How fortunate that on a bitter, blustery winter's day, I'm tasked with writing about something warm. Warmth, heat, hot —like the summertime heat that befalls Washington, DC, every year in the last week of June and the first week of July.
Those ten days, coinciding incidentally with the Smithsonian's annual Folklife Festival tradition, are arguably the hottest days of summer. And every year, diligent fan of the festival that I am, I find a comfortable sun dress, cover my head from the sun, and drag myself over to the National Mall to take in the cultural salad bar of artisans, musicians, storytellers, chefs and assorted purveyors of lost or fading traditions. I take in the peculiar ululations of song carried over from a distant spot on the globe, it's unfamiliar rhythms and sounds test my comfort zone, and make me feel, well, . . uncomfortable. But never mind.
Over the years, I've watched cowboys rope cattle, tasted spicy fare from along Asia's silk road, tried to play a tune an African banjo called a ngoni, danced to Texas swing and swayed to a lusty Scottish ballad, and even once watched the Wisconsin marching band perform the UW fight song (go Badgers!)
It's a lot of fun, if you can ignore the pools of sweat that gather at the small of your back. So anyway, I told you all that to tell you this. Save the Date!
This year's festival will be June 24 to June 28 and will reopen from July 1 to July 5.
Its featured exhibitions are:
"Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture" : exploring the power of African American oral traditions and how they shaped the culture.
"Las Américas: Un Mundo Musical/The Americas: A Musical World" : Bomba, jíbaro, mariachi, vallenato and other musical styles from the Americas.
And, "Wales Smithsonian Cymru" : Cymru is the Welsh word for Wales, the United Kingdom's three million strong, bilingual principality, located in the south east of the British Isles.
( Photograph courtesy of Jeff Tinsley, 2004)