Draze Maraire and friends, NW Folklife Festival


Northwest Folklife invites musicians, dancers, community groups, artists, storytellers, and instructors to participate in the 45th annual Northwest Folklife Festival, which will take place May 27-30, 2016, at Seattle Center.

If you or your group is based in the Northwest region, including Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Western Montana, this is a great opportunity to share your music and traditions!

The annual Northwest Folklife Festival is the largest community-powered arts festival in the United States. It is presented each year in Seattle by Northwest Folklife, a year-round nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for all people to appreciate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest.

Folklife 2014 - SaturdayLast year Northwest Folklife programmed over 5,000 performers in 65 different genres of music, from Hawaiian to hip-hop. We presented dance performances representing cultures from Ireland to India. We believe everyone is a bearer of folk arts, and we encourage communities to share their cultural traditions, in the hope that interaction with new audiences will enrich the community as much as the audience.

Click these links to be redirected to our online applications:






If you need a paper version of our performer application, please email us at programming at nwfolklife.org.

Interested in how we select bands and performance groups? Click here to read our Programming FAQ.

Still have questions? Email our programming team now.


The Onlies

Have You Met The Onlies?

Hailing from Seattle, Washington, The Onlies’ eclectic assortment of fiddle-driven music bridges Celtic, traditional bluegrass, and contemporary Canadian and American tunes to create a sound all their own. Multi-talented members Leo Shannon, Riley Calcagno, and Sami Braman are Garfield High School juniors who’ve literally played together since they were two years old. These young talented musicians bring powerhouse vocals and a variety of instruments to the table in their performances, and the Northwest Folklife is honored to share more about this dynamic trio, so read the Q&A below!

The Onlies


Tell us about yourselves!

(Sami) We are a Seattle-based trio with our hearts rooted in old music from Appalachia, Ireland, Scotland, and Canada. We also write fiddle tunes and songs, creating a contemporary, original sound. By entrenching ourselves in authentic music traditions, we can move that music tradition forward. We started fiddling at five and would set out our cases at Folklife to busk. Since then, we’ve played with musicians as cool as Elvis Costello and as un-cool as old, toothless Kentucky banjo-pickers (who, we realized, are actually the coolest of all).


Why do you do what you do?

(Leo) The three of us have grown up surrounded by American, Irish, and Cape Breton traditional music and going to various folk festivals in the Northwest, so playing the music was a natural next step. As we encountered more people in the trad music community, we all were inspired to dedicate our lives to playing this music. Now, with strong connections formed (both to the music and to the people who we’ve met through it), traditional music is such an integral part of our lives that we couldn’t ever imagine stopping.


If you could explain your work in three words, what would they be?


  • Traditional
  • Joyful
  • Real


How have you been involved in your art form’s practice or evolution?

(Riley) Traditional music is a living and oral music. We have been fortunate enough to proverbially and literally sit at the feet of the masters of the traditions we are part of and soak in the music and culture just as people have been doing for hundreds of years, elder to youth. It is festivals like Folklife that have enabled us to do this.At the same time, we have also collaborated with many musicians to take tradition in new places, combinations of music and ideas that are now part of this living music.


We know you have been involved with Northwest Folklife for some time now – what do you think you have you learned or discovered by participating in Northwest Folklife?

(Leo) That there is a local community of people who have dedicated themselves to playing and preserving traditional art forms, and will support and encourage, and best of all, play with us!


Do you think Northwest Folklife has an influence on our greater community? 

(Sami) Whenever a city holds a massive festival geared toward sharing music from different cultures and traditions, the inspiration, community, and music will permeate the barriers of the festival and into the greater community. This is exactly what we’ve seen happen with our experiences at Folklife. When we leave Folklife, we know we’ll see that community of folk artists and musicians outside of Seattle Center. We know that we’ll come across them at different local events and the inspiration will continue. Northwest Folklife makes Seattle a hub of folk culture, music, and creation.


With the fast-approaching second annual Seattle Children’s Festival in-mind, do you think kids need Northwest Folklife arts and culture programs?

(Riley) We don’t think we can speak for all kids, but we can say that we needed Folklife (and still do). It was a place to learn about cultures entirely different from our own and watch musicians we looked up to play music we found out that we loved. Folklife is a place for all ages to learn about the world in a way that goes so far beyond sitting in a classroom. If every kid in Seattle got to take part in Folklife, those kid’s lives would be deeply enriched.


