by Peter McElhinney
Tezcatlipoca Voladores (Mayan sun dance)
While whistling flute music plays, men in colorful Mayan costumes climb a tall pole. After the appropriate incantations they launch into space on unwinding ropes, spinning in a widening gyre trailing Mexican and American flags. The event happens three times, but the first — which opens the festival in the low-angled, early evening light — is the one to catch.
Friday: 6:30 p.m. at Altria Stage
Saturday: noon and 6:15 p.m. at Altria Stage
West African Highlife Band
The all-stars who comprise the West African Highlife Band are veterans of some of the continent's iconic bands. The leader, bassist Baba Ken Ukololo, played with the legendary Nigerian King Sonny Ade. The music he's bringing to the festival, Highlife, is horn-, guitar- and percussion-driven Ghanian folk fortified with a potent strain of repatriated American pop.
Saturday: 2 p.m. at Community Foundation Stage, 6:45 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion
Sunday: noon at Dominion Dance Pavilion and 4:45 p.m. at Altria Stage
Debashish Bhattacharya and Family
Continuously variable tonal control makes the slide guitar particularly suited to musical traditions unbound by the 12 half-steps per octave architecture of Western music. Debashish Bhattacharya was drawn to the instrument through Hawaiian music, mastered it, and went on to create his own hollow-necked 14-, 24- and 4-string instruments built for Indian classical music. The result is both deeply traditional and absolutely original.
Friday: 8:15 p.m. at MWV Stage
Saturday: 2 p.m. at MWV Stage
Sunday: 12:45 p.m. at Richmond Times-Dispatch-Richmond.com Stage and 3 p.m. at Community Foundation Stage
Masters of Hawaiian Music
The term slack-key guitar refers to open tuning, making it so an unstopped strum of the strings creates a single chord. But slack-key also evokes the relaxed island idyll of its Hawaiian origins. Some of the style's greatest players — Led Ka'apana, George Kahumoku Jr. and Richard Ho'opi'I — are coming to the Folk Festival. It's not just a performance, it's a vacation.
Saturday: 12:30 p.m. at Altria Stage and 3 p.m. at MWV Stage
Sunday: 1 p.m. at MWV Stage
by Karen Newton
Kayton Roberts and Friends
Swing dancers, strap on your shoes when country-and-western steel guitar wizard Kayton Roberts lets loose with friends on fiddle, guitars and bass for a rollicking good honky-tonk show.
Saturday: noon at Community Foundation Stage; 2:30 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion
Sunday: 2 p.m. at Altria Stage
Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers
If you don't start dancing to the dynamic, accordion-squeezing Dwayne Dopsie's musical gumbo, an intoxicating mélange of blues, soul and funk over a zydeco base, get out of the way so everyone else can.
Friday: 9 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion
Saturday: 5:15 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion
Sunday: 2:30 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion
R&B fans can catch a legend in soul man William Bell, who as singer, songwriter and producer was a pioneer of the distinctive Stax sound, known for its powerful and gritty urgency.
Friday: 7:45 p.m. at Community Foundation Stage
Saturday: 3:30 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion and 8:45 p.m. at Altria Stage
The godfather of go-go, Chuck Brown, may be gone but you can still catch the original spirit with these Washington legends, moving butts since the '70s with their go-go anthem, "Hey, Fellas."
Saturday: 5:30 p.m. at Altria Stage, 8:30 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion
Diaz plays traditional folk merengue music intended to get your body moving, so if it's your first time trying the Dominican Republic's national dance, take advantage of merengue lessons offered at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Dominion Dance Pavilion.
Friday: 8 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion
Saturday: noon at Dominion Dance Pavilion and 7:15 p.m. at Community Foundation Stage
Sunday: 5 p.m. at Dominion Dance Pavilion