National Folk Festival (United States)

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The National Folk Festival (NFF) is an itinerant folk festival in the United States. Since 1934, it has been run by the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) and has been presented in 26 communities around the nation. After leaving some of these communities, the National Folk Festival has spun off several locally run folk festivals in its wake, including the Lowell Folk Festival, the Richmond Folk Festival, the American Folk Festival and, most recently, the Montana Folk Festival.

Beginnings in St. Louis[edit]

The National Folk Festival in the United States (known also as the National) was first presented in St. Louis in 1934, the National Folk Festival is the oldest multi-cultural traditional arts celebration in the nation and the first event of national stature to put the arts of many nations, races and languages into the same event on an equal footing. Some of the artists presented at the first festival are now legendary and the recordings and other documentation made possible by the National are precious. W.C. Handy's first performance on a desegregated stage was at the 1938 National. It was the first event of national stature to present the blues, Cajun music, a polka band, a Tex-Mex conjunto, a Sacred Harp ensemble, Peking opera, and others.

Other locations[edit]

Eleanor Roosevelt was involved in the National's move to Washington, D.C. in 1938, and served as the festival's honorary Chair.

Then it went to cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.

  • From 1947-1955, it stayed in St. Louis, Missouri

Oklahoma City and Nashville followed, and then the festival returned to Washington, D.C., in 1960. The National Folk Festival struggled through the 1960s, never staying in one place for more than a year. It was held in various places such as Florence and Covington, Kentucky; St. Petersburg, Florida; Denver, Colorado; Syracuse, New York; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Knoxville, Tennessee.

2005 Festival acts[edit]

The 2005 festival includes Ivo Papasov & Yuri Yunakov - Legends of Bulgarian "Wedding Music", Cheick Hamala Diabate Ensemble - West African jeli, Chuna McIntyre - Yup'ik Eskimo Traditions, Marcia Ball - New Orleans boogie-woogie piano, Prem Raja Mahat - Nepalese Music and Dance, First African Baptist Choir - African American gospel, Bernard Allison - Blues, Sankofa String - African American string band, D.W. Groethe - cowboy poetry and songs and Papa Susso - kora master. Also featured at festival is music from the Crooked Road. These artists include: Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys (Sunday Only), No Speed Limit, Carter Family Band featuring Dale Jett, Linda Lay, David Lay, and Deborah Jean Sheets, White Top Mountain Band, Crooked Road Band, The Round Knob Singers, Kirk Sutphin and Sammy Shelor, plus dancers Brenda Joyce and Shannon Joyce.

These artists join Cephas & Wiggins (Piedmont blues), The Paschall Brothers (African American a cappella gospel), Mariachi los Camperos de Nati Cano (Mexican mariachi), Mountain Heart (bluegrass), Los Pleneros de la 21 (Puerto Rican bomba y plena), Khmer Classical Dance Ensemble (Cambodian) and Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars (Jewish klezmer), The Madison Hummingbirds (African American gospel brass shout band); J. P. Cormier (Cape Breton fiddler), Hayden Thompson & The Rhythm Rockers (Rockabilly, Dervish (Irish), The Savoy Family Band (Cajun) and Zydeco Joe and the Laissez Le Bon Temps Roulez Band (zydeco)completing the list of performing artists at the 67th National Folk Festival.

2006 acts[edit]

2006 NFF was held October 13–15, 2006 and attracted nearly 100,000 attendees.[5] Performers included Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go-Go"; Sonny Burgess, of early rockabilly notoriety; the Skatalites, the group that virtually invented ska and whose members are considered founders of the modern Jamaica sound; and the Mahotella Queens, an acclaimed South Africa mbaqanga ensemble.[6] The Richmond Times Dispatch announced a month prior to the festival that Mahotella Queens would not be performing.

Other announced artists were:

"Gulf Coast Musical Traditions" segment was added later and featured traditions affected by Hurricane Katrina and are as follows:

Several additional acts were announced less than a month before the festival and include[7] AltaiKAI (kai throat singers from the Altai Republic, Russia), Grace Chang (Chinese zither), Jamesie & the All-Stars (scratch band, aka quelbe music, from the island of St. Croix), and Warner Williams and Jay Summerour, playing Piedmont blues.

2007 acts[edit]

The 2007 NFF ( 69th National Folk Festival ) was held October 12–14, 2007. Festival organizers announced on June 19 that year the first of more than 25 performing groups expected to play at that year’s National Folk Festival,[8][9] to include:

2008 acts[edit]

The 2008 NFF (70th National Folk Festival) was held in Butte, Montana, July 11–13, 2008. Acts included:


  1. ^ [1] Archived September 12, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ [2] Archived October 18, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ [3] Archived October 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ [4] Archived August 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ [5] Archived November 1, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ [6][dead link]
  7. ^ [7][dead link]
  8. ^ [8][dead link]
  9. ^ [9][dead link]

External links[edit]