For more about The Onlies, visit them online or on Facebook.


Folklife 2014 - Friday

Apply Now to Perform at the 2016 Folklife Festival

Northwest Folklife invites musicians, dancers, community groups, artists, storytellers, and instructors to participate in the 45th annual Northwest Folklife Festival, which will take place May 27-30, 2016, at Seattle Center.

If you or your group is based in the Northwest region, including Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Western Montana, this is a great opportunity to share your music and traditions!

The annual Northwest Folklife Festival is the largest community-powered arts festival in the United States. It is presented each year in Seattle by Northwest Folklife, a year-round nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for all people to appreciate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest.

Last year Northwest Folklife programmed over 5,000 performers in 65 different genres of music, from Hawaiian to hip-hop. We presented dance performances representing cultures from Ireland to India. We believe everyone is a bearer of folk arts, and we encourage communities to share their cultural traditions, in the hope that interaction with new audiences will enrich the community as much as the audience.Folklife 2014 - Monday

Click these links to be redirected to our online applications:






If you need a paper version of our performer application, please email us at programming at nwfolklife.org.

Interested in how we select bands and performance groups? Click here to read our Programming FAQ.

Still have questions? Email our programming team now.



Photo by Christopher Nelson

Festival Starts Today – Bring the Family Down!

FIUTSNorthwest Folklife Festival has always been a great place for families to come and bring their young children and introduce them to the arts and culture of the Pacific Northwest. This year, we are bringing back our Discovery Zone area, sponsored by ParentMap. This area is specifically tailored towards children, complete with it’s own stage featuring family-friendly programming, workshops, and hands-on activity booths for all ages.

The Discovery Zone Stage is open from 11am-6pm every day of the Festival. On Friday, however, because of the opening of the Artists at Play area, the stage programming will start at 1pm. The hands-on booths will open at 11 as usual.

Discovery Zone Stage: Sponsored by ParentMap

The Discovery Zone stage will feature a wide variety of different acts, and the full list of programming can be found in our online schedule. Some additions that are different than the schedule in the Program Guide: Musical Spoon-Playing with Artis the Spoonman (12:00pm on Sunday), and Siren Spark, an all-girl rock band from the Rain City Rock Camp for Girls (5:00pm on Friday).

There is even some Cultural Focus programming! The Discovery Zone Stage will feature a Capoeira Angola performance by the International Capoeira Angola Foundation at 12:00pm on Monday, May 25th, and break-dancing by the North City Rockers at 5:00pm on Sunday, May 24th!

image2The North City Rockers are a multi-generational break-dancing crew from Everett, WA. Folklife recently had the opportunity to chat with David “Pablo D” Narvaez the founder of the North City Rockers. The NCR are a pretty diverse crew, consisting of members from a variety of age groups. The youngest is only 10 years old!

We asked Pablo what we can expect to see during their performance at Folklife this year.


“Excitement! They’re gonna see stuff they didn’t expect. You’re gonna see some typical b-boying but in a way you wouldn’t expect. All sorts of different styles come out. We’re bright, colorful, loud. We are multi-generational. We’re a lot of fun to watch,” says Pablo D of his crew.

Pablo D started breaking in the early 1980’s, but created the North City Rockers crew in 2010. The North City Rockers come together to practice and have fun together, but also prepare for performances and competitions. They perform for a variety of audiences, using a variety of different styles and music.

Pablo says that he likes to keep a positive attitude with everything he’s ever done, and breaking and competing from an early age was what started that. “I’ve tried to spread that to the youth. I’ve tried my best to knock on all sorts of doors and open them up. Learning how to get through adversity and rising to the job.”

Breaking classes with NCR are taught on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:30pm to 9:00pm at Oly’s Dance Sport, 2931 Bond Street, Everett, WA 98201. Classes are open to the public and the first two classes are free. People with all levels of dance experience are encouraged to come train!

Discovery Zone Hands-On Activities

We are very excited about the hands-on activities this year, too! Some you might remember from last year, and some new!

