Offering ‘five days in a perfect world’, Canberra’s award-winning National Folk Festival is one of the country’s longest-running, family-friendly and widely loved music festivals. The five-day celebration of music, song, dance, circus, spoken word and film features more than 200 international and national acts. Hundreds of volunteers transform Exhibition Park (EPIC) into a fantastical village, complete with roving entertainers, street circus, stages of all sizes, market stalls, food vans, shopping precincts, cafes, themed bars and arts and craft activities.
The 52nd National Folk Festival runs throughout Easter, 29 March—2 April 2018 at Exhibition Park, corner Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue, Mitchell, ACT. Tickets on sale now: discounted Early Bird Tickets available.
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NATIONAL FOLK FESTIVAL CELEBRATING INDIGENOUS ARTISTS
Legendary singer/songwriter, musician and pioneer of contemporary Aboriginal music, Joe Geia, will perform with his band at the National Folk Festival in Canberra at Easter.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of his hit song, Yil Lull (meaning ‘sing’ in Kuku Yalanji language from North Queensland), which is widely recognised as the unofficial Aboriginal national anthem. Its message of hope, justice and belonging remains relevant and powerful to this day.
Joining Geia on the Festival’s First Peoples program for 2018 are multi-award-winning WA songman, John Bennett. Establishing a name as the ‘voice of the Kimberley’, Bennett returns to the National with his new album Country is Calling and sidemen David Hyams and Lucky Oceans.
Twenty-year old singer/songwriter Alice Skye is an exciting emerging force on the music scene. Her original songs sparkle with a sensitivity and maturity beyond her years, accompanied by gentle and hauntingly sparse melodies. Alice’s voice is a combination of hopeful and haunting, naturally sweet, and slow and dreamlike. She will be launching her debut album, Friends With Feelings, at the NFF.
Emerging North East Arnhem Land artist, Dhapanbal Yunupiŋu, will launch her stunning debut EP at the Festival. As one of Dr M Yunupiŋu’s six daughters, Dhapanbal grew up surrounded by the lyrics and rhythms of Yothu Yindi, the band her father co-founded, as well as the ‘Milkarri’—female grieving songlines to sing the spirits of the departed back to their ancestral homelands.
Indigenous artist and poet Peter Swain on didgeridoo will join Canberra poet John Passant to create an unforgettable tapestry of song, spoken word and Indigenous poetry.
Indigenous West Australian of the Year 2017 and Noongar singer-songwriter Gina Williams rejoins forces with Guy Ghouse and friends to bring her incandescent vocals, musical brilliance and a new album of songs in Noongar language to the festival.
Along with these and more Indigenous artists, the Festival today announced another slew of top-line international and local acts joining this year’s program.
SON (Susan O’Neill, Ireland) has been compared to Adele and Florence and the Machine, and picked up many fans including U2’s Bono. The amazing range of her vocals combined with her superb guitar technique, loop pedals and trumpet, make for a truly unforgettable musical experience.
Also from Ireland, Andy Irvine has been ‘one of the towering talents on the international folk scene’ (Sydney Morning Herald) for more than 40 years. For the National, he teams up with Tasmanian folk musician and multi-instrumentalist Luke Plumb, whose talents are well recognised on the global folk music stage.
The National continues to build on its well-earned reputation for diversity and inclusion, with a stronger-than-ever line-up of female artists as well as artists from all corners of the world.
Aine Tyrrell‘s music is a contemporary folk collision between the Ireland of generations gone, and the hope of tomorrow. Her songs are as honest as an old friend, warm and inviting. With spine-tingling harmonies, charming storytelling and humour, Co-cheòl has a rare ability to evoke a gamut of emotions from laughter to tears. This audacious quartet performs traditional Scottish, Irish and original music, traversing both a cappella and accompanied songs with sublime musicianship. All-female folk super group, The Drowsy Maggies delight audiences around Australia with their stunning harmony-filled original songs, cracking original tune sets and swinging bass. Monique Clare (Folk Alliance Australia’s Young Performer of the Year in 2017) is a cello-wielding songstress, hailing from the foothills of Mount Coot-tha. Between ongoing explorations into Scandinavian and American traditional folk, a classical cello degree and a Radiohead obsession, her beautifully quirky songs are a melting pot of eclectic influences.
