Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Evening Concerts

After the daytime Folklife Festival activities, we present an evening concert series at the Ralph Rinzler Concert Stage on the National Mall, featuring Basque and Californian musicians, dancers, and special guest artists. Bring a blanket and lawn chairs, grab dinner from the food concession stands, or pack your own picnic.

Concert schedules and locations are subject to change due to weather and other factors. In the event of thunderstorms, evening concerts will relocate to the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. We will post updates and alerts through this website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
6:30 p.m.
Kepa Junkera & Sorginak

Join us on the opening day of the Festival to see Kepa Junkera, a well-known Basque trikitixa (accordion) player. He currently tours with the Sorginak, an all-women group whose name translates as “witches.” Their music promotes the use of traditional Basque instrumentation while exploring new fusions of rhythm and sound. In 2004, Kepa won a Latin GRAMMY for Best Folk Album for his 2003 release, K.

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Kepa Junkera

Thursday, June 30, 2016
6:30 p.m.
Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader

These internationally recognized musicians represent the heritage and varied journeys of the Afghan exile community living in the United States. From Kabul to California, Homayoun Sakhi is admired as the outstanding Afghan rubâb player of his generation. Born in Afghanistan to one of the country’s leading musical families, Sakhi moved to Fremont in 2001. He was recorded for three of the GRAMMY-nominated Smithsonian Folkways albums in the Music of Central Asia series.

He will be joined by Salar Nader, a disciple of legendary master Ustad Zakir Hussain. Born in Germany, raised in San Francisco, and now based in Los Angeles, Nader is a virtuosic, renowned tabla player.

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Presented in collaboration with Aga Khan Music Initiative, a program of Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader

Friday, July 1, 2016
6:30 p.m.
NOKA and Mikel Markez
Biotzetik Basque Choir

UPDATE: Due to expected inclement weather, this evening concert will take place indoors in the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building.

Experience a night of Basque traditional music, interpreted in a modern context. NOKA is a trio of Basque American women based in Chino, California: Andrea Miren Bidart, Begoña Echeverria, and Cathy Petrissans. Together they specialize in songs about Basque culture, gender, and identity. The group’s name derives from the antiquated Basque noka form of address, used familiarly among women with a sense of konfiantza, or trust. They will be joined by modern folk singer and songwriter Mikel Markez from the Basque country. The poet-singer from Errenteria (Gipuzkoa) started singing at age fifteen, has recorded several albums, and has written songs for various other Basque musicians, including his most popular, “Zure Begiek (Your Eyes).”

The Biotzetik Basque Choir will kick off the evening with both traditional folk songs and sacred music. Founded in Boise, Idaho, in 1986, the thirty-one-person choir consists of native Basques and first- and second-generation Basque Americans.


Saturday, July 2, 2016
6:30 p.m.
Quetzal & Meklit

Enjoy the underground sounds of California’s largest cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Quetzal is a GRAMMY Award-winning Smithsonian Folkways “Chican@ rock group” rooted in the complex cultural currents of barrio life, its social activism, its strong feminist stance, and its rock ’n’ roll beginnings. They creatively combine shades of East L.A.’s soundscape, traditional son jarocho of Veracruz, salsa, R&B, and more to express the political and social struggle for self-determination and self-representation. Their next album on Smithsonian Folkways will be released later this year.

San Francisco-based singer and activist Meklit will join Quetzal on stage, adding her own blend of North American and Ethiopian jazz with folk, hip-hop, and art rock. She describes her music as emanating from “in-between spaces” and reflecting her three “sonic homelands” of Addis Ababa, Brooklyn, and the Bay Area.

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Quetzal Meklit

Sunday, July 3, 2016 
6:30 p.m.
Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert
NEA National Heritage Fellows: Celebrating 50 Years of the National Endowment for the Arts

In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the 2016 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert features extraordinary musicians from across the country who have received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest award for excellence in the folk and traditional arts.