Seattle Children’s Museum presents Exploring Rhythm: Come and explore instruments from around the globe! There will also be a craft table for making a dancing ring adorned with ribbons; dance to the music you hear at Folklife!

Active Art and Science presents Make Your Own Mosaic: Using recycled and finger safe glass and glue, children will create colorful mosaics on tiles. Creativity is welcome, and it’s a good opportunity to learn about color balance and glass art techniques.

Little Wing and Rookies, presented by School of Rock presents Rockin’ Instrument Play and Presentation: Come rock out with Little Wing! Major rock instruments will be laid out for you to try: electric guitar, bass, a snare drum with cymbals, keyboard, and a microphone for you to sing into! Channel your inner rock star!

Gage Academy of Art presents 25 Jams: Pop Up Drawing: Gage is curating a drawing jam in the Discovery Zone this year! It’ll be great fun for all ages; anyone who wants to learn how to draw from real life! Post up at an easel and practice with a live model, or draw what you see around Folklife!

The Center for Wooden Boats presents Toy Boat Building: Children will learn to use basic traditional hand tools such as hammers and hand drills to build wooden toy boats! Fun and educational, this is our largest booth so it will be hard to miss!

Creative Advantage This organization from the Office of Arts and Culture promotes the importance of arts education in the schools. This is a great place for parents to stop by and learn about what Creative Advantage is doing to bring arts back to the schools!

Self_Aug2008 004

Announcing the Incredible Dances of South Asia

Meet Dr. Joyce Paul Siamak – a new Community Coordinator at Northwest Folklife

I first attended Folklife when I was visiting Seattle on work in 1999. I was completely hooked!  Since moving to Redmond in 2001, I have been a performer and avid supporter of Northwest FolkLife having performed or volunteered every single year. It was at a Folklife performance with my friend Meera that I was noticed by the producer at Town Hall and invited to be part of their Global Rhythms series.

Dr. Joyce Paul Siamak

It has been a long association for me and I am very excited that I can take my support one step ahead by being the Community Coordinator this year.

Some 15 years ago when I first danced, there was no Indian or South Asian showcase; we just got slots in the “International Dance” section. Over the years with more artists moving into the area, various regional showcases started being staged. In particular the “Colors and Cultures of India” took off and provided a great opportunity for young immigrant artists to share their art with the community.

Over the last 5 to 6 years, I noticed a trend that I thought was not doing justice to the art form or the talent available locally. Most Indian dancers I knew were losing interest in performing and had started using the event to present their students in training instead of dancing themselves. This resulted in the audience members not getting a chance to see professionals at work. They were also unable to see what the art form would look like, had an experienced artist chosen to perform. Also, other nations and art forms from the entire South/East Asian region seemed to be represented less and less with dominant art forms such as Bharatanatyam taking on most of the slots. One time, I remember seeing 5 groups from the same genre, with three of them doing the same pieces in the same raga and tala!

I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to bring a change in the programming to make it relevant to the larger South Asian dance community while ensuring that we present artistes and performances of caliber. I envisioned a showcase called “Incredible dances of South/East Asia.” For 2015, my first year as curator and community coordinator, my charter looks thus:

  1. Honor and invite special senior guests (artists who have decades of experience)
  2. Present interesting cross-genre programming with creative artists
  3. Present artistes and performances of caliber
  4. Continue to provide a platform for young and upcoming artistes. (provide a good mix of experience and upcoming)
  5. Showcase under represented art forms and regions of South/East Asia

How is this year’s show different?

  1. We are presenting South Asian and South East Asian countries and not just India
  2. Kicking off groups that create dance for social change (from the 4 culture ASC showcase)
  3. Introducing Jugalbandi’s or bringing two styles together.
  4. Presenting traditional folk dance such as Ghoomar and Terah Taaali from Rajasthan
  5. Blending Classicism in dance with traditional training methods such as Yoga and Kalaripayattu
  6. Honoring a senior guru

It is a big change moving from the well-established showcase theme from the past years but I am excited to bring this new showcase on

Ratna Roy

stage. Hopefully it will reach out to more folks from Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Maldives as well as South East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and West Malaysia. My desire is to present the amazing dance forms that are rarely seen in the Pacific Northwest!

