The Full Lineup Of Performers For The Montana Folk Festival
This will be the 14th year overall for the festival in Butte, with the first 3 years under the banner of the National Fold Festival, and the last 10 years as the Montana Folk Festival. The festival this year is this weekend, starting on Friday and running through Sunday. Admission is free to all performances during the three-day event, although organizers urge attendees to ‘Kick-In’ a contribution of $25 per person, or $35 for a family to help sustain the festival for years to come.
The bands were announced in three different 'waves' of seven performers each, for a total of 21 acts. Here is the full list of performers to get you ready for what should be an incredible weekend.
The Fort Belknap Singers, Native American Drumming from Harlem, Montana. The Fort Belknap Singers are a family-based traditional drum group from the Fort Belknap Reservation. Since 1973, the drummers, now featuring second-generation drummers, have become known along the Montana High Line for their original grassdance style. You can learn more about the Singers and the Fort Belknap Indian Community HERE.
The Korean Performing Arts Institute of Chicago (KPAC)- KPAC is a cultural and educational organization. KPAC is led by Korean traditional performing artist, Suwan Choi who has been performing and teaching Korean traditional music for more than 20 years. Learn more about KPAC on their website Soribeat.org.
Mal Barsamian- Armenaian Oud, Clarinet and Dumbeg. Mal started music very early in life, starting on the dumbeg (hand drum). He comes from a family of oud (lute) players. For over 35 years, he has been a sought-after oud player and clarinetist throughout the country. And that is not all, Mal is a classical guitarist, who obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the NEC (New England Conservatory of Music) in classical guitar performance. Read more about Mal HERE.
The Blue Ridge Girls- Appalachian Folk Music, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. The Blue Ridge Girls are composed of Jamie Collins, Martha Spencer, and Brett Morris. They showcase outstanding musicianship, and honey-sweet vocal harmonies, performing a mix of traditional standards, and Blue-Ridge originals. The Blue Ridge Girls are coming off a fantastic year in 2022, playing FloydFest, Merlefest, Redwing Roots, and the Roots Reunion.
Catherine Russell- Jazz, New York, NY. Catherine Russell is no stranger to the world of music. Her father, Luis Russell, was a legendary performer and Louis Armstrong’s long-time music director. Her mother Catherine Ray was a pioneering vocalist, guitarist, and bassist, who performed with Mary Lou Williams, Sy Oliver, and the Sweethearts of Rhythm. Catherine has appeared on over 200 albums, recording with the likes of Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, and David Bowie to name a few. Read more about Catherine on her WEBSITE.
Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca- Afro-Latin, Los Angeles, CA. Ricardo Lemvo has established himself as a pioneer with his innovative music. Lemvos’ blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms with pan-Afrocan styles has been described by the L.A. Times as “seamless and infectious”. Lemvo grew up in Zaire, and came to the US over 3 decades ago to pursue a law degree, but instead he devoted all his time to music. Lemvo has performed throughout the world and has been the subject of radio and television programs on several continents. Learn more about the man and his music HERE.
Edwin Colon Zayas- Puerto Rican Cuarto, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Edwin was surrounded by music. At an early age he fell in love with the cuatro, a small guitar, with five double-coursed strings, is the primary instrument used in musica jibara (the music of the peasants). Colon Zayas has recorded several solo albums, and has played on, directed, or arranged more than 250 albums by Peurto Rican artists. Learn more and listen to Edwin HERE.
Melody Angel: Melody is a gifted guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and vocalist. She hails from the Southside of Chicago and is steeped in its history of the Blues. Growing up surrounded by amazing musicians, she received her first guitar at the age of 15 (after begging for one for years). She says getting that purple Stratocaster is still the best day of her life. Melody has played the vaunted Chicago Blues Festival and has a regular gig in the windy city at the renowned Rosa’s Lounge. You can learn more about Melody Angel on her website HERE.
Cyril Neville: The youngest of the famous Neville Brothers will be part of this year’s festival. Cyril picked up his love of music from his parents and his older brothers. In addition to his work with his brothers, he has formed several groups through the years, he founded the New Orleans Musicians Organized, launched his own record label, and several solo albums. Cyril will be an incredible addition to this years festival. You can find out more about Cyril HERE.
