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The National Folk Festival Announces Complete 75th-Anniversary Lineup

The National Folk Festival Announces Complete 75th-Anniversary Lineup

Representing a myriad of cultural traditions, 20 more performers—including Mavis Staples—will be showcased on seven outdoor stages during the National Folk Festival, presented by Belk, which is coming to downtown Greensboro from September 11 – 13, 2015

Greensboro, N.C., August 11, 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 National Folk 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 festival is such an embarrassment of riches,” said Julia Olin, Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), which is co-producing the Festival with ArtsGreensboro. “It really does offer something for everyone. If what you see on one stage is not to your taste, you can just move to another and experience something entirely different.”

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 provided deep 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, “Nearly half of the artists we’re announcing today are from North Carolina. They will shine a bright light on the cultural richness of our state and give audiences a sense of North Carolina’s strong cultural heritage. We look forward to National Folk Festival audiences exploring all 40 performers’ unique musical, artistic, and cultural traditions as the Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary in Greensboro—its first time ever in North Carolina.”

Philion added, “The National Folk Festival is a statewide celebration of North Carolina and American heritage. And—because of the passion and commitment of our sponsors and partners, including the City of Greensboro and local and statewide foundations—the Festival is taking place in Greensboro.”

Approximately 300 artists—musicians, dancers, puppeteers, storytellers, potters, and craftspeople—will appear during the 75th National Folk Festival, with 40 different groups performing on seven outdoor stages throughout downtown Greensboro.

Artists announced today include:

  • Bobby Hicks Band ­– bluegrass: Both a fiddle innovator and a traditionalist, Bobby added a fifth string to his fiddle, creating a stylish sound filled with double-stop harmonies. A 10-time Grammy® winner, he received the North Carolina Heritage Award in 2014.
  • The BranchettesAfrican American congregational hymn-singing: In various configurations, The Branchettes have been performing for more than 30 years, bringing their old-time hymn-singing with piano accompaniment to audiences and congregations across N.C. and around the world.
  • The Buckstankle Boys ­– old-time & bluegrass: Schooled in the traditional music of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Buckstankle Boys also understand the need to keep their musical heritage contemporary. They brilliantly carry the torch of both old-time and bluegrass music.
  • Derek McAlister ­– circus arts: A “street” performer in the truest sense, Derek draws on a deep bag of tricks that includes clowning, mime, dance, juggling, and Chinese pole acrobatics—plus a lot of laughter—to delight audiences of all ages.
  • Down HomeAmericana, blues, country & Southern rock: Winners of Belk’s Southern Musician Showcase in 2014, Down Home captivates audiences with their “energetic, infectious blues, alternative country, folk rock, and American hybrid sound that can best be described as ‘American Rock.’”
  • Grace ChangChineseguzheng: Also known as the Chinese zither, the guzheng is a plucked instrument with 13 to 25 strings that originated in China over 2,500 years ago. Grace is an expert performer with the ability to bring forth the sounds of flowers blossoming or typhoons raging.
  • The Harris Brothers Appalachian blues songsters: Listeners often ask, “How can two people put out such a big sound?” With Reggie on guitar, Ryan on bass, and a kick-drum made from an old suitcase, the Harris Brothers draw on Appalachian bluegrass, old-time, and blues as well as country, jazz, and rock.
  • Héctor Del Curto’s Tango QuartetArgentine tango: A virtuoso player of the bandonéon, an accordion that is the driving force in tango orchestras, Del Curto masterfully leads his quartet and dancers through the intricacies of tango.
  • James Kelly & Donna LongIrish fiddle & piano: One of the finest traditional Irish fiddlers of our time, James will be joined on stage by Donna, one of the most accomplished pianists in Irish music; currently, they are recording their first album together.
  • Jeff Little Trio ­– Blue Ridge piano: While the piano does not figure prominently in Appalachian music, Jeff Little is an exception. His two-handed style, much influenced by mountain flatpicked guitar tradition, is breathtaking in its speed, precision, and clarity.
  • John Dee Holeman with Williette HintonPiedmont blues: Now 86, Holeman has been singing and picking guitar since he was 14; he was named a National Heritage Fellow in 1988 and received a N.C. Heritage Award in 1994. Holeman will be accompanied by accomplished buck dancer Hinton.
  • Lutchinha ­– Cape Verdean: Coastal New England is home to large communities of Cape Verdeans, including Lutchinha, arguably the finest Cape Verdean singer in the U.S. With its blend of African and Portugese influences, Cape Verdean music is truly unique.
  • Mavis Staples­ – gospel, soul, R&B: One of the greatest gospel singers of all time, Mavis Staples powered one of American’s great family bands, The Staple Singers. From the traditional gospel music of the 1950s to 1960s’ protest songs, and from the self-empowerment anthems of the 1970s to the soulful love tunes of more recent decades, Mavis and her family created some of the most inspirational music of the past 50 years.
  • The MonitorsEastern N.C. R&B, soul, jazz, & gospel: This quintessential African American entertainment band has been delivering powerful soul, R&B, jazz, and gospel for nearly 60 years. They have collaborated with symphony orchestras, and opened for Ray Charles and their own former lead singer Roberta Flack. Founding member Bill Myers, who is still with the band, received a North Carolina Heritage Award in 2014.
  • The Pedrito Martinez GroupAfro-Cuban: Percussionist and vocalist Martinez wraps genres from jazz to funk and beyond into his band’s repertoire, and infuses everything the group does with the most fundamental elements of Afro-Cuban music: Yoruba chanting and the sacred beat of the batá The band’s 2013 self-titled CD earned a Grammy® nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album.
  • Phil Wiggins ­– blues harmonica: Arguably America’s foremost blues harmonica virtuoso, and a master of the unique blues traditions of the Piedmont, Phil achieved worldwide acclaim as one half of the blues duo of Cephas & Wiggins. Since John Cephas’ death in 2009, Phil has brought his harmonica wizardry to a host of musical collaborations.
  • Todd Family Dancers ­– Appalachian clogging & flatfoot: Accomplished flatfoot and clogging dancers, Marsha and Marty Todd carry on a long tradition of traditional step dancing, comprising many styles and influences from throughout the Appalachian region.
  • Trouble Funkgo-go: While often overlooked nationally, go-go—a homegrown genre from Washington, D.C., that bridged the gap between disco and rap—is hot. One of the leading bands during go-go’s golden era of the 1980s, Trouble Funk helped spread the music from all-night dance parties in D.C. to audiences worldwide, and has presided over legendary parties up and down the East Coast for 37 years.
  • Warriors of AniKituhwaCherokee ceremonial dance: The official cultural ambassadors of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Warriors of AniKituhwa present centuries-old dances, stories, history, and traditional regalia that date back to the 1700s, a time of Cherokee strength and international diplomacy. The group performs with their bodies painted red, as their ancestors did, and often invite members of the audience to participate in the Friendship Dance at the end of performances.
  • Wayne Henderson ­– Appalachian finger-picked guitar: Wayne is that Appalachian guitarist: the one who lives in a very remote area of the Blue Ridge and makes acoustic guitars—guitars that are almost impossible to get. Using a thumb pick and fingerpicks to achieve amazing speed and fluidity, Henderson transforms fiddle and banjo pieces—and even the occasional jazz standard—into stunning guitar solos.
  • Welch Family SingersCherokee gospel: Singing gospel songs in English and Cherokee, The Welch Family carries on a 200-year-old tradition of Christian music among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Faith and heritage come together through their bilingual songs to celebrate the Cherokee language and honor the experiences of their ancestors and community.