I would like to thank NWFL especially Kelli Faryar for giving me the freedom to plan and execute this showcase based on my needs assessment and content expertise. It has been an amazing ride and I look forward to this weekend when it all comes together!!

Thank you and looking forward to seeing all of you this weekend. Please write to me (joyce@arpanarts.org) with your thoughts about this showcase.

– Dr. Joyce Paul

Reggae Rising

Reggae Rising: Hip-Hop’s Roots in Reggae Music

Reggae RisingReggae has been at the forefront in the development of music for many years now. From Electronic Dance Music to Pop to Punk to Disco and several other music genres today, you can hear the influence of Reggae coming from their core. One genre of music in particular that is directly influenced from Reggae is Hip-Hop. Those familiar with Hip-Hop’s history know that the culture was started in the late 70’s in the Bronx, NYC. The founding fathers of the culture are Afrika Bambatta, Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc. DJ Kool Herc being a native of Kingston, Jamaica always credits his Jamaican roots for his early techniques and development of the culture.

Reggae music’s traditions of dubbing out tracks and toasting on the microphone are a direct lead in to hip-hop’s sampling & emceeing (now known as rapping). In Jamaica, dubbing out a track was the same as making a instrumental remix of a original song. It would usually be the B-side of a Jamaican 7″ single with the original song being the A-side. It involves stripping away most of the instrumentation of the song, vocals and melody highlighting the heavy drums and bass line. This would allow for a artist to “toast” or chat live on top the beat in the same way a Hip-Hop emcee can freestyle over the instrumental of their favorite track. And well known Jamaican Dub architect Lee Scratch Perry created the idea of putting sound effects such as babies crying, gunshots, breaking glass, etc. into his dubs and tracks thus inventing sampling. So as you see, elements of Hip-Hop can be traced back to techniques that came from Jamaican studios years earlier.

Originally, early DJs in Jamaica would get on the microphone just to promote albums or hype up tracks. Foundation Dancehall artist Daddy U-Roy was one of the first artists to actually toast phrases that fit in with the words of the song in addition to his call and response style and exclamations of “Wow” & Yeah”. This style is where rapping draws its roots from. Back in the Bronx, a emcee by the name of Coke La Rock worked alongside DJ Kool Herc hyping up crowds in the style reminicant of the Jamaican Sound System toasting style. He didn’t do full on lyrical flows like rappers today, but he would hype up the crowd with party motivating slogans like “To tha beat y’all!” or “Rock on My Mellow!”. Many old school listeners refer to him as the first Hip Hop emcee.

From the late 70’s and into 80’s, the toasting style in Jamaica progressed and more toasters (also known as Dee-Jays) such as Ranking Joe, Charlie Chaplin, Yellowman and Eek A Mouse appeared on the scene with a more lyrical rhyming style. They would record songs on top of sparse riddims (instrumental tracks) made from various producers like Junjo Lawes, Linval Thompson, Gussie Clarke & Jah Thomas thus creating the Dancehall style. During this time, Dee-Jay records became more important than the Roots Reggae sound which had dominated Jamaica for the majority of the 70’s. Another popular trend in this time was the soundclash. Soundclashes featured rival Dee-Jays and Soundsystems who would compete head to head in front of live crowds to showcase who had the biggest & toughest sound. This trend also directly influenced Hip-Hop in the US as Breakdancers & Emcees from different crews would have Challenge competitions to display who had the best skills on the mic or on the floor with their breakdance moves. This allowed the youth to focus their skills on something other than the every day violence that came with living in the inner cities. Both African Americans and Jamaicans alike could relate to the social and economic hardships they faced daily.

The late 80’s and throughout the 90’s were important years in regards to Reggae and Hip-Hop crossing paths in the United States. There were several Hip Hop artists coming out during this time such as: Boogie Down Productions, Poor Righteous Teachers, Just-Ice, Heavy-D & Jamalski who were spicing up their beats & rhymes with the Reggae flavor. This was also the time that many Jamaican Dancehall acts such as Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Cutty Ranks, Buju Banton & Mad Cobra were getting record deals on American labels and starting to collaborate with US Hip Hop artists. This era also birthed the very popular Reggae/Hip Hop remix trend. That was when a producer would take the acapella (lyrics) of a popular Reggae Dancehall song and place them on top of a popular Hip Hop or R&B instrumental. Nowadays this style is referred to as a “mashup”.

