NCFF Announces Ten Performing Artists and Special Guest Curator Rhiannon Giddens


Grammy winner and North Carolina native Rhiannon Giddens will help launch the inaugural year of the North Carolina Folk Festival as both guest curator and performer, announced today by Festival organizers together with nine other artists who will be performing at the Festival in downtown Greensboro September 7, 8, 9, 2018.

Additional artists will be added to the schedule in the coming weeks.


Admission to the three-day Festival weekend is FREE to the public.

Performers announced today encompass a wide range of musical genres – from zydeco and Puerto Rican bomba – to western swing, African American string band music, and Gypsy jazz, all building on the remarkable success of the recently completed three-year residency of the National Folk Festival, which drew more than 160,000 attendees to Greensboro in its final year last September.

“In just three years, we watched as the National became the fastest-growing annual event in North Carolina,” said Tom Philion, President and CEO of ArtsGreensboro, which produces the admission-free Festival with the help of the City, national sponsorship, foundation and media support and many other partners. “As we announced last year, capturing this destination event for North Carolina and Greensboro is a major coup for the region, which will celebrate America’s living traditions with unique North Carolina character.”

In addition to the discovery and excitement of the family-friendly weekend, the Festival will bring tangible benefits to the community as well – last year’s weekend attracted cultural tourists and harnessed significant economic awards for Greensboro estimated at more than $12 million.

Approximately 300 artists—musicians, dancers, storytellers, and craftspeople—will take part in the North Carolina Folk Festival, with more than 30 different musical groups performing on as many as seven outdoor performance venues throughout downtown Greensboro. The ten artists announced today include:

  • Rhiannon GiddensAfrican America string band, gospel, and balladry:    To the delight of her many friends and fans, singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens will be returning to her hometown as a performer and guest curator at the 2018 North Carolina Folk Festival. An untiring explorer of, and advocate for, traditional music, Giddens is best known as the frontwoman of African American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, whose 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig earned the group a Grammy® for Best Traditional Folk Album.
  • Trio BrasileiroBrazilian choro: This Grammy-nominated trio is dedicated to performing the great traditional choro music of Brazil. Choro, which means “cry” or “lament” in Portuguese, is arguably one the first urban popular music forms originating in Rio de Janeiro in the 19th century.  Choro is inspired by several musical styles such as waltz, mazurka, polka and habanera, that combined with African rhythms to create a virtuosic, syncopated, improvisational music that despite what its name implies, is often fast and joyous.
  • Viento de AguaPuerto Rican bomba & plena: Viento de Agua combine the traditional Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms, bomba & plena, with other Afro-Caribbean styles and jazz to create an infectious dance music that honors the group’s ancestral roots while embracing modern sounds. Founded in New York City in 1997 by percussionist and singer, Hector “Tito” Matos, a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, Viento de Agua has traveled the world as performers and ambassadors at the forefront of contemporary bomba & plena. Viento de Agua is presented by the Levitt Foundation.
  • Kristyn Harriswestern swing, country, yodeling: Kristyn Harris grew up on a small ranch just north of Dallas, Texas, where from an early age she became actively involved in working with, studying, and training horses.  She began performing professionally when she was 14, drawn to songs of the western lifestyle because of her passion for the land and her rural upbringing.  Self-taught in the art of yodeling, Harris describes how she learned by, “watching old singing westerns and listening to cowboy music, yodeling was always incorporated in the music, so I practiced with recordings of artists like Jimmie Rodgers and Patsy Montana while I was alone in the barn.”  When not touring as a musician, Harris trains wild mustangs and hones her skills as a trick rider.
  • The FitzgeraldsOttawa Valley fiddling and step dancing: The Fitzgeralds are a family group consisting of fiddling and step dancing siblings – Tom, Kerry and Julie Fitzgerald. Growing up in the Ottawa Valley, and area nestled along the Ottawa River between eastern Ontario and Quebec, they were immersed in the rich tradition of Canadian old-time fiddling and step dancing that evolved through the influence of Irish, Scottish and French immigrants in the region.
  • Shashmaqam:Jewish Bukharan music from Central Asia: The vibrantly colorful ensemble Shashmaqam was the first and one of the most prominent performing groups to emerge among the New York Bukharan Jewish immigrant community. The ensemble specializes in the classical and folk music of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as the liturgical repertoire of Bukharan Jews.
  • Indrajit Roy-Chowdhury & Naren BudhkarIndian sitar & tabla:  New York based sitarist Indrajit Roy-Chowdhury grew up in both the U.S. and India and is one of the most talented young exponents of the Hindustani classical music of northern India’s Rampur Senia gharana (or “musical heritage”).  His rich, diversified background has inspired collaborations with artists from many other genres including jazz.  Through these collaborations and his own compositions he strives for a fine balance between traditionalism and innovation.  Naren Budhakar was born in Pune, the cultural capital of western India to a musical family. His father, a violinist, provided Naren his earliest exposure to Indian classical music, and his cousin, a lifelong student of the Delhi style of percussion, guided his earliest study of music. Since coming to the U.S. Naren has pursued his musical career with unrelenting dedication and his aesthetic on the tabla has him in high demand to perform expertly with vocal, instrumental and dance artists.
  • Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas – zydeco: Nathan Williams plays zydeco, the fast and furious accordion-driven dance music of the Creole people of South Louisiana, a relatively modern style that emerged after the Second World War. With its trademark rubboard percussion, electric guitars and R&B influences, zydeco is distinct from the fiddle-driven music of neighboring Cajuns.
  • John Jorgenson QuintetGypsy jazz: Born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, John Jorgenson first came to national attention in the mid 1980s as co-founder of the country-rock act The Desert Rose Band.   In the late 1970s Jorgenson discovered gypsy jazz—the string-driven swing created by Jean “Django” Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in 1930s Paris.  He immersed himself in the music and continued to explore the musical style with his own ensembles while touring internationally with other artists.  Jorgenson is now known as “the US Ambassador of Gypsy Jazz” and even portrayed Django Reinhardt in the Hollywood feature film “Head in the Clouds.”
  • The Embersbeach music: One of most prominent, successful and long-running bands playing beach music is The Embers. Drummer Bobby Tomlinson is the only remaining original member of the group that was formed in Raleigh, NC in 1958.  The group has recorded 17 albums, numerous singles, and continue to perform around 300 dates a year. The Embers have been named North Carolina’s Official Musical Ambassadors and were inducted into the South Carolina Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 1995.  This performance is sponsored by Ardmore Residential.

To learn more about these artists and their stories, please visit The NC Folk Festival will also feature individual artists on social media:

More performers will be announced as they are confirmed.


About the North Carolina Folk Festival: Produced by ArtsGreensboro, the NC Folk Festival is celebrating its first year as a legacy event following the three-year residency of the National Folk Festival which took place in Greensboro from 2015-2017. The FREE, three-day event is North Carolina’s fastest growing cultural event and will take place in downtown Greensboro the weekend of September 7-9, 2018.

About ArtsGreensboro With an annual budget of approximately $3.5 million, ArtsGreensboro is a catalyst for innovation to build recognition and support for the arts. Through its annual community-wide Campaign for the Arts- supported grant programs, the 17DAYS Arts & Culture Festival, and other opportunities including the NC Folk Fest and the Van Dyke Performance Space, ArtsGreensboro is driving the health and vitality of our community by supporting arts education, celebrating the diversity of Greensboro, and driving economic impact through excellence in arts programming.