Richmond, VA – Marking its 15th year, Richmond Folk Festival was once again held on the banks of the James River on Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond, VA. RVA Folk Fest is best known for folk acts from around the globe. With an expected attendance of over 200,000 spectators, this is one of the ‘to see’ events of the year. Music is not the only thing on the menu either. Folk Fest boasts some wonderful food choices, craft beers and fine wine from around Virginia and elsewhere, and vendors of all kinds. Oh yes, did I mention craft beers and wines?
On the evening of Friday October 11th, I was able to catch several acts. For those who know me, I love music that is outside of the mainstream. Tonight I was in heaven.
First on the agenda was CASYM Steel Orchestra, hailing from New York. The group consists of many members, all playing pans-percussion instruments made from 55 gallon drums. This is not just a band, but an organization that ties youth of Caribbean background to their heritage. The range of music these kids could play was awe-inspiring.
Conjunto Guantanamo was next on the agenda. The walk across the grounds was well worth it as we were treated to an Afro-Cuban sound. Another group from New York, Conjunto Guantanamo fuses traditional Spanish music with an African twist.
Sadly, we did not have the opportunity to fully take in the next group that came to Folk Fest from Tibilsi, Georgia (Eurasia). The Iberi Choir showcased traditional Georgian music. Using native instruments to compliment the harmonies of their voices, this choir delivered a wonderful performance from the other side of the world. We were even treated to some Georgian dance by the members dressed in ethnic dress.
Coming back from Georgia, the next stop was a little closer to home. Hailing from Walkerton, North Carolina, Riley Baugus played banjo and delivered both mountain music and humor to a large crowd listening in.
The final two acts of the night had, by far, the largest crowds in attendance. Bombino, a Tuareg guitar band from Agadez, Niger, was a delight. A mix of metal (having been dubbed the ‘Sultan of Shred’ by the New York Times) with traditional rhythms added. Adorned in traditional clothing, this performance was a treat for both eyes and ears. I am not sure what more to say other than WOW!
The last act of the night was likely the most interactive. Understand that the audience had actually been prepared for Lafayette, Louisiana’s BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, as Cajun dance lessons were provided before their performance at the same venue. Cajun beat ahead of time, their music was wonderful as the sounds rocked the Dominion Energy stage. While fiddles dueled, the audience was dancing between the chairs. One could almost call it the Cajun equivalent to a mosh pit, except it was the entire venue and the spectators were not running around in circles. It was a joy to see!
As fate would have it, Friday was the only night I was able to take in. Looking at the remainder of the weekend, the 200,000+ spectators would also have the opportunity to take in acts from Belize, Scotland, Tuva (Russian Republic), and elsewhere. The acts included cultural dance and music to appease all the senses. For a complete list of the performers and their backgrounds, go to the Folk Fest webpage.
Richmond Folk Festival Photo Gallery
Festival Dates: October 11-13, 2019