Although the Reggae/Hip-Hop crossover style was more dominant on the east coast in NYC, the west coast has had it’s share of artists who have been experimenting with that flavor for many years. One artist in particular is MISTA CHATMAN (formerly know as DJ Collage). Chatman has spent several years visiting and performing on both coasts taking in the flavor. In fact, he is currently working on a mixtape titled “Chat Down Memory Lane” in which he will be performing Reggae Dancehall lyrics over popular old skool Hip Hop and R&B beats revisiting the remix vibe that was popular in the 90’s.

You can check out MISTA CHATMAN live and direct on this years Reggae Rising stage along with Seattle based Organic Hip Hop Reggae crew INDIGITIZE, Eugene based Hip Hop/Soul/Reggae outfit THE ELENA LEONA PROJECT, Seattle based 80’s style Reggae band DIGITAL LION with guest Jamaican born MC SELASSIE I SOLDIER on the mic and Seattle’s top foundation Reggae artist CLINTON FEARON & THE BOOGIE BROWN BAND returning to nice up the lawn. Time to get irie..BO! BO! BO!

Blog post submit by Lawrence Chatman.

Contra Dancing 2

What do you love most about the Northwest Folklife Festival?

Contra Dancing 2Northwest Folklife has been going strong for 44 years, and it is dance community powered.

We send MANY THANKS to all of the folk dance communities that recently came together in support of Northwest Folklife. It was exciting to see four ‘Nights for Folklife’ events on the calendar in March.

Northwest folk dance communities have long been involved in the Festival’s roots as a participatory multi-cultural experience. I recently met Judy, a veteran folk dancer, who explained, “my husband and I caught the folk dance bug at Folklife, and we travelled the world as a result.” Since the days of glamour and leg room in jet travel, the Folklife Festival has been the place folks can discover and practice all kinds of international folk dance hailing from the Balkans, English Countryside, France, Greece, Hungary, Scotland, and Turkey, and throughout the world. Sounds like the Northwest Folklife Festival did its part to stimulate Pacific Northwesterners’ curiosity about diverse cultures and world travel.

Thank You to the folk dancers who donated, to the event coordinators and to all who made in-kind donations. Here is but a partial list:

Laurie Andres
Kathy “I dance; therefore, I am.” Bruni
Cascade Promenade
Jean Causey
Cedar Valley Grange
Folk Voice Band
Art Hare
Lake City Contra Marathon
Lake City Contra/Old Time Country Dance
Sherry Nevins
Northwest Folk Dancers, Inc.
Doug Plummer
Portland Roadhouse Dance
Kathy Sandstrom
Seattle English Country Dance
Skagit-Anacortes Folk Dancers
Skandia Folk Dance Society
Karen Shaw
Sno-King International Folk Dancers
Sue Songer
Swedish Club
Terry Wergeland
Cathie Whitesides

Interested in taking up folk dancing? Visit Seattle Dance  for extensive information on clubs and dances and visit Northwest Folklife’s Community Calendar, too.

Volunteer at Northwest Folklife

It’s National Volunteer Week

As we are all gearing up for the festival we would like to take a moment to thank all of our amazing volunteers, past and present for making Folklife the incredible festival it is year after year.

On our Volunteer Application, we ask why you want to Volunteer at Folklife. The responses we get are so thoughtful, heartfelt and illustrate dedication our volunteers have for the festival and the community it creates.

Here are a few of our Favorites:

“Best volunteer event in Seattle. Love interacting with the other volunteers and being a part of a great community event.” Carolyn Brenner, volunteer of 33 years 

“These are my people, and this is my history.” Elke Schoen, volunteer of 30+ years

“My family has been part of this festival for my entire life, I deeply value what this festival means to our community. I am glad to be a part of it!” Adrian Braxton, volunteer of 5 years

Many of our volunteers have been a part of our organization for 20, 30, even 40 years and we are proud to have such dedicated individuals be a part of what we do. Whether you help us with preparation in the office, greet Festival participants, assist with registration or deliver coffee to vendors, you are a crucial part of our organization and are greatly treasured. Thank you.

Northwest Folklife honors volunteers through our Appreciation Program which takes place on Monday May 25th in the Volunteer Registration room.

