Lisa Puananimōhala’ikalani Denny sings while on stage at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar during the Alaska Folk Festival side-stage event “Unceded” Tuesday evening. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Lisa Puananimōhala’ikalani Denny sings while on stage at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar during the Alaska Folk Festival side-stage event “Unceded” Tuesday evening. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

‘Unceded’ Folk Fest event celebrates artists of color and the diversity of folk music

Nearly a dozen Southeast Alaska-based Black, Indigenous and other artists of color took the stage.

This article has been updated to acknowledge Dita Devi as a co-organizer of the event.

The Alaskan Hotel and Bar downtown was packed full, with dozens of patrons lining shoulder to shoulder all the way from the bar to the balcony — an unusual site for a Tuesday evening. But, this was no typical night at The Alaskan as a new side-stage event of the Alaska Folk Festival titled “Unceded” made its debut.

The multi-hour event invited nearly a dozen Southeast Alaska-based Black, Indigenous and other artists of color whose performances ranged from acapella to hip-hop to guitar solos to take the center stage. According to co-organizer Tripp Crouse the event is a celebration of folk music and of the artists that more often than not often get left out of what is considered to be mainstream folk music.

“We want people to understand that folk music comes in a lot of different flavors compared to what you might see at JDHS right now, folk music can be anything,” Crouse said. “A lot of folk music that came out of Americana has a lot of particular flavor and context and sound, and that doesn’t necessarily represent the black and Indigenous people who might have been marginalized. This event is sort of taking it back in a way, that’s the whole theme of the event.”

Lester Joel Rodriguez performs a guitar solo while on stage at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar during the Alaska Folk Festival side-stage event “Unceded” Tuesday evening. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Lester Joel Rodriguez performs a guitar solo while on stage at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar during the Alaska Folk Festival side-stage event “Unceded” Tuesday evening. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Crouse, said the idea to put on an event like ‘Unceded” has always been on their mind ever since they went to Folk Fest for the first time five years ago. The idea finally began to take shape earlier this year after they shared their idea online and found a large community of people who wanted to see the concept come to life.

Crouse said seeing the success that the event turned out to be Tuesday evening made a clear message about how necessary it is to make space for artists of color during Folk Fest and other events in Juneau.

“I think for me, the fact that so many people came out to support it is a huge indicator that this is sorely needed,” they said. “It’s about representation — when I was growing up I did not have a lot of other Indigenous people as role models, so I thought a lot of stuff wasn’t for me — so what this is really important for is making sure other people see people like themselves on stage and might encourage them to participate in Folk Fest.”

Daniel Firmin, who was the second performer of the night, said it was a great event to be a part of and to be surrounded and supported by other great artists of color in Juneau.

“It was fun, it felt really good to see people get out and support us, I just really appreciate it,” he said. “An event like this, it’s a big deal.”

Lisa Puananimōhala’ikalani Denny, whose performance featured her vocals and ukulele, agreed. She said the show allowed her to share what folk means to her as an individual.

“This platform made me rise to the occasion and honor my heritage in a safe space, in a welcoming inclusive space,” she said. “I am absolutely abundantly grateful for the platform being created and I am very honored to be a part of it, I feel privileged to show that folk is diverse.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

Folk Fest’s Thursday concert schedule

Thursday, the Alaska Folk Festival will get underway at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center starting at 6:30 p.m., and the last band will take the stage at 10 p.m.

After Thursday, Folk Fest will hit the road —specifically Egan Drive —and set up at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, which will host Friday, Saturday and Sunday of this year’s fest.

A rundown of Thursday’s schedule is below, and additional information about this year’s festival is available online at https://akfolkfest.org/48/48index.php.

6:30, Ursa Major

6:45, Dara Rilatos

7, The Stinging Nettles

7:15, Josh Fortenbery and Dan Kirkwood

7:30, Van Fleet and the Delivery Boys

7:45, Jeff Kranzler

8, Fiona Rose and the Show Ponies

8:15, Nancy Patterson

8:30, Shonti Elder, Will Putnam, Trudy Hefferman

8:45, The Spruce Tips

9, Sarah C Hanson and the Huzzband

9:15, Ellorie McKnight & Kieran Poile

9:30, Members of Crooked Folk

9:45, John Silas Henry

10, The River Livers!

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