These artists are not only masters of their tradition; as teachers, innovators, and advocates, they have made significant contributions to the living cultural heritage of their communities. Together they represent a remarkable portrait of the diversity of cultures and artistic traditions that enrich our nation.

Featured Artists

  • Iraqi American oud master Rahim AlHaj with Issa Malluf (percussion)
  • Irish American fiddler Liz Carroll with Jake Charron (guitar/keyboards)
  • Dobro musician Jerry Douglas
  • Mexican American conjunto musician Flaco Jiménez with Los Texmaniacs
  • Lakota flute player, singer, and dancer Kevin Locke with Max Defender (percussion)
  • Klezmer musician Andy Statman performing with The Andy Statman Trio
  • Legacy of go-go musician Chuck Brown with The Chuck Brown Band

  • This concert offers a preview of the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. For our 50th anniversary, we will feature a full program on the NEA National Heritage Fellows. Learn more about the concert and the featured artists.

    Presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts

    Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert

    Thursday, July 7, 2016
    6:30 p.m.
    Armenian Public Radio & TmbaTa

    Hear how young generations of musicians are harmonizing vintage Armenian melodies with contemporary sensibilities. The members of Armenian Public Radio grew up in the musically vibrant diaspora communities in Southern California.

    For this concert, they are joined by members of TmbaTa, a youth orchestra from Yerevan, Armenia, based at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, an innovative after-school program serving twelve- to seventeen-year-olds.

    This concert is sponsored by the My Armenia program, a joint partnership between USAID, the Smithsonian, and the people of Armenia.

    Presented in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Washington, D.C.

    Armenian Public Radio TmbaTa

    Friday, July 8, 2016
    6:30 p.m.

    Join us for a night of contemporary Basque music. Hailing from northern Basque country, Kalakan is a trio reinterpreting traditional music and other international rhythms using Basque txalaparta (xylophone-like instrument made from leftover cider-making parts), pandereta (tambourine), atabal (kettledrum), and more. In 2012, they took to the world stage by accompanying Madonna on her MDNA tour.

    Gatibu comes from Gernika (Bizkaia), bringing with them a wide range of rock and pop music in the Basque language. Led by singer Alex Sardui, the four-piece band has toured around Basque country and Europe since their inception in 2002.

    Kalakan Gatibu

    Saturday, July 9, 2016
    6:30 p.m.
    John Santos Sextet & Bobi Céspedes

    Get your groove on Saturday evening with the John Santos Sextet, one of the premier Latin jazz ensembles in the world, led by seven-time GRAMMY-nominated percussionist John Santos. Born in San Francisco, Santos was raised in the Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean traditions of his family and surrounded by the fertile musical environment of the Bay Area. He plays alongside John Calloway (flute), Marco Diaz (piano, trumpet), David Flores (drums), Melecio Magdaluyo (saxophones), and Saul Sierra (bass).

    Joining the sextet on stage is bandleader Bobi Céspedes, an acclaimed vocalist and composer who specializes in Cuban son in particular and Afro-Caribbean music, culture, and tradition in general.

    John Santos Sextet Bobi Céspedes

    Sunday, July 10, 2016
    4:15 p.m.

    Celebrate the end of the 2016 Festival with a cross-program concert of artists from Basque: Innovation by Culture and Sounds of California. The eight-piece Korrontzi folk band is led by Agus Bandadiaran, who plays the trikitixa (Basque accordion). Through its performances, the band seeks to elevate Basque traditional music and dance, adding modern instruments and rhythms to make it accessible to a larger public.

    Representing California is Banda Brillo de San Miguel Cuevas, a ten-piece drum and brass band that plays chilenas from the Mixteco community of Oaxaca via Fresno, California.

    Rounding out the evening is the Armenian youth orchestra TmbaTa, who come from Yerevan to accompany Los Angeles group Armenian Public Radio and to spread awareness about the Smithsonian project My Armenia. They perform original compositions based on traditional Armenian folk songs combined with rock and experimental music.

    Korrontzi Low Leaf