Smithsonian Festival Brings World to U.S. National Mall

By Jonathan Haeber
National Geographic News
July 3, 2003

A photo gallery of Appalachia at the Folklife Festival >>

A photo gallery of Scotland at the Folklife Festival >>

A photo gallery of Mali at the Folklife Festival >>

It's a long way from Timbuktu to Edinburgh—about 2,700 miles (4,350 kilometers) as the crow flies. But at the 37th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., one can make the journey from the culture of Mali to the culture of Scotland via a short stroll through America's Appalachia.

Festivities began at the National Mall, between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, on Wednesday, June 25, and will conclude on Sunday, July 6. The festival has celebrated folkways from the U.S. and around the world since 1967.

Three distinct regions are featured at this year's festival, each showcasing traditional performances that resonate in modern music: Mali, Appalachia, and Scotland.

In addition to the music, a cornucopia of food from each culture is on offer. Ongoing demonstrations in everything from whisky distilling and banjo picking to puppeteering and boatbuilding serve every cultural fancy.

Timbuktu Goes to Washington

Visitors to the Mali section can view replicas of adobe buildings constructed by contractors from Mali. Four traditional structures serve as examples of edifices in this arid African country.

Grammy award-winning singer Ali Farka Touré is performing, as well as Grammy-nominated Salif Keita, who is known as the "Golden Voice of Africa."

Appalachia: Heritage and Harmony

Story-telling has a long history in Appalachia, a back-country region that stretches through some dozen eastern states of the U.S. Appalachian tall tales have become famous across the U.S., and the unique form of spinning yarns is performed by a number of professional talkers at the festival.

The Appalachia master of ceremonies, Bill Lepp, was named the biggest liar five times at the annual West Virginia Liars Contest. Lloyd Arneach, a resident of a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina, relates some of the legends he learned from two uncles.

Horseshoes, picking circles, Bluegrass, and railroad ties are all part of the Appalachia section, wholly devoted to the unique cultural region of the U.S.

Continued on Next Page >>


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