Somewhere between an Italian wedding band and a French revolution, Bella Donna Gorgonzola knows how to start a party in eight languages. These playful paisanos perform a mix of youthful favourites and drinking hits that delight audiences of all ages. Afro Moses is a multi award-winning artist from Ghana, West Africa. His band delivers a vibrant, high-energy show, creating a fusion of styles from across the globe including African, reggae and funk. Balkanski Bus is a multi-ethnic group which plays traditional Balkan (Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Rumanian), Greek, Turkish and Romany music, both songs and dance tunes, in authentic style on a range of traditional and electric instruments. And the Ukulele Republic of Canberra returns to perform, and to host one of the most popular jam sessions of the Festival—the National Uke Muster. Each year this daily morning session has been growing in popularity and moving to bigger and bigger venues, as people discover the magic of playing this iconic little instrument together in a guided group.
ELEPHANT SESSIONS JOINS NATIONAL FOLK FESTIVAL LINE-UP
Multi award winning Neo-trad quintet, Elephant Sessions, have just been confirmed to perform at the 2018 National Folk Festival.
Riding a wave of popularity, the indie folk band from the Highlands of Scotland has been enthralling audiences at some of Europe’s most notable festivals and attracting critical accolades from music writers across all genres, including Rolling Stone magazine.
The National Folk Festival today announced Elephant Sessions, along with a range of new artists in its 2018 line-up, including top-drawer overseas and local acts, loud and proud community choirs, and incisive and comedic poets.
Belgian quintet WÖR injects new energy into 18th-century tunes from the Flanders region with their finely textured, innovative arrangements. Theirs is a modern twist on old tunes from the masters.
A treat for lovers of Irish music, Compánach is an intimate, audio-visual concert of music, song and dance bringing alive Irish traditional music against a backing flow of large-screen photographic images. Irish band, The Young Folk will delight with their tender song writing and harmonies and Trouble in the Kitchen returns to the National with a fresh repertoire of their firebrand take on Irish traditional music. Dancing shoes required!
Festival favourites and recent ARIA award winners All Our Exes Live in Texas have been described as “the most badass girl folk group ever”. Their powerful harmonies and heartbreakingly good song writing have wowed audiences across Australia and internationally and this is their third time the National. Another favourite, Victorian triple ARIA winners, My Friend The Chocolate Cake returns to the National in 2018 after a long absence.
Esteemed Scottish tradition bearer Fiona Ross joins forces with guitar maestro and ex-Steeleye Span member Ken Nicol to deliver a mesmerising set of traditional songs while The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club, with members aged from 8 to 80 will play original songs and haunting airs, high-octane jigs, reels and strathspeys.
There’s New Orleans street music from Sydney’s own Low Down Riders, upbeat, irreverent, eclectic versions of folk, blues, rap, country and gypsy music from Jugularity, bluegrass from recent Golden Guitar award winners the Davidson Brothers, old-school blues, Delta gospel and Mississippi Jazz from Electric Tommy Johnston and blues, gospel and folk from Frets Patrick.
Winner of the 2017 Lis Johnson Award for Vocal Excellence, Loren Kate will perform her beautifully crafted songs, The Northern Folk will showcase their unique brand of folk/pop/stomp/rock, Zac Saber will perform his soulful vocals and teenager, Matilda Rose wows audiences with her powerfully emotive and insightful songs that show a maturity well beyond her 16 years.
Meyers and McNamara boldly combine Klezmer and Jewish music with experimental instrumentals and original compositions and there’s also Island music, fused with jazz, reggae and African roots from Benji and the Saltwater Sound System and a fusion of hard rock and blues from The Quick and The Dead.
Community Choirs sing loud and proud and this year’s line-up includes the Grassroots Union Choir of Tasmania, Alleycats Community Choir from Victoria and InterVarsity from the ACT. There’s also the Ukestral Voices from NSW, singing three to four part harmonies accompanied by the ukulele, with a touch of comedy thrown in.
The National Folk Festival celebrates not only music, song and dance, but also the spoken word and poets in the 2018 line-up include award winning Keith McKenry with his mischievous and irreverent mix of original verse and bush poetry, Sandra Renew with her social and political critique, Andrew Galan described by reviewers as “riddled with satire”, poet and folk musician Daniel J Townsend, bush poet Peter Mace, performance poet Jacqui Malins teaming up with cellist Julia Horvath and award-winning cowboy poet and wordsmith extraordinaire from the US, Dick Warwick, presenting classic and original verses.
There’s also satirist and poet-musician Martin Pearson, Canberra’s own BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! with their poetry, rhyming, hip hop, verse, manifestos, shopping lists, rants and more, bush poetry from Gregory North and the comedy act, Glover and Sorrensen, who say they are just two blokes having a chat with the audience.