Volunteers are encouraged to stop by on Monday and grab a gift and see if they have won a prize through the Volunteer Raffle!

If you are interested in volunteering but have not filled out an application- it’s not too late! Email volunteers@nwfolklife.org for more information.

Seattle Youth Poet Laureate 1

Seattle Youth Poet Laureate

Seattle PoetThis year at Folklife we are excited to announce that the City of Seattle is holding its inaugural Youth Poet Laureate Program. The Seattle Youth Poet Laureate aims to identify and honor local young writers and poets who are not only talented literary artists, but demonstrate a commitment to “civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, human relations, diversity and education across Seattle.”

Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools program (SAL/WITS) and Urban Word NYC have joined together to create the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate program, supported locally and nationally by Northwest Folklife, Penmanship Books, and the Academy of American Poets.

Applications are currently being accepted from writers ages 14-19. The top eight finalists will perform during the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Commencement Performance, which will be held during the 2015 Northwest Folklife Festival, Saturday May 23 at 1:00 p.m. in the Cornish Playhouse. At the performance, a panel of four judges will decide the winner. Along with being dubbed the 2015 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate, the winner will receive a book deal to publish their first book of poems and be able to travel across the city on a book tour.

The Seattle Youth Poet Laureate will attend events throughout the year, providing a platform to share their voice with the City of Seattle. The ideal candidate will be someone with not only great leadership skills, but a strong love for Seattle as well. Winning this title means that you will represent the City of Seattle and spread support for arts programs for youth throughout the community.

If this sounds like you, submit an application! Details can be found online here.

The deadline for submissions is April 24, 2015. The 2015 Northwest Folklife Festival will be held May 22-25, at the Seattle Center. The Cornish Playhouse is located at 201 Mercer St., Seattle, WA 98109. Admission is free!

Folklife 2014 - Sunday

Summertime Fun with Folklife!

The Northwest Folklife Festival comes around but once a year, but we’re here year round! Here’s a few events just around the corner!

Join us at Crossroads Mall

Join us Saturday, July 19th at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue for an evening of dancing through Asia. Learn hand movements from instructor Meloody Xie. This is a FREE event starting at 6:30PM – 8:30PM.

Folklife is thrilled to be p?format=400wartnering with the Kirkland Summerfest, August 8-10 to present some of your favorite Folklife performers on their Community Stage! Summerfest is Kirkland’s largest festival featuring three days of art and music on the waterfront and throughout downtown. Don’t miss 3 days of visual and performing arts, over 50 performances, spectator sports, family rides, and entertainment, over 150 vendors and food trucks on the streets of downtown. Stay tuned for our full line up and more details!

Folklife was streaming live from many of our stages from the Festival all weekend! Miss a show? Click here to see if it’s there, and listen to many of the hundreds of recordings from this remarkable Festival!Fri_Multigenerations2The Northwest Folklife Festival comes around but once a year, but we’re here year round! Keep up with us on Facebook – we’ll be sharing fun events around town, Folklife news, do a few fun giveaways, and so much more. Plus, we want to hear about the cultural entertainment you love in the Pacific Northwest. Facebook is the perfect place to share.

scf_logo_Starburst_TransFolklife is hard at work planning our first Children’s Festival! The Seattle Children’s Festival will be a free one-day festival located on the Seattle Center Grounds on October 12, 2014. No admission charge, thanks to your donations and community support! By “Celebrating Our Big Neighborhood,” the Festival will bring together local communities that showcase and celebrate families of the Northwest. Programming will include music and dance performances and interactive workshops from around the world as well as a Hands-on Activity Area.


Indian Community Profiles: Meet your Neighbors!

The 2014 Northwest Folklife Festival is highlighting four members of the Indian community in part of our Cultural Focus program: Ramesh Gangolli, Dr. Lakshmi Gaur, Runika Nandkumar, Dr. Vijaya Rao and Aditya Uppala. From youth to matured, these representatives support and inherit the Indian community in their community of the Northwest as they continue to incorporate their traditions and values into neighborhoods.

