Musicians and dancers across the country are converging in Greensboro this weekend for the 75th annual National Folk Festival. The festival begins Friday, September 11 and goes through Sunday, September 13. It is the first time the festival has come to the Tar Heel State. Performers include R&B and gospel legend Mavis Staples, Rhiannon Giddens from the Carolina Chocolate Drops and honky-tonker Dale Watson, but those artists barely scratch the festival’s surface.
"On stage it's a really diverse representation of tradition-bearers from all over the U.S. In terms of the crowd, we are expecting probably anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 people from North Carolina and the neighboring states. We've even got people calling in saying they are coming down from Ohio and Washington state," said Amy Grossmann, Local Director for the National Folk Festival.
Here are some lesser-known acts Grossmann said people should not miss:
Aurelio Martinez (Garifuna)
"Aurelio himself is from Honduras and the history of his people goes back to a slave ship that wrecked on a Caribbean island, and the folks there intermarried with the folks on that island. They ended up being displaced by the British and were re-settled on the Caribbean coast on Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua," Grossmann said.
Mythili Prakash (Bharata Natyam)
"Mythili herself was born here in the U.S., but her parents emigrated from India. Her mother is actually a grand master of the [Bharata Natyam] dance form. Mythili is taking it to new levels, continuing to carry on the tradition while also innovating and performing it all over the world."
Lloyd Arneach (Cherokee storyteller)
"Lloyd comes from a long line of storytellers. His heritage goes back to the eastern band of Cherokee Indians, the folks who did not go all the way to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears and stayed here in North Carolina."
Listen to Arneach's interview with The State of Things here.
Welch Family Singers (Cherokee gospel)
"There is a tradition in the Cherokee community going back a couple hundred years of singing sacred music both in English and Cherokee. The Welch Family Singers are proponents of this and we are very excited to have them to showcase this to everyone."
Jeff Little Trio (Blue Ridge piano)
"Jeff Little is a pianist from Boone, North Carolina. He's been performing since he was 5 years old. He is an absolute master of the piano which you don't typically find as a traditional instrument in Blue Ridge music. His parents were owners of a music store and his close family friends were Doc Watson and all those family members," Grossmann said. "So Jeff gravitated toward the piano and his style really emulates that Blue Ridge Appalachian guitar picking music that he picked up from hanging out with the Watsons and all those other folks in Boone."