There’s something for everyone at the National and in 2018, fun activities for the whole family include the Super Circus Squad with their interactive show following the journey of two super-heroes and the String Bean Puppets from New Zealand.
US, IRISH, GREEK, ENGLISH AND SERBIAN ACTS JOIN TOP AUSTRALIAN ACTS
The National Folk Festival has announced a bakers’ dozen of 13 more artists, joining the growing line-up of exciting acts for 2018.
Performing in Australia for the first time and exclusive to the National is US acoustic duo, Ryanhood. Starting their music career as street-performers at Boston’s Quincy Market, they have won more than a dozen music awards in their home state of Arizona including Best Folk Band and Best Rock Band. Cameron Hood’s rich and folky lead vocals, Ryan Green’s explosive guitar and mandolin riffs, their airtight vocal harmonies and easy rapport with audiences have become a hallmark of their shows.
With a name that combines the Latin word for purple, a colour symbolising spirituality and mystery, with the name of group leader Chrysoula Kechagioglou, Chrysoula K. & Púrpura (Greece) bring together East and West. Creating a sound mosaic that is nostalgic, vivid, playful and airy, their music is a mesmerising exploration of ‘the endless dialogue between the four cardinal points of the horizon’.
From Serbia and the UK, Faith i Branko merges the genius of Branko Ristic—one of the leading Roma violinists of this century—with Faith Ristic, a charismatic and virtuosic UK accordionist. The two came together when Faith travelled to the Balkans in search of a Gypsy violinist to join her circus band. Their music is sheer delight with their fusion style switching with ease from exuberant Balkan Romani music to ragtime, classical influences and reggae.
Also joining the register of international artists for the 2018 National Festival are young, high-energy contemporary bluegrass quintet Flats and Sharps (UK) along with Ireland’s John McSherry and Donal O’Connor, regarded as the finest traditional Irish Uilleann Pipe and fiddle duet of their generation; their sound is acoustic perfection itself.
Headlining the Australian contingent is Damian Howard (VIC), whose new album, Ned, includes new interpretations and original-penned songs that celebrate the life and times of one of Australia’s most notable historical figures, Ned Kelly.
The impressive list continues with Miriam Lieberman (NSW) performing on kora (African harp) and guitar. Her songs are reminiscent of Joni Mitchell infused with the rhythms of West Africa, enhanced by the soaring string and vocal accompaniment of Lara Goodridge on violin and Liz Frencham on double bass.
The Black Swans of Trespass (TAS) will have audiences up on their feet with their funky, soulful, sound, while high-energy travelling folk band, The Button Collective (NSW), combines new Australian stories with elements of traditional Irish music, spiced up with the spirit of fast-paced American old-timey grooves.
Horns of Leroy (VIC) take street music to a new level with their New Orleans to Fitzroy inspired flavours, The Royal High Jinx (VIC) write, play and sing music inspired by European traditions while sporting a spectacular burlesque wardrobe and Squeebz (VIC) takes Irish, Cape Breton, Québécois and Breton music to a new level with their high-energy tunes and songs.
For the kids, it will be a chance to buckle up and take a trip in a giant time machine to get up close and personal with a life sized T-Rex! Dinosaur Time Machine incorporates the latest discoveries about dinosaurs with circus and puppetry, in this unique educational theatre production.
NATIONAL FOLK FESTIVAL MAJOR LINE-UP ANNOUNCEMENT
The National Folk Festival celebrates the diversity of folk with a major announcement of artists for 2018.
Audiences will be treated to some of the very best exponents of their craft from Australia and the world when the 52nd edition of this iconic event hits the Nation’s capital next Easter. Headlining a stellar list of acts is Scottish super group Breabach, Nashville darling Lindsay Lou, the ‘unhinged genius’ of Steve Poltz, Celtic songstresses Cara, wildly entertaining and brilliantly named Ten Strings and A Goat Skin, and Indigenous performer Gina Williams, who returns to the Festival with her full band.
Today’s announcement also features a mix established and much-loved artists alongside new and emerging performers of uncommon talent and virtuosity who have yet to become household names. The National presents a superb opportunity for audiences to hear these acts on stages from the intimate through to the capacious, all within a lively village environment.
With music and entertainment to capture every age and taste, from young indie duo Amistat (twin brothers Jan and Josef Prasil) to the ‘rebellious beauty’ of Bush Gothic or The Western Flyers with their electrifying Texas swing, there will be plenty on the table to whet the appetite for good music.
