Five not-to-miss acts at the Folk Festival

This year’s Folk Festival features some incredible music! Here’s our picks of what not to miss.

Alash: Tuvan throat singing

I heard Alash a few years ago at the Folk Festival and was brought to tears. Tuvan throat singing might be the sound of the vibration of the universe, and if you have not experienced it before, do not miss this performance. Alash is named for a river that runs through central Tuva (a Russian republic in the geographical center of Asia), a nation whose music involves not only overtone-singing but also singing in pitched-unison with water rushing over rocks, wind sighing across the steppe, galloping horses, and the echo-chambers of mountain-flanked valleys. Tuvan songs about and evocative of animals include my personal favorite, Don’t Frighten the Crane.

Nathalie Pires

Indefinable yearning! This is the emotion that inspires Fado (fate in Portuguese). With a pure and captivating voice, Nathalie Pires sings of saudades (no English translation but evokes a state of intense nostalgia or melancholic longing) with all of the required histrionics. She will be accompanied by several virtuoso guitarists as the style demands. In Fado we experience the bittersweet catharsis of living, loving, losing, and lamenting.

Christine Salem

I often tell my students that all of the sounds in music can be traced back to drums and singing. Polyglot and polyrhythmic, thanks to a trio of percussionists and singers, Christine Salem’s call-and-response performance resonates from the heart of communal music making. Salem hails from Réunion Island, a French Province in the Indian Ocean, and sings in a blues-like style known as maloya. These sounds come right up out of the earth.

Kach Chi Ensemble

Fans of Richmond’s own Gamelan Raga Kusuma will dig this duo. A pair of virtuosic players and singers, Ho, Chi Khac and Hoang, Ngoc Bic present traditional Vietnamese music on a variety of bamboo instruments. Expect to hear tubed percussion keyboards, single player flutes, two-player flutes, squeeze-flutes, jaw harps, and the k’ni, a stringed instrument that uses the player’s mouth as a resonating chamber.

Janusz Prusinowski Trio

Great music, in the words of one of my former teachers, is unpredictable yet inevitable. The Janusz Prusinowski Trio’s brand of Polish village music embodies that truth through wildly swirling melodies and undulating, danceable rhythms. The four players in the trio combine clarinet, flute, shawm, fiddle, folk-bass, and percussion to evoke a mix of Mazurkas, math-metal, and moves (traditional dance moves, that is).

Photo by: DeathByBokeh

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Bryan Hooten

Bryan Hooten performs with No BS! Brass, Matthew E. White, and other Richmond-based groups. He teaches Music Theory and Jazz Orchestra at VCU.

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