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Category: AFC Events

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Homegrown Plus: Ladino Songs with Nani Noam Vazana

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We're continuing the series with a concert and interview featuring Nani Noam Vazana. Vazana is one of the few artists in the world who writes and composes new songs in the endangered Ladino (or Judeo-Spanish) language, a form of Spanish derived from Old Castilian which is spoken by Sephardic Jews living mostly in Israel, the Balkans, North Africa, Greece, and Turkey. Ladino, which traveled to these areas with Jewish communities expelled from Spain in 1492, is very nearly extinct in many places. Nani says her work seeks to capture the spirit of this ancient, matriarchal language and culture and propel it into the 21st century with socially pertinent lyrics addressing themes such as migration, gender, and female empowerment. Nani's goal is to create a bridge between tradition and modern life, capturing the sounds and smells of the marketplace and fusing them with surprising instrumentation and vibrant singing. As usual with Homegrown Plus blogs, you'll find the concert video, an interview video, and a wealth of links to related collections and concerts, all right here in this blog post.

Homegrown Plus: From China to Appalachia with Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, and Chao Tian

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We're continuing the series with a concert and interview featuring Grammy Award winning American Roots artists Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer together with accomplished Chinese classical hammered dulcimer player Chao Tian. The trio's repertoire includes traditional Chinese and Appalachian music as well as contemporary and traditional music from around the world. They use instruments that include yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer), gourd banjo, five-string banjo, ukulele, guitars, dumbek, cello-banjo and mandolin, employing them in unusual combinations to create exciting new arrangements of old music. Cathy and Marcy join Chao in singing Chinese songs, and Chao easily adds her love of American Old-Time music to fiddle tunes and songs. As usual with Homegrown Plus blogs, you'll find the concert video, an interview video, and a wealth of links to related collections and concerts, all right here in this blog post. 

Five musicians play piano, upright bass, recorder, two fiddles, and a mandolin

Homegrown Plus: Spaelimenninir’s Scandinavian Folk Music

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In April 2023, the American Folklife Center hosted a Homegrown concert here at the Library of Congress featuring Spælimenninir, a Scandinavian folk music ensemble based in the Faroe Islands. Spælimenninir likes to say their music is as familiar as an old time barn dance and as exotic as the landscape of the Faroe Islands, the band’s home in the North Atlantic. Spælimenninir’s repertoire is music of the Nordic countries drawing on traditions centuries old and compositions new as today. The current line-up of Spælimenninir includes one native Faroese, three Danes, and two Americans, who sing and play many instruments, including fiddle, recorder, piano, guitar, mandolin, nyckelharpa, and acoustic bass. The multinational background of the members and combination of instruments make the music unique; no other band in the world sounds like Spælimenninir. The sound reflects each member’s heritage and illustrates the links between the music traditions of the Scandinavian countries and the United States, and we were very pleased to feature them in the Homegrown concert series. Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with some of the performers, plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections.

Portrait of singer Nani Noam Vazana

Homegrown Artist Nani Noam Vazana Interviewed

Posted by: Stephen Winick

On Thursday, September 14, at Noon Eastern Time, in LJ-119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building (10 First Street SE, Washington DC), we will host a special concert with Nani Noam Vazana. Vazana is one of the only artists in the world who writes and composes new songs in the endangered Ladino (or Judeo-Spanish) language, a form of Spanish derived from Old Castilian which is spoken by Sephardic Jews living mostly in Israel, the Balkans, North Africa, Greece, and Turkey. We held our usual interview with Nani in advance, through the magic of internet communications, which means you can watch it now! In case you're still deciding whether to come to her concert, you should hear her tell her story and see if she can convince you! As she revealed to me, she was born in Israel to parents who had emigrated from Morocco. Her father, wishing to leave the past behind, forbade the Ladino language in the house--but her grandmother didn't have to obey. She learned some Ladino from her grandmother, and, more importantly, heard her singing Ladino songs. Years later, on a trip to play at a jazz festival, she heard a Judeo-Spanish singer in Morocco, which set her on a new path of researching Ladino songs and eventually composing her own. Of course, that's only the bare bones of the story, and Nani tells it much more fully, as well as discussing her music, her career, and her plans for the future. Watch the interview in this blog post!

