March 2, 2020

80th National Folk Festival Announces First Eight Performers (Theme for Maryland Folklife Area & Stage also Revealed)


The National Folk Festival announced today the first eight performers who will be featured at the 80th National Folk Festival, which will return to downtown Salisbury, September 11-13, 2020. In addition, festival organizers also revealed the theme for this year’s Maryland Folklife Area & Stage: Mountain Maryland will explore western Maryland’s rich cultural landscape. This year will mark the National’s 80th anniversary, and will be the third year of the event’s three-year residency in Salisbury.

On hand at the announcement were government leaders and planners for the event—including Lora Bottinelli, Executive Director, National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA); Blaine Waide, Associate Director, NCTA; Mayor Jake Day, City of Salisbury; and Caroline O’Hare, Local Manager, National Folk Festival.

“These eight artists attest to the incredible diversity of cultural traditions that will be celebrated at this year’s National Folk Festival—the 80th anniversary of the event!—and it is entirely free,” said Lora Bottinelli, NCTA Executive Director.

Approximately 350 artists—musicians, dancers, storytellers, and craftspeople—will take part in the National Folk Festival, with more than 35 different musical groups performing on 7 outdoor stages throughout downtown Salisbury.

The National Folk Festival strives to present the nation’s very finest traditional artists. Music and dance traditions from every part of the country are represented—blues, rockabilly, gospel, jazz, polka, tamburitza, cowboy, bluegrass, klezmer, R&B, old-time, Cajun, rhythm and blues, mariachi, beatbox, breakin’, western swing, honky-tonk and zydeco, as well as traditional music and dance from Native American, Celtic, Acadian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, East Asian, Appalachian, Latino, Eastern European, West African, and Pacific Island cultures, among others. The eight artists announced today include:

Grupo Rebolú (Queens, New York) – Colombian
The foremost Afro-Colombian ensemble in the United States plays the rich, rhythmic, and undeniably danceable music of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

Héctor Del Curto’s Tango Quartet (New York, New York) – Argentine tango
The elegant, subtle, and intensely passionate Argentine music and dance called tango could find no higher expression than the superb artistry of this bandoneónist and his ensemble.

Petroloukas Halkias & Vasilis Kostas (Boston, Massachusetts, and Epirus, Greece) – traditional music from Epirus
This groundbreaking intergenerational collaboration between a clarino (clarinet) legend and a rising star on the laouto is redefining the relationship between these instruments.

Shemekia Copeland (Chicago, Illinois) – blues
Schooled in the blues by her Texas bluesman father, this powerhouse singer is heir to the rich tradition of blues divas blazed by such greats as Ruth Brown, Etta James, and Koko Taylor.

Sri Lankan Dance Academy of NY (Staten Island, New York) – traditional Sri Lankan dance
Staten Island’s vibrant Sri Lankan community is home to this accomplished ensemble that is introducing the nation to the fascinating traditions of Kandyan dance.

The Alt (New York, North Carolina, and Ireland) – Irish
Three acclaimed masters of Irish music celebrate the traditional songs, tunes, and spirit at the heart of the tradition.

Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters (New Orleans, Louisiana) – funk and R&B
The Crescent City’s preeminent funk master is another in that city’s long line of singular musical personalities, adding touches of soul and jazz to his distinctive rhythm and blues sound.

Wylie & the Wild West (Conrad, Montana) – cowboy and western music
This world-class yodeler and cowboy singer is one of America’s most popular western entertainers who still lives the life of a working rancher and cutting-horse champion.

Over a dozen people of different backgrounds, and with a deep knowledge of music and art forms, came together from across Delmarva to serve as the local Musical Programming Advisory Committee. This committee’s role is to consider—and help the NCTA select—the artists who will perform at the National Folk Festival each year. To learn more about these artists and their stories, please visit

The National Folk Festival will feature each of these artists on Facebook (, Twitter (, and Instagram ( throughout the next month.

The Maryland Folklife Area & Stage celebrates and showcases the rich, living traditions of Maryland—from its Atlantic beaches to the Appalachian Mountains. With a different theme each year, the Folklife Area will shine the spotlight on the distinctive music, rituals, crafts, occupations, foodways, and other traditions at the heart of Maryland heritage, expressing both the state’s deep history and its evolving character.

Supported by Maryland Traditions, the state folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council, Mountain Maryland will highlight traditions influenced and inspired by western Maryland’s mountainous terrain.

“The National Folk Festival is proud to renew our partnership with Maryland Traditions in presenting the Maryland Folklife Area & Stage,” continued Bottinelli. “We are excited at the opportunity to showcase the best traditional artists from the mountainside communities of western Maryland on the Chesapeake’s Eastern Shore.”

More festival performers as well as the full program for the Maryland Folklife Area & Stage will be announced throughout the spring and summer of 2020.

The Maryland Folk Festival | Salisbury, MD is produced by

In Partnership with