by Kate Andrews
Photos featuring, from top: Bitori, Corazon de Granada and Los Wemblers (photo by Josh Cogan)
One of the finest parts of the Richmond Folk Festival, which is entering its 13th year, is how many parts of the world are represented right here on local ground. Through the years, we’ve seen Tuvan throat singers, a Chinese jaw harpist, dancers from Rajasthan and Vietnamese flutists.
We talked to two members of the festival’s local board about the musicians they’re most excited to see, and not too surprisingly, those performers come from thousands of miles away.
Otto Konrad, who’s on the Richmond programming committee, calls the Venezuelan rhythm group Betsayda Machado and Parranda El Clavo “a really fun party band,” with Afro-Cuban flair. Cape Verde’s Bitori and Chando Graciosa, accordion-based folk music, is native only to Santiago Island, where the musicians are from.
Konrad’s also looking forward to Los Wemblers, who hail from the Peruvian Amazon yet feature surf guitar -- because when they were founded in 1968, band members had heard American loggers play guitar in the jungle. “They’re really, really, really something,” he says. “It grabs you.”
Fellow board member Jim Wark says he’s most excited about Corazon de Granada, which comes from the Andalucia region of Spain where flamenco was born. The board has been trying to bring a flamenco band to the festival for several years, but this is the first time it worked out. “They are part of the tradition, yet bring in new elements and youthful exuberance,” he says. “They just might steal the festival!”
Wark’s pumped about the all-women go-go group Be’la Dona, which comes from Washington, D.C., the home of the funk and hip-hop hybrid. With the late Chuck Brown having appeared here in 2006 and other groups in subsequent years, Richmond festival-goers have come to expect the best in go-go.
Wark also says the “girl power” of Be’la Dona will not disappoint. Finally, Wayne “The Train” Hancock is another performer the board has been working to schedule. “Wayne is true honky-tonk and as country as a chicken coop,” he says.
I’ll give you one more tip: If you like a smaller, more low-key space to hear music, many performers gather to discuss (and play) their instruments at workshops. You can often get up closer than you can to the bigger stages, and you may learn something new.
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