The 21st Annual Down Home Family Reunion explores a full spectrum of music, dance, stories, food, shopping and enrichment in this Celebration of African American Folklife. It’s a heritage festival that takes attendees on a folkloric journey from West Africa through the Caribbean and into America. Of course, Virginia is at the historic epicenter of the latter movement.
On Saturday, August 20, the 21st Annual Down Home Family Reunion presents the Family Festival, 4 – 11:00 p.m., at Abner Clay Park, Belvidere and West Leigh Streets, downtown in Historic Jackson Ward. Elegba Folklore Society invites Virginians and visitors to activities designed to link West African and African American cultural traditions and to demonstrate ways these practices have been absorbed by the American South.
Legendary R&B stars Blue Magic headlines Saturday’s Family Festival. Emerging out of Philadelphia’s soul music scene in the 1970s, Blue Magic signed with Atlantic Records in 1973. The rhythm and blues vocal quintet scored numerous hits on the R&B charts. They hit it big on the Top 40 R&B singles chart with their first three records before breaking through and crossing over with their best-known hit Sideshow. It went gold and soared the charts to become a Top Ten pop hit. Their next single, Three Ring Circus, made the R&B Top Ten and the pop Top 40. Blue Magic would become known for their lulling smooth ballads.
Internationally-acclaimed Tobey Foyeh and Orchestra Africa is a multi-talented ensemble, whose music is a melting pot created out of a unique fusion of traditional Nigerian Yoruba music with Afro-beat, Highlife, Jazz and Latin elements. Foyeh began performing music at an early age in Ibadan and Lagos, Nigeria and, although he essentially is a self-taught musician, has studied music at the Berklee College of Music and
Foyeh composes, arranges, produces, and sings music interpreting the traditional and contemporary sounds of Africa. Orchestra Africa with Foyeh’s exciting guitar and multi-instrumental performances, feature vocalists and such traditional African instruments as the gangan (talking drum) and the Kalimba (thumb piano). His backing female singer-dancers, in African dress, add a spice of traditional Africa in their call-and-response style of chorus singing with African dance.
Seen as guardians of African tradition and culture, Toby Foyeh and Orchestra Africa has released two successful albums including Jalolo and Here I Come with two hit singles, Ore mi and I’m on Fire. A new album, Lagos-Ilu Eko will be released this summer on the Kameleon label. The group is currently on tour in the United Kingdom and has performed in Europe, Japan, Canada and throughout the United States.
The performance of local group, A Touch of Charm, will take many on a trip down memory lane with silky smooth sounds. Inspired by crooners of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, their tight harmonies and heartfelt ballads combine to bring classic soul to audiences everywhere they perform.
Richmond’s own Lady E & the Blues Sensations will accent the main stage with their special brand of down home blues. Get on board to take a ride on an emotional journey experiencing joy, pain, sorrow and hope.
The Tunji Band, will contribute its unique jazzy-reggae sound to the Down Home Family Reunion.
Elegba Folklore Society’s exciting and culturally enriching performance company will appear with a colorful and interactive program of African dance, music and the oral tradition that celebrates the oneness of the African Diaspora. This performance is designed to engage audiences no matter the age or background. “In a way that perhaps you will expect or in a way that is totally spontaneous, your energy will blend beautifully with ours, closing the gap between performer and audience. Participants find themselves swept up in the oneness of movement and rhythm that links them with the global significance of this timeless art form,” says the group’s artistic director, Janine Bell.
Cheick Hamala Diabate, a diali and an ngoni player (a lute) from Mali, West Africa is a featured guest artist.
People in the park will revisit and participate in a variety of cultural traditions. As a highlight of the 21st Annual Down Home Family Reunion attendees will have the chance to participate in two Interactive Folkloric Demonstrations. Attendees can appreciate their own creativity through the Mojo Hands exhibit as it magnifies the beauty of creating art and instruments from natural elements and powerful simplicity.
The second invites attendees to a vicarious visit through the annals of African American history and art on postage stamps. The Ebony Philatelic Society shows collections of USPS stamps showing black profiles, bios and portraiture.
Events for children and teens are focused in the Annie Tyler Memorial New Skool Pavilion and include take-home craft making, moon walking, performances on the New Skool Stage and more.
A captivating Heritage Market will offer an assortment of art, hand-mades and imports for browsing and purchase.
Food is a familiar way to continue the celebration of shared traditions, and it continues to be a centerpiece for the Down Home Family Reunion. This year’s selections will include Southern style chicken, corn-fried fish, an assortment of down home vegetables, frozen fruits and mouth-watering desserts that are African-inspired and Southern favorites.
4:00 A Touch of Charm
Silky Smooth Crooners
5:00 Toby Foyeh & Orchestra Africa
Traditional Nigerian Yoruba Music with Afro-beat & Highlife
6:30 Lady E & the Blues Sensations
Attendees can enjoy a focus on the offerings of the two
interactive site demonstrations.
7:30 The Tunji Band
8:45 African Dance & Music with Elegba Folklore Society
Featuring Cheick Hamala Diabate
Come into the Village!
10:00 Blue Magic
11:00 Event Closes