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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Griffith

Folk Alliance International 2020 Conference in New Orleans

Joanne Griffith at FAI Conference in New Orleans

February 5, 2020. I must admit that though I initially thought I wouldn’t fit at the FAI – Boy, was I in for a surprise. I got to hang with like-minded musicians – and I danced my feet off to boot. I came home tired but oh so inspired.

FAI veteran Linda Turu of Borealis Records, one of the first people I met at the conference, shared these words of wisdom with me: pace yourself, don’t forget to hydrate, follow your ears, and be on the lookout for simpatico – Linda is my kinda cool.

Keynote addresses by Mavis Staples and Rhiannon Giddens

Eighty-year-old Mavis Staples did justice to her father’s storytelling legacy and reminded us to “Go to your heart. Because what comes from the heart reaches the heart.” Words to live by.

Rhiannon Giddens opened with “Ten Thousand Voices,” a song inspired by Ned Sublette’s book Cuba and Its Music, which focuses on the trans-Saharan Arabic slave trade. She covered topics such as freedom, the power of love, the countless stories that make us human, and cultural bridges built through song. “Folk Alliance 2020 – you conjurers of tales, you creators of magic, you crafters of beauty – Humanity is poised on the brink – and no matter what they think, we are the link.” She said.

Other favourites included showcases by artists such as Ray Bonneville, Freddy and Francine, Alisa Amador, Tami Neilson, Kyshona, Doctor Nativo, Kíla (and the list goes on…), and a must-see movie by NFB filmmaker André Gladu: Liberty Street Blues. A special shout out goes to the folks at the Blackpot & Lafayette, Louisiana Experience, who know what it takes to make the good times roll.

I also got to participate in a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) meeting for people of colour, a safe place to connect and discuss issues about identity. Conclusion: the best way to foster DEI is by forging friendships, something I will continue to do.

Affinity group participants – FAI 2020
Affinity group participants – FAI 2020

While in New Orleans, I also learned a terrific new word: lagniappe

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