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Media Release June 2016 - Sounds of California Program Release

Visitors To Hear the “Sounds of California” at 2016 Folklife Festival

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James Mayer

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This summer, visitors to the 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will hear the diverse music from the state of California, whose musicians demonstrate the social power of music and cultural heritage. “Sounds of California” will present a series of evening concerts and daytime performances, activities and discussions. The Festival will host 60 California musicians who are first-, second- and third-generation Americans, as well as the descendants of much earlier migrants and California’s first peoples. They will perform music reflecting their different influences and heritage, including Afghan, Afro-Cuban, Armenian, Filipino, Japanese, Kumeyaay, Mexican and more. These artists embody the resilience of culture and community. They demonstrate how cross-cultural, intergenerational and transnational collaborations can energize and strengthen traditions.

The Festival will be held Wednesday, June 29, through Monday, July 4, and Thursday, July 7, through Sunday, July 10, outdoors on the National Mall between Fourth and Seventh streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, with special evening events beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

Visitors to the Festival program will be able to visit the “Sounds of California” performance tent, the site of daytime performances and discussions by the participants. In the smaller “La Cueva” and “The Studio” tents, visitors can engage directly with participants as they prepare for their performances, teach games and demonstrate crafts such as basket- and instrument-making. Master artists will lead dance, language and music workshops. Radio Bilingüe will be onsite interviewing participants and visitors and providing a behind-the-scenes look into the radio production process.

Evening Concerts

The “Sounds of California” program will feature four special concerts. All special concerts are at 6:30 p.m. on the Ralph Rinzler Concert Stage except when noted below.

Thursday, June 30: Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader

From Kabul to California, Homayoun Sakhi is admired as the outstanding Afghan rubâb player of his generation. Born in Kabul, Sakhi moved to Fremont, Calif., in 2001. Salar Nader is a renowned tabla player and composer who grew up in San Francisco and is now based in Los Angeles.

Saturday, July 2: Quetzal and Meklit

The Grammy-winning band, Quetzal, was formed in 1993 by Chicano rock guitarist Quetzal Flores. Songwriter and lead singer Martha Gonzáles calls Quetzal an “East LA Chicano rock group,” summing up its roots. The band’s next album on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is due out later in 2016. Ethiopian-born, San Francisco-based singer, composer and cultural activist Meklit blends the sounds of North American and Ethiopian Jazz with folk, hip-hop and art rock.

Thursday, July 7: Armenian Public Radio and TmbaTa

The members of Armenian Public Radio grew up in a musically vibrant Armenian diaspora. Based in Los Angeles, these artists meld traditional Armenian music with a modern and innovative style. TmbaTa is a youth orchestra based at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, an after-school program in Yerevan, Armenia, serving 12- to 17-year-olds.

Saturday, July 9: John Santos Sextet and Bobi Céspedes

Led by seven-time Grammy-nominated percussionist John Santos, the John Santos Sextet is one of the premier Latin Jazz ensembles in the world. Born in San Francisco, Santos was raised in the Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean traditions of his family. Afro-Cuban bandleader Bobi Céspedes came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1959, eventually settling in the San Francisco Bay area. An ordained Yoruba-Lucumi priestess, her spirituality has informed her lyrics and music.

Sunday, July 10; Korrontzi, Low Leaf and TmbaTa

(concert begins at 4:15 p.m.)
The eight-piece Korrontzi folk band is led by Agus Bandadiaran, who plays the trikitixa. The band seeks to elevate Basque traditional music and dance, adding modern instruments and rhythms to make it accessible to a larger public. Low Leaf is a singer, songwriter, musician and producer from Los Angeles. She melds traditional instruments, like harp and piano, with electronics and inspiration from her Filipino heritage to create a freeform approach to music that is all her own. TmbaTa is a youth orchestra from Yerevan, Armenia, who perform original compositions based on traditional folk songs combined with rock and experimental music.


“Sounds of California” is presented by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and sponsored, in part, with federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center, and the Sakana Foundation. It is produced in collaboration with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Radio Bilingüe and the Aga Khan Music Initiative.

About the Festival

The 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will feature two programs. In addition to “Sounds of California,” the second program is “Basque: Innovation by Culture.” The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors contemporary living cultural traditions and celebrates those who practice and sustain them. Produced annually by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Festival has featured participants from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Follow the Festival on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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