I had a lovely, if a little moist morning emceeing the Fountain Lawn stage Sunday, reconnecting with old Folklife friends, being reminded of what a truly community event Folklife is, and hearing some terrific new players. Thanks to the legacy of the late Dumi Maraire, Seattle’s one of America’s hotspots for Zimbabwean marimba music, but I had never seen the Chiroto Marimba Ensemble. That’s probably because they’re based in Idaho, and their leader, Tendai Muparutsa, lives in Massachusetts, where he teaches African music at Williams College.
Tendai Muparutsa of the Chiroto Marimba Ensemble
You could see your breath in the air at 11 a.m. when the band started, entertaining a faithful crowd that gathered for their thundering vibrations and soon everyone in the vicinity was feeling the warmth.
Volunteers tend to come back to Folklife year after year after year. I was lucky enough to be working with Tom DiStefano, who has volunteer stage managed at Folklife for 27 years. It was great catching up with Tom — he said business is finally picking up at his West Seattle wine shop now that the Great Recession moves closer to the center of the rear view mirror — and it was good to have someone in charge who really knows what he’s doing. Tom kept me hopping.
Most folks who come to the festival have no idea what really goes into making it happen, but there are hundreds of volunteers like Tom, as well as staff production people who are hired and Seattle Center stage hands and sound engineers. It’s quite an array and a great crew.
Performers play for free at Folklife, but if you’re a country fan you may have already paid a cover charge to hear Jessica Lynne at the Little Red Hen or the Tractor. I had never seen Lynne before, but I was glad I did. What a great voice and terrific stage presence. “You’re not my cowboy,” she informed the man on the receiving end of one of her songs, as she strummed her guitar and belted out the lyrics with honky tonk attitude. Lynne is from Denmark of all places, but you can’t hear a trace of a Danish accent (one of her parents was American). Her family was out in the crowd, cheering her on. She’s been in Seattle two years and has several gigs coming up around town. Check her out. She’s got an album : “Spiritual Cowgirl.”