14 March 2024

Get 'lost in the magic' of the National Folk Festival 2024

| Dione David
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Musicians from Guanaco Trio

From Buenos Aires, Guanaco Trio’s shared love of Argentinian folkloric music blends with modern harmonies and counterpoint, creating a dazzling musical dialogue. Photo: Supplied.

From Thursday 28 March to Monday 1 April, about 40,000 people are expected to flock to EPIC Showgrounds to experience acts from around 900 artists across multiple stages, along with the many installations, activities, activations and spectacles that comprise the National Folk Festival.

This is one half of the “Nash”, according to this year’s co-artistic director Chris Stone – the part you’ll see, hear, taste and feel when you buy a ticket.

“You might walk past a stage and a song in Icelandic sung by Svavar Knútur will catch your ear, and you stop to listen. You might get lured away by the sight of a roaming Poi Wizard, before being caught up by the sound of Esfandiar Shahmir’s ney (Iranian flute) wafting from a tent,” he says.

“You might stop by a workshop hosted by an unknown artist and find yourself with an invite to jump up on stage with them the next day.

“We’ve created endless pathways to get lost in the magic of it, and find yourself having a transformative experience alongside performers and new friends you may never have otherwise encountered.”

Harry Manx with his guitar

“Mysticssippi” blues man and Festival artist Harry Manx from Canada has been called an “essential link” between the music of East and West. Photo: Supplied.

There are three artistic directors for this year’s festival, providing bandwidth to put on a National Folk Festival we won’t soon forget, but also to nurture the other part of the event – the long-standing community from all around Australia that supports folk and world music traditions.

This includes more than 1000 festival volunteers looking after everything from sales in bars and shops to patrons’ accessibility and camping needs. Many are long-standing, whose vast knowledge and passion make the festival possible.

“The Festival wouldn’t exist without them,” Chris says.

“We have a community that’s invested in ensuring this event continues sustainably and vibrantly into the future. That’s something that’s really beautiful about the complex and colourful beast that is the National Folk Festival.

“It’s why we’re repositioning the Nash back into its leadership role in the Australian folk community, and as a platform for maintaining a healthy, connected folk and world music scene.”

READ ALSO Diversity takes centre stage at National Folk Festival

This is one of the reasons the artistic directors this year made the conscious decision not to pay too much for “big name” headline acts with premium fees that have traditionally devoured a huge percentage of the budget.

Chris says one headline act can easily soak up “proper fees” for 10 Australian bands.

“Ethically we struggle to see that as a smart choice,” he says.

“We’ve been talking to other festivals, and the feedback from punters is that one of the main things people enjoy going to Folk Festivals for is to discover something new. They’re not necessarily being drawn by one big name – they’re after a holistic, transformative experience that’ll deliver acts unknown to them. They want to go home with new music they can share with friends, follow up and explore.”

Folk artist Robyn Martin

Aussie artist Robyn Martin’s music traverses a wide terrain from deep pocket soul, mixed with heartwarming, thought-provoking folk sensibilities. Photo: Supplied.

The Festival this year boasts a diverse lineup of local, national and international acts. Many are small; all are exceptional.

Festival-goers are guaranteed to stumble upon an act that hits the right notes for them, or can take the more measured approach of combing through the program and researching the artists.

“One of the acts I’m looking forward to seeing is Radical Son, an Indigenous soul folk artist. He has this incredible stage presence and message, and one of the biggest voices I’ve ever heard,” Chris says.

“We have John Craigie coming from the US. He’s a bit Bob Dylanesque, a comedian, and a poignant and insightful singer-songwriter. He’s huge in the States but this’ll be his first tour in Australia, so we’re excited to share him with the Australian folk scene.

“We’ve also got on stage for the first time at the National Folk Festival Grace Petrie, a powerful protest singer-songwriter and LGBTQ+ advocate from the UK. She’ll also sit on some forums about inclusion and diversity.

READ ALSO Singer-songwriter tunes into the most productive of environments … the Yass Valley

The lineup seeks to prove once and for all that access and excellence are not mutually exclusive, and foster the traditional “folkie” environment, where legends inspire and encourage newcomers to rise up on the scene. If it does its job, everyone and anyone will feel comfortable picking up a ukulele with AJ Leonard, or joining the Festival Choir with The Maes.

It’ll also dispel the myth that folk music is “daggy”.

“There is vibrancy, history, and culture behind these musics. There’s also incredible richness, diversity and clarity of artistic intent from folk, world and Indigenous artists.

“Yes, there are some beautiful daggy moments, and we all love them. But prepare to immerse yourself in the layers of artistic vibrancy, passion and energy that will make up The Nash this year.”

The National Folk Festival takes place on Thursday 28 March to Monday 1 April at EPIC Showgrounds – book tickets here.

Original Article published by Dione David on Riotact.

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