Folkin’ Around

Cityfolk offers multicultural fun for everyone

By Tim Anderl

Music and dance are pleasing and peculiar parts of the human experience.  As such, both have long been used as tools for establishing commonality between people.  In fact, poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”  He understood that because Americans come from all corners of the globe, an intrinsic part of a community’s diversity and roots are buried deep in these practices.

Each year Daytonians converge to practice these universal languages by experiencing world music and dance firsthand.  In its 16th year, the Dayton Cityfolk Festival is a community-wide, annual celebration of multiculturalism that includes public musical and dance performances.  The namesake organization, Cityfolk, is a nonprofit folk arts organization that is active year-round, hosting a multitude of concerts, educational programs and film shows to enhance multicultural awareness since the 1980s.

On Friday, June 29, Saturday June 30, and Sunday, July 1, 60,000 to 70,000 eager festival-goers will arrive at Riverscape Metropark for the event, which generates over $250,000 for the local economy and reinforces the sense of community vital to the city and its residents.

“At the center of Cityfolk’s mission is showcasing traditions, dance and music from all corners of the world,” explains Dave Barber, Cityfolk’s Director of Programs and Marketing. ”Ethnic populations are growing in the Dayton area and we are the arts organization that is designing programming that serves them and connects them to their neighbors.”

“No other free local festival offers the kinds of activities, and a roster as diverse and as the Cityfolk Festival does,” Barber added.  “We are particularly excited to welcome Rhonda Vincent, one of the biggest names in bluegrass, for the first time this year.  The Royal Southern Brotherhood’s Cityfolk performance will also be their first showcase in the region.”

In addition, food vendors offer a wide-variety of delectable treats from the far reaches of the globe, including German, Caribbean, Greek and Lebanese delicacies.  On July 1, the Festival culminates in the City of Dayton’s Fireworks display. Above all, the event is a fun, inclusive and safe celebration — for everyone and about everyone.

“I’ve been attending Cityfolk since 1996, although I’ve missed some because we were out of town during the event,” Heyward Burnette of Beavercreek said.  “The appeal is the ethnic music and food mainly.”

In order to be successful, Cityfolk Festival depends on donations and volunteerism.  Around 700 volunteers make sure the festival runs smoothly by greeting festival-goers and providing performers with hospitality. Last year, among the most essential volunteer functions was collecting donations.  Though it continues to be a free event, in 2011 Cityfolk collected donations, which was essential for the festival’s return in 2012.  Cityfolk asked people for a small donation as they entered the festival to help offset an annual $150,000 decline in corporate sponsorships and foundation grants over the past three years.  Last year volunteers collected $39,125 in “Make the Music Happen” donations. A suggested donation of $5 is requested this year for those who can afford it to help cover the basic cost of the festival.  So before settling in to enjoy the sights and sounds of the event, locate a smiling volunteer carrying a bright orange bucket and ensure that Cityfolk continues for years to come.

In addition, Cityfolk is again offering the “Room with a View” option, which allows attendees to experience the festival in comfort from a VIP area located next to the event’s main stage.  The amenities offered by this option include VIP Parking, umbrella tables and shaded, reserved seating under the MetroPark’s pavilion, a private cash bar with complimentary soft drinks and snacks and private restroom facilities.  Participants in this option will pay $30 for a single day pass, $75 for a weekend pass, or $500 for the friends and family packages, which offers eight weekend passes.


Rhonda Vincent is the singer, mandolinist and bandleader who was dubbed “the new queen of bluegrass” by The Wall Street Journal.  Accompanied by her powerhouse band, the Rage, she is no stranger to traveling. A fifth-generation musician who started her career in a family band called the Sally Mountain Show, Vincent has made more than 20 albums since recording her solo debut in 1986.

Bon Soir Catin are an all-star Cajun ensemble from the heart of Louisiana, bringing together four exceptional musicians who ordinarily work in such well known bands as Balfa Toujours, the Lafayette Rhythm Devils and the Magnolia Sisters. The band has played at such high-profile events as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Lotus World Music Festival in Indiana and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington. If their critically acclaimed albums are any indication, expect a of mix of the rowdy sounds of the post-WWII dance halls, with the band’s own original spin on the tradition.

Luca Ciarla Quartet makes genre-spanning music that contains the imaginative power of jazz, classical, contemporary and folk music, without adhering to the genres’ limitations.  Luca Ciarla is a highly creative, virtuoso violinist from Italy who has mesmerized audiences at festivals and concerts in more than 30 countries around the world. A pervasive Gypsy vibe animates the distinctively Mediterranean sound of the quartet.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Joao Erbetta will offer instrumental surf music with a twist, as his style incorporates country, jazz, traditional Brazilian folk, pop, Latin, rock, Hawaiian island sounds and more.  Those familiar with the Ventures, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Al Caiola and Deke Dickerson will be delighted. Appearing with Erbetta at the Cityfolk Festival is Dayton’s Crazy Joe Tritschler, leader of Crazy Joe and the Mad River Outlaws, and the Cincinnati-based rhythm section of Brian Aylor (drums) and Chris Douglas (bass).

Acclaimed Irish singer, flutist and composer Nuala Kennedy performs traditional songs and tunes of Ireland and Scotland. A native of County Louth, Ireland, who has lived in Scotland for several years, Kennedy is a masterful player and engaging vocalist, who has recorded three albums, including her most recent Enthralled (2012), a duet album of original material with Canadian fiddler and composer Oliver Schroer.

