Northwest Folklife Festival – 25 May 2024

Northwest Folklife Festival – Seattle Center – 25 May 2024

Seattle Center hosts an annual Folklife Festival, with the performances as sprawling as the campus itself.   I haven’t been there often enough to have mastered the physical layout of the place; between that, the somewhat-lacking signage, and some ambiguously labeled venues, I spent a bit of valuable sketching time trying to locate the performances.  Okay, codger!  Cascade Cody got the most shorted, I arrived for just the two final numbers and rushed through the work (  Mahonyera Mbira Ensemble ( was a deep dive into the music of Zimbabwe’s Shona people; the mbira is like an oversized kalimba (thumb-piano), with the finger action here taking place within a large bowl-like structure, thus obscured from view.  The audience was the most tuned-in, I’m-swaying/dancing-to-my-own-shared-vibe bunch that I saw all day!  Kimball, of the Haida people, offered a Native American take on folk music (  Boyd plays Norwegian trad fiddle music, a different deep dive.  Hard to tell what was most fascinating, his accounts of learning from the masters, his collection of fiddles, or the actual music.  Scandanavian fiddles and players are of a tradition quite distinct from the typical “classical” Cremona-based axe standard.  For starters, some instruments have more than four strings, which  introduces all sorts of possibilities for drone, complex bowing technique, and extensive counterpoint.   All of that sound coming from just one guy and a box?  Dropped my jaw, and I could have easily gobbled a set much longer than the meager 20 minutes that Boyd got.

Cascade Cody

Benny Sidelinger










Sheree Serretse

Claire Jones









Baraka Phillip Page

Zack Moon









Randall Kimball

Bill Boyd


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