Seattle’s Folklife Festival Announces 2015 Cultural Focus


For over 10 years, Northwest Folklife – a year-round 501C-3 non-profit – has chosen a Northwest community to showcase as its “Cultural Focus” leading up to and at its signature Festival event. This year the Cultural Focus “Beats, Rhymes and Rhythms: Traditional Roots of Today’s Branches” explores the cross-cultural roots of Hip Hop in the Northwest. At this year’s Festival, attendees will have access to a particularly large bounty of Cultural Focus programming that will include music and dance performances, panels and presentations, films, visual arts and participatory workshops that explore the world and roots of Hip Hop. The program ties the five key elements of Hip Hop-Music (DJing), Dance (B-boy and B-girl), Storytelling (MCing), Public Art (Graffiti), and Social Awareness-back to the origins of the culture.

“African and Latin traditional dance, the blues, gospel songs and spirituals, scat-singing of the early jazz days, African-American street culture, word battles, socially conscious songwriting-these are just some of the seeds we’ll explore for this year’s Cultural Focus,” Programs Director Kelli Faryar described. “Hip Hop serves as an umbrella for this program, tying together many communities from around the Pacific Northwest-some of those that have been representing their cultures and traditions for years at the Festival. The goal is to present a multi-generational, multi-cultural, inter-disciplinary program to share with the Pacific Northwest more about the cross-cultural roots of local communities while highlighting Hip Hop’s traditional folk roots.”

Northwest Folklife programs over 5,000 performers from over 100 local cultural community groups at the Festival each year. These community groups then perform in their own showcases which span roughly 2-3 hours, offering a mere snapshot of their traditions. The Cultural Focus program allows the organization the opportunity to annually select a cultural group, engage with the community leaders and their members to curate a program that spans beyond the Festival, and throughout the year at various venues across town.

Northwest Folklife is currently accepting proposals from communities, organizations, and artists interested in curating the “festival within a festival” known as the Cultural Focus for the 2015-2016 programming year. To inquire or learn more, visit:

The Northwest Folklife Festival will be held Friday, May 22 through Monday, May 25 (Memorial Day Weekend) in and outdoors on the Seattle Center grounds. There is no admission charge, thanks to on-going community donations. Festival hours are from 11:00 am-10:00 pm from Friday throughSunday and 11:00 am-9:00pm on Monday. The Festival includes events such as parades and dance parties lasting throughout the evening.

Festival programming highlights for “Beats, Rhymes and Rhythms: Traditional Roots of Today’s Branches” includes:



“Intersections in Hip-Hop: Misogyny, Violence, Homophobia”
Sunday, May 24, 4:00 p.m., in the EMP Museum’s JBL Theater

 “History of Northwest Hip-Hop”
Sunday, May 24, 2:00 p.m., in the EMP Museum’s JBL Theater




Traditional Roots of Hip Hop
Featuring Draze, Otieno Terry, Owuor Arunga, Naomi Wambui
Saturday, May 23, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Xfinity Mural Amphitheater 

Skratch Lounge
Catch this collective of DJ’s from the Northwest, meeting once a month to practice, support, and bring awareness for the turntablist DJ culture.
Friday, May 22, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Vera Project

The Soul of Emerald City
Featuring Love City Love, Down North, Grace Love and the True Love, Klyntel
Saturday, May 24, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., Xfinity Mural Amphitheater




Arts Corps Breakin’ Challenge (Featuring the Massive Monkees)
Witness the B-Boy and B-Girl break dancing students participate in this high-energy competition!
Saturday, May 24, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Bagley Wright Theatre

Prince vs. Prince presented by 206 Zulu
Dancers from Kindergarten to 5th grade showcase their break dancing skills in a 1 vs. 1 competition. 206 Zulu works with youth, low-income, and people of color through creative and innovative means, including but not limited to programs and projects involving music, art and culture.
Sunday, May 25, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., EMP Museum’s SkyChurch




RingSide Slam Poetry
Combining elements of Hip Hop and poetry, RingSide Slam is a new head-to-head poetry slam in Seattle.
Saturday, May 23, 2:00 p.m. in the Cornish Playhouse


Seattle Arts & Lectures: Seattle Youth Poet Laureate
Not to be missed! The first ever Seattle Youth Poet Laureate will be announced at a commencement performance on Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. in the Cornish Playhouse.


4Culture’s Poetry on Buses
Interrogate, complicate and celebrate “home” – in poetry and music – on a bus!
4Culture, Michelle Peñaloza and poets from the Poetry on Buses project hop on a RapidRide Poetry Bus, parked in the Fisher Pavilion between the Fisher Green Stage and the Roadhouse. Poets will read on the top of the hour every hour between Noon and 5:00 p.m. A full-hour set of poetry with music by Love City Love kicks off at 5:00 p.m.




Art Primo Seattle and 179 present:
Surface Elements: A Showcase of Graffiti Forms highlighting aspects of graffiti such as letter-form, color selection and characters. Much like the periodic table these elements define styles and popular trends. Pulling from pop culture, sign painting and photography artists including Russ, Merlot, Sneke, Zach Rockstad and more.
International Fountain Pavilion


The Coolout Network
This video exhibition celebrates the content and vision of The Coolout Network. In 1991, Georgio Brown started with the vision to give the Northwest Hip Hop community a voice on television. The Coolout Network covered the five elements of Hip Hop, MC-ing (the rapper), DJ-ing (the disc jockey), writing (the aerosol artist), dance (breaking, up-rocking, popping and locking), and knowledge. The Coolout Network offered exposure to a wide variety of NW urban music. The weekly public access television show focused on live performances of local and national artists as well as interviews and spotlights of local people of interest in the urban community.




Rhythm and Moves: African Dance with Gansango
Gansango Music & Dance performs and offers instruction in African dance. Led by Etienne Cakpo from Benin, West Africa, the group highlights traditional and contemporary dance and music traditions.
Sunday, March 24, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Armory Court Stage 


The 2015 Northwest Folklife Festival is sponsored in part by 4Culture, Bath Fitter, Ben & Jerry’s of Greenlake, Geico, Office of Arts and Culture, Pacific Continental Bank, Seattle Center and Renewal by Andersen

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