Greensboro, NC – Seven Triangle area artists will perform in downtown Greensboro from September 9 – 11, 2016 at the 76th National Folk Festival. The free event in 2016 marks the event’s second year of its three-year residency in Greensboro. Last fall, the 75th National Folk Festival attracted more than 102,000 attendees to downtown Greensboro for the FREE, three-day weekend. Based on survey data, organizers expect attendance to grow substantially in 2016—by as much as 30% or more.
The Triangle thus provides more than one-sixth of the 39 performing artists. Altogether approximately 300 artists—musicians, dancers, storytellers, and craftspeople—will take part in the National Folk Festival, the oldest such event in the United States. Coming from the Triangle are:
- Awalom Gebremariam – A purveyor of Eritrean Tigrinya-language Bahlawi music from Durham, Awalom Gebremariam sings and plays the krar, a bowl-shaped lyre. As part of his long journey to the United States, Gebremariam spent months in an Ethiopian refugee camp before obtaining asylum status for passage to America. Before departing Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, in 2007, then 18-year-old Gebremariam made his first and only recording, Desdes, which continued to gain popularity in Eritrea after he left. It has recently been reissued by Awesome Tapes From Africa. His songs focus on the music he heard growing up, a time intertwined with Eritrea’s difficult and contentious split from Ethiopia. When Awalom Gebremariam isn’t working at his Durham-based restaurant job, he works at his music. While based in traditional instruments and folk song, Gebremarium’s music—soundscapes capable of attracting legions of new fans—is thoroughly modern.
- Bouncing Bulldogs – Precision Jump Rope: Be inspired by the boundless creativity and intense athleticism of Chapel Hill and Durham-based Bouncing Bulldogs, who have been crowned the top international jump rope team for the past five consecutive years at the World Jump Rope Championships! Founded by Coach Ray Fredrick in 1986, the Bouncing Bulldogs field a competitive team of 140 girls and boy ages 7-19, with 200 other jumpers ages 4 and older participating in a club program. Fresh off defending their title at the 2016 World Championships in Portugal in July, 15 jumpers will perform at the National Folk Festival, amazing audiences with their skills in Double Dutch, speed jumping, and freestyle.
- Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba – Carrboro-based Griotand kora master Diali Cissokho was born into the hereditary profession of griot in Senegal. Historians, storytellers, and cultural commentators, West African griots hold positions of respect in their communities, and music is one of their expressive resources. Cissokho has taken his music into new territory—the North Carolina Piedmont, where he leads a cross-continental musical collaboration known as Diali Cissokho & Kaira B The band has become a hot ticket at festivals and music venues across the eastern United States, performing euphoric West African sounds inflected with funk, soul, and other music of the Black Diaspora. Kaira Ba’s lineup is rounded out by his cousin, percussionist and dancer Sidya Cissokho, and four outstanding North Carolina musicians—Jonathan Henderson, Austin McCall, Will Ridenour, and John Westmoreland—each bringing his own musical influences to bear. The result is a musical experience that uses polyrhythmic frameworks for explorations into lengthy dance grooves with equal footing in African and American music.
- Janarde – Janarde was founded in 2009 in Raleigh, North Carolina, by members of the state’s Montagnard community in order to keep important dance traditions alive. Their mission includes involving young Montagnard Americans in cultural activities, passing on Montagnard traditions and culture, and making their community aware of current issues in both Vietnam and the United States. Janarde dancers clothe themselves in the unique, handwoven textiles of their people. Janarde has performed throughout North Carolina. Janarde’s performance is presented in partnership with the Montagnard American Organization (MAO).
- La Sombra de Mexico (“The Shadow of Mexico”) – The seven members of La Sombra de Mexico (“The Shadow of Mexico”) come from different regions of their beloved homeland; their name reflects this diversity and inclusiveness. Mexico has a wide range of musical genres and performance styles that vary from region to region, and each band member contributes different knowledge of these regional Mexican music traditions. They all made their journeys to the United States in search of a better life, bringing a shared passion for music that inspired them in Mexico. After crossing paths in Durham—a meeting followed by spontaneous jam sessions—the group formed a band to present a national representation of Mexican music, one that has emerged from their various regional traditions.
- Paperhand Puppet Intervention – Giant Puppet Pageants and Parades: Hailing from Saxapahaw in North Carolina’s Alamance County, Paperhand Puppet Intervention is known for its mythical, magical, giant puppets, which hearken back to medieval passion plays. Paperhand members perform, parade, and mask in these iconic constructions, which range from giant babies and enormous owls, to green goddesses. The characters reflect the group’s purpose of celebrating humanity and “shifting the paradigm to more compassion and justice, so people and the creatures we share the planet with can survive.” Puppeteers Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger founded Paperhand Puppet Intervention in 1998, marrying the spectacle of giant puppetry with North Carolina’s tradition of organizing for social justice. Paperhand’s magical creations will take over the streets of downtown Greensboro during the National Folk Festival’s opening parade, when they will invite audience members to pick up a puppet or put on a mask and join the revelry.
- Orquestra K’Che – Orquesta K’Che, a Latin dance band based in North Carolina’s Triangle region, is the brainchild of Puerto Rican musician Billy Marrero. At age six, the band leader and percussionist began a long musical journey that would eventually carry him to Holly Springs, North Carolina. Marrero has played alongside Latin-music giants like Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, Iris Chacon, and Celio Gonzales. While living in Miami, Marero recorded with Universal Music as leader of Orquestra Salsa Gorda, driving the Afro-Cuban band with his percussive talents. After relocating to the Triangle, Marrero founded Orquestra K’Che, an eleven-piece band that draws on the varied musical history of its members. Orquestra K’Che is fluent in classic Latin musical genres such as cumbia, merengue, bolero, and Latin jazz, drawn from its members’ backgrounds in Venezuela, Cuba, and U.S. Latino communities, including Puerto Rico. With Marrero as their rock-solid band leader, K’Che mixes diverse sounds with a forceful stage presence, attracting all within earshot with their hypnotic groove.
These outstanding artists join the performers whose homes range from Los Angeles to Quebec including Hip-Hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash, bluegrass stars Balsam Range, Irish supergroup The Alt, electric guitar legend Bill Kirchen, French-Canadian music superstars La Vent du Nord, reggae veteran Clinton Fearon, and popular western swing trio The Quebe Sisters.
To learn more about all these artists, their traditions, and their stories, please visit nationalfolkfestival.com/performers. Throughout the summer, the National Folk Festival will feature individual artists on its Facebook page (Facebook.com/NationalFolkFestivalNC) and on social media: