The spotlight will be on Capital District musicians and artists from marginalized communities this weekend at the Mohawk Hudson Folklife Festival in Albany.
Organized by New York Folklore, it brings together artists and tradition bearers from the Congo, Greece, China, Myanmar, Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
“Many of these folks have not been presented outside of their communities, ever,” said Ellen McHale, the executive director of NY Folklore, a state-wide organization that has headquarters in Schenectady.
The festival, which is slated to run from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Lake House Amphitheater in Washington Park, is the culmination of the Capital District Upstate Regional Initiative. Funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, last year NY Folklore tasked folklorist Anne Rappaport, along with Ladan Nikravan and Edgar Betelu with finding and documenting the work of artists working in a variety of cultural traditions in Albany and Rensselaer Counties.
“It was a little difficult because we were in the beginning of COVID at this point but we began to really look at the communities that were in the Capital District and what were the kinds of artists that were here,” McHale said.
They connected with musicians like Pinya Aung, who is a harpist in the local Karen community (a group that’s from Myanmar), and Shaman Awan and Aurelius John who play Pakistani music. They also connected with artists like Efthimios (Altin) Stoja, an iconographer, and Anping Liu, a Chinese papercut artist.
“There was such a diversity of expression and really an incredible wealth of arts in the region that I think that the crew that I was working with, Ladan, Edgar and Anne, just felt that we need to have a festival because there’s so much to be proud of and to support,” McHale said.
Throughout the afternoon artists will give demonstrations of everything from iconography painting to African hair braiding, wood carving and more.
There’s also a full schedule of performances by Aung, as well as Wa Lika Band from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and others. There will also be demonstrations and activities for kids, like a drum workshop and a henna artist will be working with kids.
While the festival is a chance to highlight the vibrant multicultural traditions being kept alive in the Capital District, McHale also wants people within these artists’ communities to see their own traditions up on stage.
“We are definitely hoping and encouraging communities to come. We feel it’s important for communities to see themselves within the Capital District also so it’s an opportunity for folks that represent different cultural groups to actually see that their cultural traditions are valued and supported in a more public venue,” McHale said.
Schedule of performances:
11:30 a.m. Washington Park Drummers
12 – 1 p.m. Karen (Myanmar) Harp by Pinya Aung
1 –2 p.m. Mixed Roots
2 – 3 p.m. Pakastani Music by Shaman Awan and Aurelius John
3 – 4 p.m. Wa Lika Band
4 – 5 p.m. Mundo Nuevo
For more information about the festival visit nyfolklore.org.