Runika NandkumarRunika Nandkumar

Runika Nandkumar is a wife, mother, craft-maker and volunteer for several different non-profit organizations in the Northwest. She graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, India and specializes in textile design. Runika is a recent immigrant to Seattle’s Indian community. Unlike immigrants from the 60s, 70s and 80s who faced struggles with a new culture, inability to drive, as well as a lack of family and friends, recent immigrants come equipped with awareness and knowledge partly due to the internet. This year, Runika Nandkumar is showcasing talented artists at Folklife as part of the Indya Rang Bazaar as Sampada and demonstrating unique forms of artistic creation.

 1.    When did you move to the Northwest? 

It was the winter of 2008 when I was welcomed by a White Christmas to Seattle, as I stepped out of the airport after a 20 hour flight from New Delhi, India. It was an ethereal experience, waking up jetlagged in the middle of a cold winter night to inches of snow on my window sill.

2.    What brought you here?

Destiny brought me here, I would say, though the medium chosen was the world’s largest software organization which my husband was a part of, and there is no looking back now.

3.    How do you stay involved with your culture and heritage in the community?

Seattle and its Eastside neighbourhood have plenty of ethnic diversity, including a 40,000 odd Indian diaspora, so it is quite possible to bump into someone familiar ever so often. There are plenty of opportunities for creativity and intellectual stimulation when you meet the right set of people. Sampada was born out of the desire to stay connected with my inheritance, India’s art and craft at the same time offering the West an opportunity to experience authentic Indian quality products.

4.    Why is it important to you to stay involved?

My identity is deep rooted in Indian culture, especially around art, craft and embroidery apart from an array of mouth-watering cuisine from the sub-continent. As a business woman, I not only promote commerce but also use Sampada as a platform to raise cultural awareness of authentic Indian products, art and artisans and thus drive quality consciousness in consumers, given that plenty of cheap lookalikes are flooding the market.

5.    What are the major differences between the Indian community in the Northwest and other places you have lived?

From an international perspective, thought I have traveled within Southeast Asia, I have lived in only 1 country outside India, and most of my time in the US has been in the Pacific Northwest in the Seattle area. I can say that the Indian community here tries consciously to maintain ties back to its culture and nativity as they absorb the best of what the Northwest and the US have to offer. This is a positive sign of community living, especially for second generation Indians who are brought up here. You go the extra mile to keep your culture alive, which is sometimes taken for granted back home.


Aditya UppalaAditya Uppala

Aditya Uppala is a junior at Overlake High School in Redmond and President of the Indian Association of Western Washington’s Youth Board. He represents the second generation of Indians in our community who pride themselves for being bicultural- having the immense pride in being American Indian with a rich heritage and belonging to a nation that was built by immigrants themselves.

1. Is there a sense of belonging in Seattle for you?
Of course – I was born here and this is home for me. This is where I have family, friends, and communities I have grown to identify with and care for. I am proud of the Seahawks and I wait for the return of the NBA team back to its rightful place. Seattle is where I have grown up.

2. How is your life here similar to that of your family members in India?
While my sister and I have our parents as a constant in our lives, like my cousins in India, we also have an amazing group of family friends who have contributed in raising us children. Many of my Christmases and Thanksgivings are spent in homes of our family friends who have created these traditions for us second generation offspring in an effort to provide us with an awesome Indo-American childhood. So, very much like our cousins in India, we too have an extensive group of families around us who are there to help us in crises, encourage us as well as just be there for us as the “go to people”.

3. What role has Northwest Folklife played in your life?
Memorial Day weekend has always been about Folklife in our home. I remember the traditional Folklife meal of “crepes” and “funnel cakes” that my sister and I would always have at Folklife right after her dance performance at Folklife’s Colors and Cultures segment. We would wait anxiously for her dance to be done and pictures taken by the “aunties” (not just my parents) and then at least twenty of us kids would head straight to the many food booths starving. The fountain in Seattle Center would be packed and we never got tired of running through. Our Indian youth group did a flash mob there a couple years back and it was quite an experience to do Bollywood where you once watched eclectic performers entertain the crowds with music. Dance and acrobatics. Folklife has enriched our lives in Seattle both with the arts it has exposed us to as well as the platform it has provided us to explore our own roots. We always find time to be at the Folklife festival and every year we discover something unique be it in foods or music or arts.

