Monday, October 7, 2013

The 2013 Richmond Folk Festival - A Saturday Itinerary

The Richmond Folk Festival is a huge annual, free event for the City of Richmond, with around 200,000 people attending each year, requiring lots of walking and navigating through thick crowds of people, but where else can you hear the variety of music that this festival assembles? 
Alash Tuvan Throat Singers
This year there’s music from West Africa, throat singing from Siberia/Mongolia, Afro-Caribbean Garifuna music of Honduras, French-Canadian Québécois, Peruvian dance music, Cajun, Vietnamese and Newfoundland traditional music, Texas Swing, Portuguese Fado, Jamaican Reggae, Latin Jazz, a New Orleans brass band, Chicago blues, Gospel and much, much more.  Not to mention the numerous performers demonstrating our own Appalachian bluegrass and oldtime music.
The Dardanelles
The festival takes place over three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday; October 11, 12 and 13 – but the proposed itinerary below focuses only on the Saturday schedule.  If you’re just going to go one day, Saturday is probably your best bet, if you can handle the massive throngs of folkies.  Note to those who don't like walking long distances quickly:  this itinerary focuses on performers first and logistics second, preferring to skip from stage to stage as needed rather than staying put in one place to watch whomever might be at that stage.
One could start Saturday at the biggest stage of them all – the Altria stage – for The Dardanelles, a trad ensemble from St. John’s, Newfoundland performing at noon.  When I visited Newfoundland in 2011, I noticed similarities to Irish traditional music, so it’ll be nice to see a group like this perform in a festival setting before a large crowd. 
Stooges Brass Band
Immediately following The Dardenelles, it might be worth sticking around the Altria stage for the following act, Abdoulaye Diabate and Super Mande at 1pm, who will present West African Griot music on kora, balafon, percussion and flute.  Although, first it may be tempting to head over to the MWV stage at 12:45pm for the Tuvan throat singing group called Alash
At 2pm there’s an accordion workshop at the Union First Market Bank/University of Richmond stage that looks compelling, but there's also the Stooges Brass Band at 2pm on the Community Foundation Stage.  At 3pm there will be a chance to hear the Knicely Family Band at the Virginia Folklife stage.  I’m a long-time fan of Danny Knicely through his work with Magraw Gap, James Leva and more, but I’ve never seen him with his family band. 
Yves Lambert Trio
The most interesting group performing at 4pm might be the Québécois act Yves Lambert Trio at the Union First Market Bank/University of Richmond stageQuébécois is a style of accordion and fiddle music from Montreal, Quebec, Canada that combines French and Celtic influences.  At 5pm it'll be hard to decide between Cheick Hamala Diabate on the Virginia Folklife stage or The Prusinowski Trio (Polish mazurkas and polkas) at the Community Foundation Stage.  I may choose Cheick Hamala Diabate because he has performed with Bela Fleck and plays both the n’goni (a stringed West African instrument that predates the banjo) and the American 5-string banjo.
Cheick Hamala Diabate (banjo)
Reggae legend Don Carlos plays from 5:30 to 6:30 in the Dance Pavilion, so due to the overlapping times you may have to join his set in progress.  After Don Carlos it might be best to catch your breath by staying put at the Dance Pavilion for the Latin Jazz group the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, who performs at 7pm.
Don Carlos
Finally, you can close out the Saturday schedule by seeing Aurelio Martinez at 8pm at the Community Foundation stage.  Considering my recent interest in Caribbean music, I’m hoping to learn more about Garifuna – a music from the Caribbean coasts of Belize and Honduras that Aurelio Martinez plays a modernized version of. 
Aurelio Martinez
That is just one itinerary for one day.  Several great performers, who will also be playing this same day, have been omitted.  Anyone could go and see an entirely different assortment of acts and still have a great time.  It may be worth coming back on Sunday to catch some of the ones you missed.  For a complete Richmond Folk Festival listing and schedule see here and here.

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