National Folk Festival: Editor’s pick (Saturday evening)

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Seiichi Tanaka
Seiichi Tanaka (courtesy NCTA)

Can’t Miss: Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka & the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, Church Street Stage @ 9:45 p.m.

When Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka visited the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown, he was disappointed in the lack of drumming that he remembered from similar festivals in Japan. He returned to Japan, devoted himself to the art and is now the only grand master of taiko drums in the United States and the leader of a tight regimen of taiko drummers.

Other acts: Aurelio Martinez, Belk Stage @ 7:15 p.m.

The Garifuna are a micro-ethnic community from the Caribbean coast of Central America. Their music is a mix of Spanish guitar and African rhythms pounded on drums made from logs. Aurelio Martinez is a Garifuna superstar.

His songs are traditional, rhythmic melodies that capture the hopeful spirit of a marginalized community. With both danceable and complex moments, there’s something for everyone in Martinez’s music. That’s not to mention the guy’s charisma. From 2006 to 2010 Martinez served in the Honduran Congress, where he fought for the concerns of the Garifuna.

Wild card: John Dee Holeman with Williette Hinton, North Carolina Traditions Stage @ 6:15 p.m.

John Dee Holeman is the last of a dying breed. He was born in Hillsborough, NC and started playing the Piedmont blues in the mid-1940’s. He’s collaborated with Taj Mahal and been awarded the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award.

His music is gritty, driven by a scratchy blues voice and some mean guitar licks. Williette Hinton buck dances next to Holeman. Buck dancing is a mix between juba and clogging, the precursor to tap dancing.

Suggested Itinerary: Start at the Wrangler stage where World Rhythms: Percussion Traditions is happening. There you’ll be hitting a few birds with one stone since they feature a widespread of percussion from acts like Mythili Prakash Dance Ensemble, the Pedrito Dance Group and Baba Ken Okulolo & the West African Highlife Band. At 6:15 p.m., head to the Traditions Stage where John Dee Holeman and Williette Hinton are playing. It’ll be their only performance, so if you want to see Piedmont blues this is your only shot.

You’re going to want to be at the Belk Stage for Aurelio Martinez’s performance at 7:15 p.m. And that puts you in a good position to walk down to the Church Street stage where you’ll stay all night. Argentine tango starts at 8:45 p.m. followed by Japanese taiko drumming at 9:45 p.m.

— Daniel Wirtheim