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In addition to daily performances and activities on the National Mall, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival organizes and recommends events and exhibitions at other Smithsonian museums and venues around Washington, D.C. All events are free unless otherwise noted.

Upcoming Events

Sound Scene
June 29 and 30, 2019, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Sound Scene
Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Independence Avenue and Seventh Street SW, Washington, D.C.

This annual interactive audio art installation for all ages is presented by the DC Listening Lounge collective. Rest in a dream tent, hold sounds in your hands, listen through your fingertips, take an acoustic tour, practice mixing samples, transform words from speech to text to dance, and more.


Musical Crossroads

Musical Crossroads
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Permanent exhibition

In exploring how the intermingling of musical and cultural traditions, styles and beliefs, brought forth new modes of American musical expression, the exhibition expands the definition of African American music to include African American music-makers in all genres and styles.

Represent: Hip-Hop Photography

Represent: Hip-Hop Photography
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Open through May 5, 2019

Represent: Hip-Hop Photography highlights images from the museum’s Eyejammie Hip Hop Photography Collection and pairs them with historical photos and other hip-hop-related objects from the museum’s permanent collection. These unique pairings highlight connections between the popular art form and its relationship to other important historical figures, social movements, and creative moments.

Past Events

Hip-Hop Culture Block Party
March 7, 2019, 6 to 8 p.m.

Hip-Hop Culture Block Party
Smithsonian National Postal Museum
2 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, D.C.

In honor of the twentieth anniversary of the Hip-Hop Culture stamp, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum is hosting an indoor Hip-Hop Block Culture Party featuring the DMV Hip Hop Orchestra. Come dance, learn, and have fun for the culture! Admission is free, but registration is requested on Eventbrite.

Mother Tongue Film Festival 2019
February 21–24, 2019

Mother Tongue Film Festival
Various venues in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian’s Mother Tongue Film Festival celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity by showcasing films and filmmakers from around the world over four days of free screenings in Washington, D.C. Since 2016, the annual festival has opened on February 21, International Mother Language Day. In 2019, the Mother Tongue Film Festival will be featured as a major event of the United Nations’ Year of Indigenous Languages.

Angola Prison with Lead Belly in the foreground
February 12, 2019, 4 to 5 p.m.

Prison Music: Reconsidering Music at Louisiana State Penitentiary, 1964–1976
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
600 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.

Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is one of the most notorious prisons in the United States, a place also known for a rich music history. The prison has been a research site for folklorists John and Alan Lomax and Harry Oster and held well known musicians, including Huddie William Ledbetter or “Lead Belly” and Robert Pete Williams. Join Georgetown University professor and ethnomusicologist Benjamin J. Harbert for this free lecture.

Worlds of Sound: The Ballad of Folkways
February 11, 2019, 1 to 3 p.m.

Film Screening: Worlds of Sound: The Ballad of Folkways
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
600 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.

Folkways Records founder Moses Asch turned the music business model on its head. He avoided hit makers and catered to unknown musicians. He dug into vanishing traditions around the world to harness music and sounds that inspire people. Artists like Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly can still be heard on this original indie label that, for over sixty years, has made good on its mission of gathering sound and spreading it to the people.

Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry
January 11, 2019, 5 to 7 p.m.

Folkways Vinyl Release Listening Party
Home Rule Records
702 Kennedy St. NW, Washington, D.C.

Join Home Rule Records, ANXO Cidery, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings as we celebrate the vinyl release of Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry’s Sing, Kaia Kater’s Grenades, Lead Belly’s Easy Rider, and Dave Van Ronk’s Dave Van Ronk Sings Ballads, Blues, and a Spiritual. Enjoy ANXO snacks and ciders for purchase.

Mississippi John Hurt
January 8, 2019, 4 to 5 p.m.

Meaning, Memory, and Music
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
600 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.

What is the place of music in our lives as both shared and individual experience? This talk offers a reflection on the many ways music features in memory and meaning by tracing the arc of musical experience in John Fenn’s life as a listener, creator, and researcher. Fenn is the head of the Research and Programs section of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. He has conducted fieldwork on expressive culture in Malawi, China, Indiana, and Oregon—exploring a wide range of practices, traditions, and communities. 

Social Power of Music
January 2, 2019, 6 to 8 p.m.

The Social Power of Music Listening Party
Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe
2475 18th St. NW, Washington, D.C.

Be among the first to hear the new Smithsonian Folkways Recordings box set, The Social Power of Music. This curated collection chronicles the vivid, impassioned, and myriad ways in which music binds, incites, memorializes, and moves groups of people. With over eighty tracks on four CDs, it invites listeners into musical practices, episodes, and movements throughout the United States and beyond.

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.