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Debate Begins on Music for Next Year's Folk Fest

Interestingly, nearly all of the bands your writers mention as future alternatives are worthy nominees ... for almost any other type of music festival than the National Folk Festival ("Next Movement," Arts & Culture, Oct. 10). Granted, the definition of "folk" used by the NCTA (National Council on the Traditional Arts) is an extremely malleable guideline allowing some mildly odd choices, but by and large they get it right 95 percent of the time.

Consistently programming actual originators of different folk musics where applicable or, in their stead, clearly traceable lineal inheritors of these folk traditions is the NCTA's forte. It is important to note that the Richmond version of the National has a programming board made up of 15-20 local musicians, DJs, aficionados and music industry types. I can attest that there are many very "lively" discussions as to the content of each year's festival at the programming meetings.

But one leading guideline we all follow is to consistently seek out the "best" available across a wide variety of folk genres. As cool, innovative, popular or faddish as they may be, local acts that have failed to make much of a worldwide impact (yet) or even national acts that are fourth- or fifth-generation distillations of a certain genre are not considered. Though I do think your writers are onto something with "punk" as an indigenous folk music.

It is important to note that of the cities that have continued to host a festival once the National has planted roots and moved on, only those that have more or less followed the National's programming guidelines are still hosting an event. Cities that have tried to either contemporize and/or dumb down the music have failed after two or three years of trying. For example, whatever happened to the original wonderful concept of June Jubilee?

Todd Ranson
Member of the NFF Programming Board
Volunteer of the NFF

Your writers seem to go all the way and suggest that this wonderful variety of international and national roots music is the whole problem with the event. Instead, next year we need more -- freak folk! hip-hop! punk rock!

I'd like Joanna Newsom to play a bill with GWAR and Kanye West in Richmond as much as they would, at some other festival or venue, but I believe we should keep the spirit of this good thing going. It doesn't need to be tarted up.

Steve Wilson

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