A man with a guitar speaks into a microphone in front of a brightly-colored mural

Homegrown Plus: Christylez Bacon’s Progressive Hip Hop

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Back in June, we hosted a special Homegrown concert here at the Library of Congress featuring Washington, D.C.'s own progressive hip-hop and roots music star Christylez Bacon. Christylez Bacon is a Grammy nominated progressive hip-hop artist and multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar and hand drums but excels particularly at the human beatbox (oral percussion). He also continues the oral tradition of storytelling through his lyrics and song introductions. As a special treat, Christylez brought along his friend Uasuf Gueye. Also a D.C. native, Uasuf descends from a family of West African oral historians and musicians known as Nguewel, Diali, or Jeli. We presented Christylez and Uasuf as part of Live! at the Library, the series featuring extended visiting hours and special programming every Thursday night. It was also part of the Juneteenth celebrations at the Library of Congress and was presented in cooperation with the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with the featured performer (in this case Christylez Bacon), plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections.

Four people play musical instruments outdoors in a meadow.

Homegrown Plus Premiere: Deitsch Folk Music from Germany

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're excited to continue the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with a video concert by Deitsch, a traditional folk band from Germany. In 2023, Homegrown is presenting a combination of live concerts here at the Library of Congress and video premieres of prerecorded concerts from around the world. The prerecorded concerts premiere here on the blog, and videos of the live concerts will be placed here a few weeks after they happen. So subscribe to the blog for more great concerts all season! This is one of our prerecorded video concerts, shot on location in Germany and presented here for the first time. As is usual for the series, this blog post includes an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore!

Nine people in colorful clothes

Homegrown Plus Premiere: Hudaki Village Band’s Carpathian Music from Ukraine

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're continuing the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with a video concert by the Hudaki Village Band from the Carpathian region of Ukraine. This is one of our prerecorded video concerts, shot on video in Ukraine and presented here for the first time! As is usual for the series, this blog post includes an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore! The Hudaki Village Band is made up of nine master musicians from the Ukrainian Carpathians. In the Maramures region, a mountainous area of Southwest Ukraine on the border with Romania and Hungary, village musicians are called "hudaki." Archaic Slavic vocal traditions, Romanian melodies, Jewish rhythms and Romany temperament blend together in a local cross culture that has evolved over centuries of living side by side.

Homegrown Plus Premiere: Ali Doğan Gönültas Quartet

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're continuing the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with Ali Doğan Gönültas and Friends. This is one of our prerecorded video concerts, shot on video in Istanbul and presented here for the first time! As is usual for the series, this blog post includes an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore! Ali Doğan Gönültas is a Kurdish musician born in Turkey. Ali's oral history and field research, which he began in 2007, led him to record and release the 2022 album “Kiğı," and to record this concert. Kiğı is a personal look at the 150-year musical process of the village of Kiğı, Ali's birthplace. It consists of works in the regional languages of Kurmancî, Kırdaskî, Armenian and Turkish, as well as Zazakî, Ali's mother tongue. Themes and styles such as govend (traditional Kurdish dance), laments, work songs, and prayer forms are conveyed with the modal characteristics of the region.

A man plays a banjo and sings

Homegrown Plus: Jake Blount’s African American Folk Music Live at the Library

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Back in February, we were delighted to host the first Homegrown concert of 2023 here at the Library of Congress. The concert was a solo performance by the banjo player, fiddler, and singer Jake Blount, an award-winning musician and a scholar of African American musical traditions. We presented Jake as part of Live! at the Library, the series featuring extended visiting hours and special programming every Thursday night. It was also part of the Black History Month celebrations at the Library of Congress and was presented in cooperation with the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with the featured performer (in this case Jake Blount), plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections.