About ArtsGreensboro: With an annual budget of approximately $4 million, ArtsGreensboro is a catalyst for innovation to build recognition and support for the arts. Through the 17DAYS Arts & Culture Festival, I HEART ARTS Month, power2give, and other initiatives such as the National Folk Festival, ArtsGreensboro is driving the health and vitality of our community by supporting arts education, celebrating the diversity of Greensboro, and driving economic impact through excellence in arts programming."

- A Press Release

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