After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the National Folk Festival will celebrate its 80th anniversary in downtown Salisbury, Maryland. The free three-day festival features performances on three open-air stages.
As well as being the festival’s 80th milestone year, 2021 marks its third year of residency in Salisbury. The National Council for Traditional Arts (NCTA) has just announced the first six artists lined up to perform, and they represent an “extraordinary diversity of cultural traditions,” said Lora Bottinelli, executive director of the NCTA.
The artists just announced range from bluegrass and Cajun to West African balafon and traditional Sri Lankan dance. “There are no repeats of 2018 or 2019, and everything is free! Said Bottinelli.
Nashville-based bluegrass group The Del McCoury group mixes the genre’s iconic past with an adventurous future, while the blues singer Shemekia Copeland, originally from Chicago, is inspired by his Texan bluesman father and greats like Etta James.
Louisiana Cajun group of the Savoyard family plays a house evening on the two-step accordion to timeless French ballads and twin violins, according to the festival. The rhythmic and dancing music of the Colombian Caribbean coast is represented by Rebolú Group outside of Queens, New York.
West African balafon masters Balla Kouyaté & Famoro Dioubaté from Boston and New York, described by the festival as “exploring new musical fields” and offering audiences “the thrill of the unexpected”. And Sri Lankan Dance Academy of New York, from Staten Island, introduces the nation to Kandyan dance.
While the festival is yet to reveal its full lineup, organizers tout the music and dance traditions of all parts of the country: blues, rockabilly, gospel, jazz, polka, tamburitza, cowboy, bluegrass, klezmer, R&B, old -time, cajun, rhythm and blues, mariachi, beatbox, breakin ‘, western swing, honky-tonk and zydeco, as well as traditional Amerindian, Celtic, Acadian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, Asian, Appalachian, Latino, d Eastern Europe, African and Pacific Island Cultures.
The first National Folk Festival was held in St. Louis in 1934, supported by Eleanor Roosevelt. It was the first national event to represent the arts of many nations, races and languages on an equal footing, the NCTA said. Today, it is a traveling festival presented in partnership with communities across the country.
The National Folk Festival arrived in Salisbury in 2018, and this will be the last year of his residency in Salisbury. The festival will feature individual artists on Facebook (facebook.com/NFFMaryland), Twitter (twitter.com/NFFMaryland) and Instagram (Instagram.com/nffmaryland) throughout the next month, where more artists will be announced.
The festival runs from September 10-12 and includes live entertainment, special family programming and Maryland folk life, and various food and drink offerings.
–Meg Walburn Viviano