In Its 40th Year, Takoma Park Folk Festival Celebrates the Diversity of the Community

Bele Bele Rhythm Collective 2Photo by Rebecca Dupas

Pictured Above: The Bele Bele Rhythm Collective is one of over 50 performers scheduled to play Takoma Park Folk Festival this Sunday

Rock, roots, soul and world music. These are just a sample of the genres you’ll hear at the Takoma Park Folk Festival this Sunday. In its 40th year, the festival is not so much centered on folk music as it is a celebration of the people who live in greater D.C. area.

“By weight of the word ‘folk,’ these festivals usually end up being a lot of guys with guitars,” said program chair Rob Hinkal. “One of the things that I’m very proud of is that the Takoma Park Folk Festival focuses on the folks of the D.C. metropolitan area.”

Some of the festival’s six stages feature a unique theme, like the World Stage with international music or the Grassy Nook for kids and teenagers, but most of them will host musical acts of various genres. Among the featured performers are Trio Sefardi, whose music tells the story of the Sefardic people of Bosnia; Bele Bele Rhythm Collective, whose primary influences lie in West African drumming; Silver Strings MD, a string band that performs both covers and originals; and Leo & Cygnus!, a five-piece indie-fusion band.

Of the nearly 300 applications received, only 56 performers were selected to play this year’s festival.

“A call for artists happens from mid-March to mid-April, and a committee reviews all the submissions and selects the artists that speak to them,” said Hinkal.

He also noted that the selection process is more rooted in video than in sound; a video of a vibrant live performance carries far more weight than a perfectly Auto-Tuned audio file.

With such an emphasis on local artists, it makes sense that all of the festival’s proceeds are funneled back into the local community. Hinkal noted that the festival, in its origin, was designed by former Takoma Park mayor Sam Abbott as a fundraiser to save the Takoma Theatre. Since then, the tradition of giving back to the community has persisted.

“A percentage of everything that is donated to the festival is given to local community recipients,” said Hinkal. These community recipients could range from local Boy Scout troops to other foundations and charities. Additionally, all performers volunteer their time and service.

The trifecta of local artistry, genre variety and community service helps the Takoma Park Folk Festival stand out from other “folk” festivals.

“It’s a very unique thing,” said Hinkal, “and it’s a very broad thing.”

Takoma Park Folk Festival will take place at Takoma Park Middle School on Sunday, Sept. 10. Show 10:30 a.m./Free