Redd Volkaert: Red is regarded as one of THE great guitarists alive. His skills on a Telecaster are stuff of legend, especially in western swing, and honky tonk. He has played with the likes of Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck and George Jones. We don’t have the time or space to get into Redd’s incredible accomplishments, just know that If you love western swing, or you just like to get up and move it, Redd is your man. You can read more on his website HERE.
Taeda: Taeda is Gaelic for ‘Strings’. Taeda is a traditional band formed in Ireland over 20 years ago. They have played in large festivals all over the world. They are made up of six musicians and have released six full-length albums. Read more about Taeda on their website HERE.
Chaksampa: Chaksampa is a Tabetan Dance and Opera company founded in 1989, in San Francisco. They are considered the most successful performance group outside of Tibet. All members are actors from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmasala, India. The group works through their performance to build bridges between Tibetan culture and the rest of the world. You can learn more on their website HERE.
Panfilo’s Guera: Tejano Conjunto Fiddle out of San Antonio, Texas. Belen Escobedo grew up in South San Antonio, in a Tejano working class community where Tejano music on the radio was the soundtrack of daily life. In 2017 Belen was awarded the Texas Master Fiddler Award. Belen plays with her husband Ramon, and Greg Rush. The trio’s name -Panfilo’s Guera- honors her gradfather’s influence on her, the grandchild he called is Guera, or ‘blondie’.
Red Baraat, from Brooklyn, New York. “Red Baraat was conceived by dhol player Sunny Jain. They have drawn worldwide praise for its singular sound, a merging of hard-driving N. Indian bhangra, with elements of hip-hop, jazz, and raw punk energy. You can learn more about them on their website HERE.
High Fidelity- White’s Creek, Tennessee. A 5 person bluegrass band that is steeped in the sounds of tradition. They interpret classic era bluegrass music through the fresh, young perspective of today’s generation. You can learn more about this high-energy Bluegrass HERE.
Kiki Valera y Son Cubano- Seattle, Washington. Kiki is steeped in the musical DNA of Son Cubano, one of the most popular music styles in Cuba. Kiki Valera is the oldest son of the famous La Familia Valera Miranda septet, a multi-generational traditional music group in Cuba. Kiki is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, sound engineer, and producer. He is also known as one of the world’s greatest players of the Cuban cuatro, a mid-size, 8-string guitar. You can learn more about Kiki HERE.
Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas- Lafayette, Louisiana. Growing up in a Creole-speaking home, Nathan sought out Zydeco music at an early age. After a serious illness, he dedicated himself to learning and mastering the accordion. That dedication has led to a 3-decade long career traveling the world. The Cha Chas were formed in 1985 and have played everywhere, from the Lincoln Center in New York to the Grand Ole Opry. Nathan was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Find out more HERE.
Heart of Afghanistan with the Fanoos Ensemble- San Francisco, California. The Heart of Afghanistan project consists of four Afghan musicians, that tell the story of Afghanistan through music, poetry, art and cultural heritage. Heart of Afghanistan is a production of American Voices in collaboration with the Fanoos Family. Read more of their story HERE.
Ken Heath and the True Disciples- Charlotte, North Carolina. Ken was raised on the gospel music of the Black Holiness Church. Ken developed his drumming skill at the age of 14 and has continually advanced his skillset on the drums and also on the keys. In 2014 he formed the True Disciples, and they are known for their spirited, electrifying performances.
Musique a Bouches- Quebec, Canada. Musique is a vocal ensemble consisting of five performers. In 2016 they were named ‘Vocal Group of the Year’ at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. They have performed hundreds of shows across several countries. This a cappella quintet sets itself apart not only with melodious voices and the raw power of harmonies but also the camaraderie and humor they share on stage.
All 21 performers that have been confirmed for the Montana Folk Festival, set for July 14,15, and 16th in historic uptown Butte. You can find out more about the Montana Folk Festival HERE.
There is still a need for volunteers as well, if you would like to help before, during or after the festival, you can learn about the volunteering opportunities HERE.