79th National Folk Festival Lineup Announced in Salisbury

The Brooklyn, New York-based Innov Gnawa performs Moroccan trance music. Photo: Edwin Remsberg

The National Folk Festival will come back to Salisbury on Maryland’s Eastern Shore this September, for its 79th event showcasing “the nation’s very finest traditional artists.” 2019 will be the second year of the festival’s three-year residency in Salisbury.

Organizers have just announced the first eight artists set to perform in the event September 6-8. The lineup is “entirely new, with no repeats from last year,” says Lora Bottinelli, Executive Director, National Council for the Traditional Arts. “I don’t know where else one could experience this amazing array of artists and genres—all in one event, and all for free!”

Bottinelli isn’t kidding. About 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. 

The National Folk Festival has featured music and dance traditions like blues, polka, gospel, klezmer, zydeco, beatbox, mariachi rockabilly, as well as cultural traditions from Native American, Appalachian, Eastern European, Celtic, African, Latino, Caribbean, Pacific Island, and Middle Eastern regions.

The music and dance performances just announced range from Cuban to Moroccan, from Dobro to Navajo hoop dancing. One group, the Jerry Douglas Trio, has its own ties to the Chesapeake Bay region: Douglas plays a signature Dobro made in Hagerstown, Maryland by Paul Beard of Beard Guitars. And his bassist, Daniel Kimbro, is the son of renowned Bay fishing expert Shawn Kimbro.

Here is the full list of artists in the lineup so far:

  • Adonis Puentes & the Voice of Cuba Orchestra (Cuba by way of Vancouver, British Columbia) – Cuban son
    Propelled by the vibrant horns and rhythms of his sextet, this verdadero sonero (true sonero) transports listeners to his birthplace through the mesmerizing sounds of classic son

  • Aurelio (Plaplaya, Honduras, and New York, New York) – Garifuna
    One of the most extraordinary Central American artists of his generation, this composer, guitarist, and percussionist is a musical ambassador and champion of the endangered culture of the Garifuna people. 

  • Eddie Cotton, Jr. (Clinton, Mississippi) – soul blues
    This Mississippi master of soul blues will move audiences, body and spirit, with gritty guitar work, stirring vocals, and a hard-driving style rooted in the church of his youth. 

  • Hot Club of Cowtown (Austin, Texas) – western swing and hot jazz
    The preeminent ensemble in western swing and hot jazz today, this trio delivers exquisite performances with impeccable style and its trademark vintage sound. 

  • Innov Gnawa (Brooklyn, New York) – Moroccan Gnawa
    This Brooklyn-based quintet immerses audiences in mystical trance music that traditionally accompanies all-night Gnawa rituals of healing and purification. 

  • Jerry Douglas Trio (Nashville, Tennessee) – Dobro master
    “Dobro’s matchless contemporary master,” the greatest innovator of the resonator guitar in the last half century—possibly the greatest ever. 

  • Jones Benally Family Dancers (Black Mesa, Arizona) – Navajo hoop dancing
    Led by family patriarch and world champion hoop dancer, three generations will share the beauty and richness of Navajo traditional culture. 

  • Yamini Kalluri & the Carnatic Ensemble (New York, New York) – Kuchipudi dance
    Featuring a 21-year-old rising star of kuchipudi dance, this intergenerational ensemble weaves their shared heritage into a spellbinding display of South Indian music and dance. 

Over a dozen people of different backgrounds, and with a deep knowledge of music and art forms, came together from across Delmarva to serve as the local Musical Programming Advisory Committee. To learn more about the individual artists and their stories, click here, and watch the National Folk Festival’s social media accounts for featured artists. The festival says there are more announcements to come.

 -Meg Walburn Viviano