4. You are the India Association of Western Washington’s Youth Board President for this year. How has the organization connected you with your heritage and your community?
IAWW as we call it has connected us youth not just to our roots but also to our community in Seattle. Our connection to the Indian independence, Republic Day, to our Festival of Lights ‘Diwali’ has been with events the organization has conducted every year for the Indian community here in Seattle. The most significant contribution I would say from IAWW to the youth of the Indo American community here has been the much loved Camp Bharat which celebrates the 25th year of its inception. IAWW’s Camp Bharat has every year for the past twenty five years provided the Indian community with a five day summer camp organized by youth for youth where one discovered the importance of belonging and pride in ones roots. Camp Bharat is much loved for the friendships, the leadership, and the belonging it provides us second generation youth. Kids look forward to the five days of endless sports, workshops, conversations and friendships. At the IAWW Youth Board, we have explored and enjoyed service to the greater Seattle community by participating in cooking meals for the homeless, packing food, cleaning up wastes, helping tutor and connect with youth who need the help and jn the process we have discovered the pleasure in giving not just to our own community but to the people at large. I believe we have been fortunate jn this community to have had so many platforms to explore our interests in leadership, service and learning through IAWW, Folklife and our own families.

pioneers_gaurDr. Lakshmi Gaur

Dr. Lakshmi Gaur is a scientist in the field of genomics who was recognized with one of the most prestigious award programs worldwide. After attending undergraduate school in India, she came to the United States as a Fullbright scholar and earned her PhD at the University of Washington. Lakshmi has been a patron to the India Association of Western Washington’s board since 2000 and has led as President, Director of Youth Program and Director of Social Mission Program.  Dr. Lakshmi Gaur has also been an ongoing participant of the Northwest Folklife Festival and has devoted many years to creating showcase Colors and Cultures of India.

1.    When did you move to the Northwest?

My first visit to Northwest was during Christmas 1979 – couldn’t keep away from the place longer. I moved to Seattle in April 1980.

2.    What brought you here?

Research opportunities at University of Washington

3.    How do you stay involved with your culture and heritage in the community?

The answer to such a question is a multi-layered one. One stays involved by involving oneself either directly or indirectly; directly by actively promoting and indirectly by passively patronizing the programs. I do both, as little as the effort may be. However, one has to be proud of his/her heritage and culture to do either. I believe we enrich communities by sharing our culture and acquiring influencing features from other cultures in the process.

I believe we all are creatures of habit, whether it’s food or dressing or language.  As much as we change in the process of adapting to our new environments, we still gravitate to what we were used to. The process could be very healthy for a transplanted community, as they pick the best of both worlds.

4.    Why is it important to you to stay involved?

It is important for me to stay involved because I believe I can create a common ground for the communities, the one I came from and the communities that embraced me.

Personally for me strong communities are those that are diverse yet enjoy cultural congruence. Diversity in a population often fosters tolerance, which is the key to learning that in turn breeds success. Most successful populations in the world today are populations with multi-ethnic and multi-cultural background.

5.    What are the major differences between the Indian community in the Northwest and other places you have lived?

I don’t have good yardstick to measure this, as I lived most of my life in the Northwest. The only other place I can compare is Greensboro, NC – 25 years ago. I was too busy with my two kids and profession to take part in community activities. However, there is more unity within diverse Indian communities in small cities than in big cities. Over the years Seattle area has seen a steady growth in Indian community, resulting in multiple associations purely based on language.  I like the united concept because, the great thing about India is its linguistic diversity bound with cultural thread. This is one of reasons I never cease to be a part of India Association of Western Washington.

*Stay Tuned for More Interviews

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The Skablins; photo by Piper Hanson

The Skablins; photo by Piper Hanson

Folklife is now seeking a Programming Intern for the 2014 Folklife Festival (May 23-26, 2014)! The Programming Internship is central to the programming Northwest Folklife has to offer. This Intern plays a key role in ensuring smooth festival production from a programming standpoint.


Interning at Northwest Folklife can be the experience you need to gain a career in event planning, festival production, the music industry, nonprofit management, marketing, fundraising and a whole host of other fields. Interns at Northwest Folklife take on a significant role in executing the largest free community arts festival in the nation and learn how to increase visibility and strengthen the sustainability of a nonprofit organization.


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