These performers join the artists announced earlier:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dale Watsonhonky-tonk & country: A true son of the Texas musical outlaw tradition, Watson is king of uncompromising deep country.
  • The DardanellesNewfoundland: Young keepers of jigs, reels, and seafaring ballads, this group performs with the energy of a punk band.
  • Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstarsklezmer: Led by trumpeter Frank London, the Allstars set out to capture the sound and ethos of the raucous, earthy old-country klezmorim of the 19th century.
  • Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka & the San Francisco Taiko DokoJapanese taiko drumming: Seiichi Tanaka is the only U.S. Grand Master of taiko, the ancient Japanese form of ritual drumming that combines percussive sound with physically demanding choreographic movement.
  • Henry Butler & Jambalaya ­– New Orleans piano professor: Versatile and gifted, this brilliant pianist’s mastery of jazz, funk, Caribbean, classical, R&B, blues, and stride piano styles is unrivaled.
  • Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers bluegrass: A masterful Scruggs-style banjo picker and gifted singer known for his soaring high tenor, Joe Mullins leads a top-notch band.
  • Lloyd Arneach Cherokee storyteller: A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, Arneach tells humorous, informative, and moving stories that appeal to all ages.
  • Los Tres Reyestrío romántico: The gorgeous harmonies and dazzling guitar work of a beloved Latin style are honed to perfection by this celebrated trio.
  • Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes gospel: One of Virginia’s premier gospel ensembles, this group’s commanding, spirit-filled performances demonstrate the extraordinary depth of talent in American gospel.
  • Marquise Knoxblues: Channeling the power of old-school masters, this prodigiously talented 24-year-old is the future of the blues.
  • 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.
  • Pine Leaf BoysCajun: Bringing a high-energy sound to dance halls in French Louisiana, the Pine Leaf Boys have updated the fiddle-and-accordion-driven sounds of Cajun music for a new generation.
  • Rahim AlHajIraqi oud: In 1991, Rahim made a harrowing escape from Baghdad and Saddam Hussein following the Persian Gulf War. A 5,000-year old tradition is now alive and well in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • Rhiannon GiddensAfrican American string band, gospel & balladry: An untiring explorer of—and advocate for—traditional music, Rhiannon returns to her hometown of Greensboro to celebrate the 75th National Folk Festival.
  • Sheila Kay AdamsAppalachian songs, stories & ballads: This North Carolina treasure is the seventh generation of her family to carry on an unbroken, 350-year-old singing tradition.
  • Thomas Maupin, Daniel Rothwell & Overall Creek with Kory PoseyAppalachian buck dance & old-time string band: Seventy-seven-year-old Thomas Maupin is the most renowned Tennessee buck dancer of his generation. He is the subject of the documentary Let Your Feet Do the Talkin’.
  • Yuqin Wang & Zhengli XuChinese rod puppetry: Masters of an ancient tradition with strikingly lifelike puppets that have fascinated audiences for millennia.

Visit NationalFolkFestival.com for more information on all Festival performers and other Festival information.


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. nationalfolkfestival.com

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. ncta-usa.org

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. www.artsgreensboro.org