The National is renowned for presenting the very best of folk. Old-timey and trad acts rub shoulders with the contemporary and new. Audiences will relish the gritty hill-style gospel blues duo Hat Fitz and Cara, virtuoso folk-blues guitarist Daniel Champagne, sublime UK duo Chris While and Julie Matthews, Canadian trio The Good Lovelies and glam-folk sirens-of-satire Sparrow-Folk. Add the lyrical bluegrass songs of the John Flanagan Trio, glorious tunes and vocals from Marcia Howard, diplomat-turned-musician Fred Smith and the sensual, theatrical performances of Chaika, and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The list goes on: old time fiddle and banjo duo Cat and Clint; Charm of Finches (teen sisters Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes); The Chordwainers playing instruments crafted by world-renowned leather sculptor, Garry Greenwood, and the ‘infectiously fun’ Coconut Kids with French-influenced world folk using ukulele, brass, bass, keys, violin, mandolin and percussion.
In a treat for dancers, Australia’s leading Scottish Country Dance musicians, Chris Duncan with Catherine and Jennifer Strutt, will blow the party shoes off everyone on the dance floor! Ace fiddle player Gordie ‘Crazy Legs’ MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys will thrill with their exuberance and unstoppable roots music force, while Gippsland-born troubadour Harry Hookey, performing with Lucky Oceans and David Hyams, will wow audiences with their rousing sing-along stomp.
Families and children will delight in Australia’s favourite family puppet show, the Amazing Drumming Monkeys, blending puppetry, live music and comedy while lovers of circus will be enchanted by the glitter and laughter of Madhouse Circus and the nautical nonsense and sea shanty shenanigans of Pirateman Michael.
NFF ANNOUNCES SIX-PACK TASTER OF TOP ARTISTS
The 52nd National Folk Festival has announced its first round of artists for 2018, with six outstanding headline acts from the UK and Australia.
From England, Faustus and Belshazzar’s Feast will head to our shores to perform exclusively for Festival goers. Also on the bill is returning Festival favourite, Katey Brooks (UK) as well as homegrown heroes Mick Thomas and The Roving Commission (VIC), 19-Twenty (NSW) and Frumious (TAS).
From ‘bloke folk’ and ‘punk blues’ to gypsy jazz fusion and the indefinable and yet unmistakable sound of grassroots and suburban Australia, these diverse acts represent the very best in folk music today. They’re at the top of their game as virtuoso musicians, songwriters and entertainers, and each will bring their unique sound to Exhibition Park, Canberra throughout Easter (29 March—2 April 2018).
Heading the list is Faustus (UK), a ‘bloke folk’ triumvirate of prodigiously talented multi-instrumentalists; Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick and Saul Rose. This trio evolved from award-winning band Dr Faustus, and all three members have performed in other leading acts including the Seth Lakeman Band, Bellowhead, Waterson:Carthy and Whapweazel. Their three albums and dynamic shows have earned them widespread acclaim as the leading lights of their generation, with The Guardian describing them as “one of Britain’s outstanding folk bands” and The Independent on Sunday declaring their mission to be “to rescue contemporary folk from the curse of feyness…”.
Belshazzar’s Feast (Paul Hutchinson and Paul Sartin, UK) play breathtakingly beautiful and wickedly inventive tunes on oboe, accordion and violin, many of which incorporate slapstick comedy with outstanding musicianship.
Guitarist-singer-songwriter Katey Brooks (UK) has a haunting intensity and a “voice to melt glaciers” (Venue Mag). After blowing away three full houses at the 2017 Festival, Katey is packing her guitar and returning to Australia with her new album, We The People.
Another returning Festival favourite is the ‘raucous and manic’ trio from the NSW east coast, 19-Twenty. Featuring Kane Dennelly (vocals and guitars), Syd Green (percussion, drums, dobro) and John Gwilliam on double bass and vocals, 19-Twenty believe in “asking for forgiveness not for permission” and, accordingly, their music is the closest to punk the blues will ever get.
Each year the Festival draws on the best folk acts from two feature states, in a nod to its history as a travelling festival. For 24 years the Festival was held in different Australian cities and towns before putting down roots at its permanent home at Exhibition Park, Canberra. Tasmania and Victoria are the featured states for the 52nd National Folk Festival.The first acts announced for the featured states are Frumious, a high-energy quintet from Hobart. Borrowing from many styles and cultures, their music is an infectiously upbeat fusion of folk and gypsy jazz with a fresh, contemporary and original sound.
Mick Thomas & The Roving Commission (VIC) features raconteur, troubadour, balladeer and poet, Mick Thomas, along with Squeezebox Wally on piano accordion and a rotating lineup of talented performers to keep the party alive with Mick’s unique mix of folk, roots and country.