This year the African Showboyz will join the Kusun, straight from the bush of Accra, Ghana, and take the stage alongside such greats as The David Grisman Quintet, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Nickel Creek, and many more, as well as a host of local talent. The event also celebrates the wealth of indigenous
artisanship in the area, including demo workshops, and dedicates a large space to showcasing the healing arts, with daily yoga and tai chi classes, as well as a variety of massage and body work.
This year’s Flodfest also will be remembering its friend Babatunde Olatunji, who recently passed away not long after taking an active role in helping bring African Showboyz from the northern bush of Ghana to the festival for their first visit to United States.
When Babatunde Olatunji mailed a handwritten letter to musician and promoter Kris Hodges, little did he know that the music from his homeland of Africa, a music he was working to preserve by showcasing unknown African bands to a US audience, would be making a debut performance in the US in the rural Virignia mountain town of Floyd.
The Kusun Ensemble, a troupe of musicians from Accra, Ghana led by Nii Tettey Tetteh, is slated for an opening performance Friday morning. But the Kusun has already found a second home in Floyd, Virginiaa, USA. In the two months prior to the festival, Hodges has scheduled the group to lead drum and dance workshops in the area and perform at universities and local venues. On a warm July evening they give an impromptu performance at a community potluck, singing and drumming on a makeshift stage and taking turns leading the audience in the provocative movements of African dance. They’re lodging a few miles out of the one-stoplight town of Floyd, a left off of Route 8 and another onto ‘Milky Way’, and into High Flowing, one of Floyd’s many alternative communities.
When Hodges when to Africa to study African drumming, he and Tettey made a spiritual connection. The two deplored the plight of Africa, a continent wasting for lack of an economy and the knowledge necessary to create a viable infrastructure. They discussed global politics, and how fear and greed create the illusion of separateness. They spent their time playing music, reaffirming the idea that music and culture are unifying forces, which transcend social boundaries. Hodges invited Tettey to come to America, to Floyd, to experience his community and to play at a festival he was planning; the Floyd World Music Festival.
Stop by on any given weekday during the summer and you’re likely to hear the unlikely sound of an accordion, played by German-born hostess and bohemian artist Starroot, behind the complex beat of traditional African drums and percussion. On and around the low-slung porch of the main house a colorful group dances, sings, and plays music, as the smells of a fish fry drift through the open windows.
In the southwest Virginia mountain town of Floyd, an eclectic blend of cultures are living a harmonious existence. Floyd is home to some of the finest bluegrass and old-time musicians around; and they all come together every Friday night for a jamboree at the old Country Store downtown. Simultaneously there exists a deeply-rooted counterculture, established in the early 1970s, exemplified by the existence of a thriving health food’s coop, a hip vegetarian restaurant, and the New Mountain Mercantile, which does a brisk tourist business selling locally made crafts including pottery, candles, stained glass, clothing, sculpture and jewelry. Outside an office atop the mercantile, a lighted movie-style marquee sign reads: “Across-the-Way Productions, headquarters of the Floyd World Music Festival.”