First 8 performance acts named for Folk Festival

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day makes the official announcement Monday of the first eight acts selected to perform at this year’s National Folk Festival in Downtown Salisbury.

The first eight performers signed for this year’s National Folk Festival will bring a wide range of musical styles when the 80th annual festival returns to Downtown the weekend of Sept. 11-13,

Tango from Argentina will mix with Sri Lankan dance, traditional music from Ireland and Greece, and American cowboy, blues and jazz at the event that is now in the third year of its three-year residency in Salisbury.

“I’m still excited about last year’s festival — I had a blast,” Mayor Jake Day said during the announcement Monday at the Riverwalk Amphitheater.

Organizers began working on this year’s event as soon as last year’s ended.

“It takes a full year to get it right,” he said.

Last year’s attendance for the weekend was 153,911 people which far exceeded the hoped-for number of 120,000, and was more than double the attendance in 2018, Day said.

The eight performers announced Monday will be among 350 artists — musicians, dancers, storytellers, and craftspeople — will take part in the National Folk Festival, with more than 35 different musical groups performing on seven outdoor stages throughout Downtown Salisbury.

“These eight artists attest to the incredible diversity of cultural traditions that will be celebrated at this year’s National Folk Festival — the 80th anniversary of the event — and it is entirely free,” said Lora Bottinelli, Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

The first eight artists are:

Grumpo Rebolu.

•Grupo Rebolú (Queens, N.Y.) — Colombian.

The foremost Afro-Colombian ensemble in the United States plays the rich, rhythmic, and undeniably danceable music of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

Hector Del Curto.

•Héctor Del Curto’s Tango Quartet (New York, N.Y.) — Argentine tango.

The elegant, subtle, and intensely passionate Argentine music and dance called tango could find no higher expression than the superb artistry of this bandoneónist and his ensemble.

Petroloukas Chalkias and Vasilis Kostas.

•Petroloukas Halkias & Vasilis Kostas (Boston, Massachusetts, and Epirus, Greece) — Traditional music from Epirus.

This groundbreaking intergenerational collaboration between a clarino (clarinet) legend and a rising star on the laoutois redefining the relationship between these instruments.

Shemekia Copeland.

•Shemekia Copeland (Chicago) — Blues.

Schooled in the blues by her Texas Bluesman father, this powerhouse singer is heir to the rich tradition of blues divas blazed by such greats as Ruth Brown, Etta James, and Koko Taylor.

Sri Lankan Dance Academy of New York.

•Sri Lankan Dance Academy of New York (Staten Island, N.Y.) — Traditional Sri Lankan dance.

Staten Island’s vibrant Sri Lankan community is home tot his accomplished ensemble that is introducing the nation to the fascinating traditions of Kandyan dance.

The Alt.

•The Alt (New York, North Carolina and Ireland) — Irish.

Three acclaimed masters of Irish music celebrate the traditional songs, tunes, and spirit at the heart of the tradition.

Walter “Wolfman” Washington.

•Walter “Wolfman” Washington & The Roadmasters (New Orleans, La.) — Funk and R&B.

The Crescent City’s preeminent funk master is another in that city’s long line of singular musical personalities, adding touches of soul and jazz to his distinctive rhythm and blues sound.

Wylie & The Old West.

•Wylie & the Wild West (Conrad, Mont.) — Cowboy and Western music.

This world-class yodeler and cowboy singer is one of America’s most popular western entertainers who still lives the life of a working rancher and cutting-horse champion

In addition, festival organizers also revealed the theme for this year’s Maryland Folklife Area & Stage: Mountain Maryland will explore western Maryland’s rich cultural landscape.

The Maryland Folklife Area & Stage celebrates and showcases the rich, living traditions of Maryland — from its Atlantic beaches to the Appalachian Mountains. With a different theme each year, the Folklife Area will shine the spotlight on the distinctive music, rituals, crafts, occupations, foodways, and other traditions at the heart of Maryland heritage, expressing both the state’s deep history and its evolving character.

Supported by Maryland Traditions, the state folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council, Mountain Maryland will highlight traditions influenced and inspired by western Maryland’s mountainous terrain.

“The National Folk Festival is proud to renew our partnership with Maryland Traditions in presenting the Maryland Folklife Area & Stage,” said Bottinelli. “We are excited at the opportunity to showcase the best traditional artists from the mountainside communities of western Maryland on the Chesapeake’s Eastern Shore.”

The National Folk Festival strives to present the nation’s finest traditional artists. Music and dance traditions from every part of the country are represented — blues, rockabilly, gospel, jazz, polka, tamburitza, cowboy, bluegrass, klezmer, R&B, old-time, Cajun, rhythm and blues, mariachi, beatbox, breakin’, western swing, honky-tonk and zydeco, as well as traditional music and dance from Native American, Celtic, Acadian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, East Asian, Appalachian, Latino, Eastern European, West African, and Pacific Island cultures, among others.

More festival performers as well as the full program for the Maryland Folklife Area & Stage will be announced throughout the spring and summer.

The National Folk Festival started in St. Louis in 1934. Championed in its early years by Eleanor Roosevelt, it was the first event of national stature to present the arts of many nations, races and languages on equal footing. It also was the first to present to the public musical forms such as the blues, Cajun music, polka, Tex-Mex conjunto, Peking Opera and others.

For more information about the event, visit

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