Smithsonian Folklife Festival Returns to the National Mall With Free Evening Concerts

Article Contributed by Shore Fire Media | Published on Saturday, June 4, 2022

The 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, returning to the National Mall June 22–27 and June 30–July 4 after a two-year hiatus, will present free performances by musicians steeped in traditions that span the globe. After daytime activities wrap at 6 p.m., the festival transforms into a lively music venue and outdoor movie theater. These events are free and open to the public and will be presented on the Ralph Rinzler Main Stage located on the National Mall between Seventh Street and 12th Street. In addition, the selected concerts will be livestreamed on the festival’s YouTube channel. Food is available for purchase at the festival’s concessions or visitors can bring their own and enjoy a picnic on the National Mall.

The schedule includes a dynamic lineup of concerts and film screenings:

Internationally acclaimed musician and arts education advocate Yo-Yo Ma hosts a concert featuring music and poetry from Afghanistan and beyond. Sharing the stage will be Homayoun Sakhi (rubab), Salar Nader (tabla), Stanley Clark (bass), Ahmad Fanoos (vocals), Elham Fanoos (keyboard), Mehran Fanoos (violin), Hamid Habibzada (tabla), Nazira Wali (cello); and Cheryl Green (violin), Alex and Sophie Sherzai (vocals) with others to be announced. Presented in partnership with Asia Society–NY, the American Anthropological Association and Events DC.

Thursday, June 23, at 6:30 p.m.: A Night of Global Jazz + Funk  

UAE-based group NOON kicks off the evening with a mix of jazz, rock and traditional Middle Eastern elements. Washington, D.C.’s very own go-go/funk heroes, Experience Unlimited, close the evening with their trademark sound. Concertgoers are encouraged to bring their dancing shoes.

Friday, June 24, at 6 p.m.: Film Screening: My Garden of a Thousand Bees

The festival presents an outdoor screening of the one-hour documentary film, My Garden of a Thousand Bees. Taking refuge from the pandemic, acclaimed wildlife filmmaker Martin Dohrn sets out to record the incredible variety of wild bees in his small urban garden. The film is a production of Passion Planet, the WNET Group and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios in association with Ammonite Films. The screening is presented by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, a mission-driven production company dedicated to crafting compelling, immersive films about science and scientists.

Friday, June 24, at 7 p.m.: Alice Gerrard and Leyla McCalla

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings co-presents an evening with two of the most inspired—and inspiring—voices of their respective generations. Bluegrass music icon Alice Gerrard brings her expressive voice, powerful songwriting and mastery of the guitar, fiddle and banjo. Americana powerhouse Leyla McCalla is deeply influenced by tradition Haitian music, American jazz and folk. Support is provided by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative and complements the exhibition “Music HerStory: Women and Music of Social Change” on view at the National Museum of American History starting June 22. Co-presented by Smithsonian Folkways.

Saturday, June 25, at 6:30 p.m.: En Pura Plena: Celebrating the Life and Loves of Tito Matos

Friends and family gather to honor the life and 40-year career of fabled Puerto Rican plena musician, educator and community leader Tito Matos, who died suddenly this year. Sharing the stage are the John Santos Sextet and Friends, Los Pleneros de la 21, Los Pleneros de la Cresta, and Plenazo Cangrejero for a meaningful exploration of his music. Co-presented with Smithsonian Folkways.

Sunday, June 26, at 4 p.m.: Ode to the Ozarks

Providing a preview of the 2023 Folklife Festival, this special performance features old-time Ozarks music, blending fiddling, folk songs and mountain music. A trio led by David Scrivner will present an Ozarks jam session, followed by Sylamore Special, a group of five teenagers based in Mountain View, Arkansas.

Thursday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m.: Los Texmaniacs featuring La Marisoul

Tejano favorites Los Texmaniacs return to the festival stage, bringing Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter musician Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernandez to share previews of their upcoming album on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Opening act to be announced. Co-presented with Smithsonian Folkways.

Friday, July 1, at 6:30 p.m.: Sunny Jain’s Wild Wild East and REBOLU

Percussionist and Red Baraat founder Sunny Jain’s Wild Wild East takes its inspiration from Jain’s South Asian roots, Bollywood classics, Indian folk traditions, jazz improvisation and surf guitar styles. He is followed by the Smithsonian debut of Afro-Colombian music ensemble REBOLU who will offer vibrant, salsa-inspired music rooted in the diverse Afrocentric rhythms of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Co-presented with Smithsonian Folkways.

Saturday, July 2, at 6:30 p.m.: A View from the Streets—Urban Culture in the UAE

From hip-hop and trap to “calligraffiti” and spoken word, the UAE is a global crossroads of culture and creativity. This concert illuminates the country’s sonic diversity with performances by Arabic drill and trap pioneer Mustafa Ismail aka Freek, spoken word artists Maitha Al Suwaidi, Dorian “Paul D” Rogers, and Jaysus Zain; polymath Philip Rachid aka Soultrotter with break dancers Lana Ramadan and Zilla, and a transmedia collaboration from Michael Ang, aka Mang, Diaa Allam and Tegan McDuffie. The night ends with a screening of Rachid’s It Ain’t Where You From, a portrait of the UAE’s underground street dance scene, by The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi and the Shubbak Festival (London). Curated by Bill Bragin/The Arts Center at NYU-Abu Dhabi.

Sunday, July 3, at 4 p.m.: Riyaaz Qawwali

The final festival performance offers a look-ahead to 2023 and one of next year’s featured programs, “Creative Encounters: Living Religions in the U.S.” Dedicated to sharing a 700-year-old genre of Sufi devotional poetry and music from South Asia with a broad American audience, Houston-based Riyaaz Qawwali will offer a stirring program connecting faiths and cultures. Support is provided by Lilly Endowment’s Religious and Cultural Institutions Initiative.