American Folk Festival - Aug. 26th, 27th, & 28th, 2016
Music, Dance & Culture from Traditions Across America & the World!
American Folk Festival Performers

The American Folk Festival features the traditional arts - music and dance - of the many cultures that make up America today. Traditions that represent the cultural heritage of a region, an ethnic group, a religious group, or an occupation are examples of the genres of music that are featured at the AFF. 

2016 American Folk Festival Performers

Gerardo Contino

Gerardo Contino y Los Harbaneros was selected by NPR/WNYC as Manhattan’s best band of 2015. Contino is a Cuban singer/songwriter who loves to improvise, pull the audience into call & response, and provoke fans into “hip-shaking abandon.” In 2015, Gerardo also joined the Max Weinberg Orchestra as the lead-Latin singer for the group. He has toured all over the world and was an invited speaker and performer for TEDMED2014 in the Kennedy Center for the Arts, Washington DC.

Michael Cleveland

Michael Cleveland is considered one of the premier bluegrass fiddlers of his generation. He has been playing fiddle since the age of 4 and made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 1993 as a guest of Alison Krauss. He is a GRAMMY winner and is the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 10-time Fiddle Performer of the Year.

Michael Mwenso

Michael Mwenso & The Shakes featuring Brianna Thomas is a Jazz revue comprised of between 3-5 vocalists and a rotating ensemble including percussionists, pianists, horns and more. Mwenso is just 31-years-old but has been singing and playing piano for more than 20 years. The Shakes were featured in late 2015 on Jazz Night in America on NPR and performed at the Kennedy Center’s 2015 New Year’s Eve Gala.

Nathalie Pieres

Sponsored by:
TD Bank

Nathalie Pires is a Portuguese performer who has received a number of awards and honors through her talents in traditional fado music. She began singing at the age of thirteen, and has recorded two albums including the most recent, Fado Alem, released earlier this month by Sony Music.

National Women's Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Dance Academy of New York is “part art showcase and part graduation.” The dancers in this troupe have trained for anywhere from 10-15 years to perform this tradition, and reach the master level. The troupe comes from Staten Island, NY, which has the largest community of Sri Lankans outside of Sri Lanka.

The East Pointers

The East Pointers is a trio performing traditional music from Prince Edward Island. The group’s debut album, Secret Victory contains 10 original tracks written by the group with a sound that could have come from any era in the history of Celtic/folk music. The group was named the Prince Edward Island New Artist of the Year in 2015 and has recently been touring in the UK and Australia.

Western Flyers

The Western Flyers is a classic western swing trio specializing in Cowboy songs and old-time fiddle tunes. Festival goers can expect a swinging rhythm section, brisk fiddling, and sensitive singing from this relatively new group. Joey McKenzie is the guitarist of the trio who has performed in forty-five US statesj as well as Canada Europe, Russia and South America. Katie Glassman on fiddle is a two-time National Fiddle Champion and is an integral part of Colorado’s thriving roots music scene. Gavin Kelso on bass has a powerful dexterity and a lively musical imagination.


Treme Brass Band

The Treme Brass Band is a New Orleans Parade Band and will serve as the American Folk Festival's parade group this year.  Treme Brass Band was at the first National Folk Festival hosted in Bangor in 2002.  The group plays traditional New Orleans-style brass band music and leads the Marching Krewe KOE on their Fat Tuesday Parade throughout the French Quarter in New Orleans.

St. Joes

Jeff Little

The Jeff Little Trio performed as part of the American Folk Festival in Bangor in 2006 and returned in 2007. An Appalacian performing group, the Jeff Little Trio is unique featuring the piano as the trio’s lead instrument, which is rare in traditional music. The National Council for the Traditional Arts called Little’s style “breathtaking in its speed, precision and clarity.”



