You've likely heard it before: The Richmond Folk Festival is the best thing we have going. As far as music festivals go, it's hard to disagree.
Organized by Venture Richmond, which took it over from the National Folk Festival, the event is in its ninth year, and one of the best attended of its kind in the country. Perhaps more importantly, it has become a truly multicultural event, where a cross-section of the city comes out to enjoy themselves, try some eclectic food and dance by the river. It instills hometown pride and opens our minds and ears to the world.
This year's festival features six significant traditions on the UNESCO World Heritage list of "intangible cultural heritage." There's the Chankas' scissors dance from the Peruvian Andes, Alash's Tuvan throat singing and Nathalie Pire's fado from Portugal. The other three on the United Nation's list are endangered traditions: the folk songs and dances of Rajasthan, Christine Salem's maloya tradition from Réunion Island and Aurelio Martinez' garifuna from Honduras.
There are plenty reasons why the festival works, including the free admission — with a suggested donation of at least $5 a day — and the programming committee's critical ability to alter the public perception of folk music by including international sounds and more recent, homegrown American styles.
But I like to think a big reason is simply the traditional artistry: These musicians represent the real deal — they live these traditions and they love them.
I'll leave you with this thought from the writer James Baldwin, from his short story "Sonny's Blues," which could apply to any artist of any age:
"I had never before thought of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it, this instrument, with the breath of his life, his own. He has to make it do what he wants it to do. And a piano is just a piano. It's made out of so much wood and wires and little hammers and big ones, and ivory. While there's only so much you can do with it, the only way is to try; to try to make it do everything." — Brent Baldwin
The uke gets the hands-on treatment.
What to eat at the 2013 Richmond Folk Festival.
An old carousel with history and heart lands at the Virginia Folklife Stage.
The people behind the Richmond Folk Festival.
Got a Plan?
Some musical routes to help you get the most from the 2013 Richmond Folk Festival.
On the Air
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