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Special Events

Each year the Smithsonian Folklife Festival holds a special evening concert to honor both its co-founder Ralph Rinzler (1934-1994) and a key person with whom he collaborated. The 2010 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert paid tribute to Moses Asch (1905-1986), the founder of Folkways Records, by presenting Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, Bernice Johnson Reagan, and others who recorded for Folkways during Asch's lifetime.

In 1939 he started his own record company, Asch Records, based on his desire to release music that had something to say, not necessarily music that was popular or would sell well. During the next thirty-eight years, Asch released nearly 2,200 albums. He kept every title in print, even if it sold rarely. "You don't take Q out of the alphabet just because you don't use it as often," he explained. Asch's corpus of recordings is an amazing feat - not only for being primarily one person's effort, but also for creating a veritable encyclopedia of sound - human, natural, and mechanical. During the later years of his life, Asch was worried that no one would carry on his life's work, but rather would retain only the best-selling Folkways titles and scrap everything else. Fortunately, Rinzler was able to convince Asch that the Smithsonian would keep the label alive. The collection came to the Smithsonian in 1987 and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings was founded in 1988 - not only to continue the Asch legacy by maintaining every single recording, but also by issuing new releases in a similar vein.

The 2010 Festival also included special events featuring Haiti. In the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck that country in January 2010, the Smithsonian joined in solidarity with the arts and cultural heritage communities of Haiti to bring artists, musicians, and nearly two thousand Haitian craft items to the 2010 Festival. Sequined-flag artist Mireille Delismé and painter Levoy Exilare demonstrated their arts in the Festival Marketplace each day. The Haitian contemporary music group Boukman Eksperyanz and guest artist Tines Salvant performed a special evening concert on Saturday, June 26. The Festival activities were only one part of the Smithsonian’s long-term commitment to Haiti. In collaboration with the people of Haiti, several national and international agencies, and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Smithsonian coordinated an effort to salvage, restore, and safeguard art treasures damaged or endangered by the earthquake. Additionally, the National Museum of African Art hosted an exhibition, The Healing Power of Art, documenting the earthquake through Haitian eyes.

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