The Richmond Folk Festival brings together musical genres from around the world


The Richmond Times-Dispatch gets into the Folk Fest spirit with a performance by Virginia folk artist Josh Bearman.



“You Know the Blues” Jimmy “Duck” Holmes sang while strumming his guitar and opened his midday set on Sunday at the 18th edition Richmond Folk Festival.

But Holmes’ style of the genre, Bentonia blues, is distinct in that it emphasizes open E minor and open D minor and originates from his Mississippi hometown of Bentonia.

When not on tour performing at festivals and other venues, Holmes is the owner of the Blue Front Café in Bentonia, the oldest operating juke joint in Mississippi. The cafe, which his parents opened in 1948, is where he was first introduced to the style of blues he made his career out of and he has owned the place since 1970.

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In 2019, Holmes’ contributions to the blues genre caught the eye of Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach.

“Somehow he got my performance and he got into that style and sound,” Holmes said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch just before taking the stage on Sunday, the last day of the three-day festival which attracted thousands of spectators. to enjoy artists performing on six stages by the downtown riverside.

Auerbach, who also produces, worked with Holmes on his album, Cyprus Roads”, which will be nominated for a Grammy. The Black Keys will then perform at the Blue Front Café.

By the second song of his set on Sunday at the CarMax stage near Brown’s Island, the tent began to fill with more than 100 people – a crowd about a third the size of Holmes’ small hometown which was the cradle of a blues style.

“I can’t make you dance, but I can definitely tell you stories and put some music on,” he said before launching into a more upbeat song and people’s heads started bobbing.

Meanwhile, in the CoStar tent on Brown’s Island, Bnat el Houariyat and Esraa Warda brought the sounds of Morocco to Richmond.

The female sextet sang in their native language while playing various drums and tambourines as Warda danced. The women of Bnat el Houariyat came from Marrakech to attend the festival, while Warda came from New York.

Musical offerings ranged from US-based acts to artists from Africa, South America and Mexico. Genres included hip hop and R&B to country and folk to blues, bluegrass and a cappella.

At the end of Brown’s Island, at the Dominion Tent, a crowd of over 100 listened to a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” but with an accordion leading the instrumentals.

The couples bonded and swayed from side to side while singing. André Thierry and the band Zydeco Magic continued to entertain the crowd for about an hour with zydeco music, a Creole-inspired genre originating in Louisiana.

Thierry and Zydeco Magic were a main festival attraction for attendee Mona Jain. A local, she tries to make it to the event every year. This year, she brought her mother-in-law to explore music and food.

“I still think zydeco is great fun and full of energy,” Jain said as he waited for food from The Pie Guy, among more than 30 food vendors at the weekend-long festival.

The festival is produced by Venture Richmond Events in partnership with the National Council for Traditional Arts, the Center for Cultural Vibrancy, Virginia Humanities and the City of Richmond.

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