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OPENS JUNE 23
Whereas last year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival included Afropop stars among its musical slate of traditional acts, this year’s roster is composed mostly of performers without record labels, Web sites, or any kind of media presence. If that sounds a bit organic for your tastes, don’t be scared away. This year’s themes—”Nuestra Música: Music in Latino Culture,” “Haiti: Freedom and Creativity From the Mountains to the Sea,” and “Water Ways: Charting a Future for Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities”—all offer lip-licking flavors as well as nutritional value. The “Nuestra Música” program includes a hodgepodge of groups from throughout the Americas and the Caribbean. Thanks to an appearance on a Linda Ronstadt CD, Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, a large ensemble of horn and string players who sport matching brown velvet suits and sombreros (and whose leader, Cano, is pictured), are perhaps the fest’s best-known performers. Mixing punchy trumpet-section-led cuts with schmaltzy violin-, harp-, and vihuela (five-stringed guitar)-guided boleros, the group has a charm far beyond mere sidewalk-cafe ambiance. San Antonio’s Eva Ybarra may not have a press manager, but, aided by her band, she knows how to turn conjunto—a hybrid of German beerhall and Mexican sounds—into accordion-led rock that moves. The Dominican Republic–based Franklin Hernandez y sus Typican Brothers have an electric bassist and a sax player, but they are also led by an accordion player. Their merengue sounds like polka sped up by Kanye West. Haiti’s San Rankin serves up the cacophonous carnival percussion sounds of rara, and Azor delivers religious-rooted vodou drumming. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival kicks off Wednesday, June 23, and runs through Sunday, June 27, on the National Mall between 7th & 14th Streets NW. Free. Visit www.folklife.si.edu for a complete schedule, or call (202) 633-1000 for more information. The fest will continue starting Wednesday, June 30, and will run through Sunday, July 4. (Steve Kiviat)