A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ricardo Lemvo is a world music pioneer with his innovative African Diaspora mixture of pan-African styles (including soukous, Angolan semba and kizomba) with Afro-Cuban rhythms. In fact, The Los Angeles Times has lauded his sound as “seamless and organic—and infectious.” Lemvo’s 10-piece band, Makina Loca, is a multi-national ensemble that showcases a variety of stellar musicians. If you only recognize some parts of the language with Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca it may be because the ensemble is singing in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Lingala and Kikongo.

Red Baraat is a nine-piece band from Brooklyn, New York, who blend Indian bhangra and funky New Orleans brass. Founded in 2008 and led by Sunny Jain, a master of the two-headed Indian drum known as the dhol, Red Baraat has created a world music fusion all its own. They’ve already been featured on a variety of radio programs –Fresh Air, All Songs Considered and PRI’s The World — and had its song “Chaal Baby” featured in a promo spot for the TV comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Founded in New Orleans in 2010, the Royal Southern Brotherhood’s frontline consists of one of the last great southern soul singers — Cyril Neville (the Meters, Neville Brothers), lead guitarist and singer Devon Allman (son of Gregg, nephew of Duane) and award-winning blues guitarist and songwriter Mike Zito, the veteran rhythm section of bass player Charlie Wooten (the Wood Brothers) and drummer Yonrico Scott (Derek Trucks Band, Gregg Allman).  Their debut, self-titled recording was released by Ruf Records in May.

Shoefly, a spin-off of the former Dayton ensemble Rhythm in Shoes, is a quintet that performs music solidly rooted in the old-time country string band music of the 1920s and 1930s, and bluegrass and honky-tonk country music. The quintet’s first recording, Six-Fifty, was released in 2011. In addition to covers of songs by Grandpa Jones, Connie Smith and Don Stover, the album contains three songs written by Rick Good, the 2011 recipient of the Ohio Heritage Fellowship award.

Kenny Sidle, who is receiving this year’s Ohio Heritage Fellowship for Performing Arts has been winning competitive fiddling contests for decades, including state championships in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Indiana and the senior title at the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Competition. The Ohio Country Western Music Association named him “Instrumentalist of the Year” for nine consecutive years (1973-81) and he has recorded a handful of albums during his career, including Favorite Fiddle Tunes and Fiddle Memories

The Sones de Mexico Ensemble offers a unique take on Mexican son, a musical form that emerged in the late 1600s as a fusion of indigenous, African and Spanish styles. A six-member folklórico band based in the vibrant Mexican-American community of Chicago, Sones de Mexico specializes in the authentic performance of regional styles including huapango, gustos, chilenas, son jarocho and more.

Led by Walter Ramsey, the Stooges Brass Band combines traditional New Orleans brass band jazz with hip-hop beats.  The 10-man band has performed at South by Southwest, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, High Sierra Music Festival and the Great American Brass Band Festival. They were featured in a Documentary Channel program about the Red Bull Street Kings competition, where they walked away with the top prize.

Soul Rhythms Revisited welcomes the children from Edison School, as well as fraternity steppers from Central State University, old-timey band The Corndrinkers, dancer Beth Wright and Mexican folkloric dancers Orgullo Mexicano to reprise their unique dances from the Culture Builds Community project, Soul Rhythms.

Latino Ohio

The Material Culture area of the 2012 Cityfolk Festival, located in a tent on St. Clair Street between Monument and First Streets, will feature Latino Ohio.  Curated by Sones de Mexico leader Juan Dies, Latino Ohio spotlights Latino art exhibitions, music, dance, food, instrument making and more. In addition to demonstrations and displays, there will be a small stage for workshops, lecture demonstrations and intimate performances.  Dies, who has worked extensively with Cityfolk’s Culture Builds Community program, researched Latino arts in Ohio for the Ohio Arts Council in 2009, and Latino Ohio spotlights several gifted artists from around the state.

“The Latino Ohio area is Cityfolk’s celebration of the growing Latin population in the area,” Cityfolk Executive Director Kathleen Alter said.  “It supports the concepts behind the recent ‘Welcome Dayton Plan,’ which seeks to make Dayton an immigrant friendly city.”

Latino Ohio performers include Mexico native and folklórico dance company founder Imelda Ayala, pre-Columbian ceramic and stone artist Martin Batista, Guatemalan sawdust carpet creator Héctor Castellanos, and Puerto Rican percussionist, author, poet and playwright Victor Velez.  In addition, the area will also feature Yasmina Landabura, who emigrated from Croatia to Argentina, preparing yerba mate, a bitter, mildly stimulating tea consumed by the Guarani Indians.  Gloria Enriquez Pizaña will demonstrate the preparation of two traditional, festive delicacies, polvorones (Mexican wedding cookies) and capirotada (Mexican bread pudding).

What To Pack

Comfort is an essential part of enjoying any community festival, so dress comfortably and casually.  Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, identification and comfortable shoes.  Although all of the stages are under cover, be prepared for inclement weather, as the event will take place, rain or shine.  Though folding chairs will be provided, you may bring your own camp-style chair.  Even some of your furry friends are permitted at the event, as dogs are allowed to accompany you as long as they are kept on a leash.  You may want to leave Fido at home during the fireworks display though due to the density of the crowds.

There are some other items that are better left at home – contraband, coolers, alcohol, weapons, pets others than dogs, laser pointers, and video and recording equipment are not permitted.

(For more information about the event, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at

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