Music is as old as civilization itself. From Day One people have been banging on drums, strumming strings and blowing through hollowed out plants, bones and whatever else they could find. Thousands of styles of music have been born from cultures all over the world. They speak to the heartbeat of the people, the environment, the times.
“Folk Music” as a genre is an attempt to classify all these varied musical cultural traditions under one over-arching banner. Most American’s think of the likes of Woody Guthrie (pictured), Pete Seeger, early Bob Dylan or Joan Baez, which was decidedly “American” folk music but, the genre continues to thrive. Many artists around the country keep the fire alive by offering their own interpretations to “folk” as a genre but modern day folk artists tend to incorporate more global influences than their predecessors in the 1950s and 60s. Which makes sense as American culture becomes increasingly multi-cultural.
This week’s Midweek Beat explores three folk acts that are currently haunting the gardens and bars, concert halls and pubs of modern day America.
Who or what is Simple Gifts?
Simple Gifts is two women and twelve instruments that draw upon an impressive variety of ethnic folk styles. Simple Gifts is all tuned up and ready to go TONIGHT, Wednesday, May 15, for their gig in Warsaw, New York.
Get in the mood for lively Irish jigs, down home American reels, hard-driving Klezmer frailachs and haunting gypsy melodies. But it doesn’t stop there. The ladies will also be spicing it up with the distinctive rhythms of Balkan dance music, the lush sounds of Scandinavian twin fiddling, and original compositions written in traditional styles.
Combining tradition, culture and innovation, Simple Gifts creates some of the finest arrangements in folk music today. Listen closely as a swing fiddle creeps into a Romanian dance, spoons show up in an Irish reel and the concertina ventures far beyond styles considered traditional for that instrument.
Based in the hills of central Pennsylvania, Simple Gifts plays an amazing array of instruments, sounds and styles that borrow from folk traditions from around the world.
SONiA is a modern day troubadour. She crosses the globe year after year, playing her unique style of folk, bluegrass, blues and pop/ rock to delighted audiences everywhere. She is a poet, an award winning artist and a humanitarian— she happily donates 18% of every download of her songs to the United Nations World Food Programme.
SONiA’s shows are upbeat, fun and passionate. As a singer/ songwriter she’s been compared to Bob Dylan for her emotional honesty and social relevance. She’s been mentioned in the same breath as John Lennon and Joni Mitchell. Yet SONiA is one of a kind. While she sings primarily in English, she also has been known to occasionally cross the language barrier into Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic.
Indigie Femme opens the show. This female duo hails from both the Navajo Nation and the Maori/ Samoan lands of New Zealand. Their twist of world beats and folk traditions weave their powerful voices together to tell tales of different cultures.
The music and stories of these artists will transport you across the planet and deep into your own heart.
The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a century-old Redwood Grove where beauty and the natural world meet. On Friday, May 17, Santa Cruz based beach-folk musicians The Shapes will light up the garden with their lovely sounds and natural energy in an Evening of Acoustic Music in the Redwoods.
Join tour guide Tyler Paunton for a informative look at the history, cultural importance and botany of the largest redwood grove in San Francisco. Then breathe in the earthy fragrance of the garden as you enjoy two complimentary beers or glasses of wine as The Shape’s bluesy tunes and laid-back vocals echo throughout the forest.
Make an evening of it by purchasing snacks from the local food truck on site. Then eat amongst the sword ferns, huckleberries and wild ginger.
Redwoods, picnics, education, music and drinks. It simply does not get better than this.