Vishten will return to the Festival for the first time since 2004, bringing Acadian music and dance to the Bangor Waterfront.  The trio is made up of direct descendants of the first colonial families that inhabited their respective islands and second-generation traditional musicians.  Vishten recently won the East Coast Music Association 2016 award for Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year for their latest album, Terre Rouge.


Erica Brown

Erica Brown performed at the American Folk Festival in 2005 and will be bringing her Maine Fiddle music back to the Bangor Waterfront for the 15th Folk Festival.  Brown has been performing in Maine and around New England for more than 25 years with her considerable talents, including as a member of the Bates College "Fighting Bobcats" Orchestra for five years, in the Maine All-State Music Festival, and in winning a number of fiddle contests throughout New England and Canada.

Sea Dog


Bortherhood Singers

The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers is an African-American a cappella gospel group who performed at the Festival in 2011 is making a return to Bangor. The group is described as Quartet-style, performing in the old-school a cappella fashion with intricate and emotional four-part harmony. Over nearly 30 years of performing, the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers has sung all over the world and has collected a number of awards.



Cajun group Bonsoir, Catin is making its first visit to the American Folk Festival. The six-piece band was formed in 2005, performing at Louisiana dancehalls and festivals with a fresh sound that blends ancient ballads, dancehall era gems, swamp pop stylings, and rock n’ roll blues.


Lurrie Bell

The Lurrie Bell Band is a Chicago Blues group lead by a man who has amassed a dizzying number of awards and accolades for his talents. Lurrie Bell first picked up the guitar at the age of five and formed his first blues band while in high school. Bell has been called “the premier guitarist in the Windy City” by Boston Blues News, and credited with “An incendiary fusion of Chicago Blues boilerplate and his own mercurial imagination, hyperkinetic energy, and dazzling technical dexterity” by the Chicago Reader.

Barbara Cassidy


Fendika, a troupe of the most accomplished azmari musicians and dancers from Addis Ababa, draws deeply from the well of Ethiopia’s bardic tradition while adding creative movements and sounds that revitalize the ancient artistic forms. Fendika features seven performers – two dancers, two singers, and instruments including kebero drums, masenko (a one-stringed bowed fiddle),and krar (a five- or six-stringed lyre).

Tribu Baharu is an afro-champeta music crew from the Colombian Caribbean. The Champeta is a term that refers to a knife used by fishermen to remove fish scales. Champeta is a fishermen music with influences including Soukous (congo), Calipso, and reggae. Tribu Baharu’s main objective is to convey the joy of being Caribbean through dance, using music as a vehicle

Leo Sandoval is a Brazilian-born tap dance artist, described by the Chicago Sun-Times as “strong yet fine-boned, capable of authority and nuance.” Sanodval began his dance studies at the age of six. When he was 11, he began appearing on Brazilian TV and at 18 he was invited to Los Angeles to attend the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and the L.A. Tap Festival.

Nakotah LaRance has been called The World’s Best Hoop Dancer. At the young age of 26, LaRance took top honors in the Hear Museum’s 25th World Hoop Dance Championships both last year and this year, and is a master of his own 5-hoop routine. The Native American Hoop Dancer is also an actor (he’s appeared in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and two other motion pictures), LaRance has also spent time as a featured artist with Cirque du Soleil’s Totem and his dancing was featured in a music video for The Knocks and Fred Falke.

Alash is a trio of master throat singers from Tuva, a tiny republic in Central Asia. Named for the Alash River, which runs through Tuva, Alash is made up of three members who were trained in traditional Tuvan music since their childhood. Alash has won a number of awards, and has been praised by media in America, including the Washington Post calling their music “utterly stunning.”

Shodekeh is a professional beat boxer who has been performing since he was 9-years-old. He credits the popularity of the artform in the 1980s as his inspiration to give it a try. Calling beatboxers “vocal mad scientists,” Shodekeh holds the title of Best Poetry DJ for the 2006 Poetry for the People Awards, and won an award for Baltimore’s Best Accompanist in 2007.

Maine Edge

For a list of performers from previous years, click here.