Latino music returns
to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington in 2005,
while the culture of an Arab nation is explored in detail
for the very first time with an exhibition on Oman.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
on the National Mall of the United States
June 23-27 and June 30-July 4, 2005
Each year the festival -- spread out in
tents and booths on the National Mall -- an expanse of grass
and trees bordered by the museums and galleries of the Smithsonian
Institution and the U.S. Capitol -- celebrates folk culture
in the United States and around the world.
This year’s festival, the 39th, is
showcasing Omani tradition, Latino music, American food
and the 100-year history of the U.S. Forest Service with
crafts, music, food and exhibits. Some 1 million visitors
One of the festival programs, “Nuestra
Música: Music in Latino Culture,” marks the
second year of a four-year project exploring Latino music
and its special role in Latino culture.
“The focus of this year’s program
is how Latinos use music and the values it carries to build
a more coherent, positive sense of community among people
of specific cultural backgrounds and among the Latino population
as a whole,” said Daniel Sheehy, the program’s
A series of evening concerts will introduce
visitors to a variety of Latino musical styles, all designed
to explore the theme “music builds community.”
Musicians from across the United States and around the world
will present an array of different Latino musical traditions
including Dominican merengue, Afro-Puerto Rican bomba music,
and musica jíbara, music from the mountainous regions
of Puerto Rico.
Another exhibition, “Oman: Desert,
Oasis and Sea,” highlights the contributions of each
of the Sultanate of Oman’s three ecosystems, while
presenting the music, dance, crafts, food and innovations
of the Arab nation. It is the first Folklife Festival program
to exclusively feature an Arab country.
“Arabs and Arab Americans have participated
in past Smithsonian Folklife Festivals, but this program
will provide an opportunity to focus on Arab culture at
a time when it is much misunderstood around the world,”
said program curator Rich Kennedy. “The Oman program
may be able to dispel a few myths about the Arab world.”
At the June 23 opening ceremony, Oman Minister
of Social Development Shafira Bint Khalfan Al Yahai noted
the long history of positive U.S.-Omani relations, dating
back to the presidency of Martin Van Buren (1836-1840).
Van Buren received a pair of tiger cubs from the then-Sultan
of Oman, but visitors to this year’s Folklife Festival
will have the chance to watch artisans create date-leaf
baskets, wool camel trappings, silver jewelry and daggers,
view Islamic calligraphy, and learn the secrets of renowned
Omani boat builders.
This year’s festival also features
“Food Culture USA,” a look at the diversity
of American cuisine, with a focus on the contributions of
cooks and growers from different regions and communities
throughout the country.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns
said at the festival opening that food reflects the heritage
of America’s people and the country’s “diversity
One of the exhibits spotlights the huge
variety of products in America that come from abroad, such
as chocolate and tea, and another presents new production
and sales techniques of small farmers. A winery section
provides professional, hands-on winemaking demonstrations
and information on the wine regions of the United States.
Festival visitors can also hear from Alice
Waters, chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, who
transported her “Edible Schoolyard” across the
country. Waters uses the schoolyard to teach her young students
the value of growing their own food.
“This is edible education, learning
where your food comes from and how to eat it,” Waters
said at the festival opening ceremony.
Waters explained that she would like to
see public school curriculums across the country teach children
a new relationship with food, and noted the importance of
nutrition education. “There is a public consequence
to every choice we make about how we nourish ourselves,”
Johanns also introduced the Folklife Festival
program on the U.S. Forest Service. It is the 100th anniversary
of the agency, which manages public lands in national forests
and grasslands, a total of some 193 million acres. Johanns
and Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth stressed the agency’s
commitment to long-term preservation of the country’s
Drawing on the expertise of specialists
such as tree pathologists and woodcarvers, the exhibition
explores forest culture and forest communities. Programs
celebrating humans’ relationship with the environment
include demonstrations of smoke-jumping techniques, Dutch-oven
cooking, and wilderness survival skills.
Live bluegrass, country-western and folk
music are offered on the “Sounds of the Forest Stage”
stage. Other items of note include an interactive forest
with two dozen live trees, and a house constructed with
energy-efficient materials developed by the Forest Service.
The festival is open June 23-27 and June
30-July 4. Additional
information on the 2005 festival is available on the
Smithsonian’s Web site.
Elizabeth Farabee and Carrie Loewenthal
Washington File Staff Writers