Folklife Friday is a weekly digest of arts and culture articles, podcasts, and videos from across the web. Read on for a selection of the week’s best cultural heritage pieces, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for a new set of weekly picks.
From Havana to LA: A New Musical Connection
On the new album Cubafonía, singer Daymé Arocena reimagines traditional Cuban music, weaving in influences from her time in Los Angeles and, as she hopes, fostering a deeper understanding of the music that has long inspired her. For Arocena, what’s most frustrating is “when people think Cuban music is just Buena Vista Social Club, when people don’t know that rumba is the beginning of all the rhythms of Cuba.”
Matzo Makeover: Can the Bread of Affliction Become a Snack Addiction?
When New Yorkers Kevin Rodriguez and Ashley Albert joined forces to launch The Matzo Project, an artisanal matzo company, they faced a slew of challenges from how to properly spell matzo to how to evenly salt each and every bite. They have experimented with salted, cinnamon sugar, and “everything” flavors, but “simplicity was the underlying winner.” More important still, as the two describe here, are the unexpected discoveries and connections to their background that they have made along the way.
Tiny Desk Special Edition: Red Baraat's Holi Celebration
Red Baraat, the Brooklyn-based band known for their fusion of jazz, go-go, and bhangra music, bring a unique lightness and energy to this Holi-themed Tiny Desk Concert. Red Baraat’s sound, as Bob Boilen explains, owes to the dhol or double-sided drum that lends structure to the up-tempo music. The concert, as Boilen put it, “gives us a chance to shake off the final days of winter and demonstrates why music is so essential to the soul.”
A Children’s Museum ‘Surprise Blockbuster’: A Show on Islam
A new exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is bringing together art displays, music, and interactive installations to take young visitors on a journey through Muslim cultures across fifty countries. The showcase, including a 3-D architectural tour and global marketplace, aims to spotlight artistic creativity through hands-on activities and counter biases that, as curator Lizzy Martin explains, are formed by age six.
Do North and South Korea Speak the Same Language? Yes, But Not Quite
“Whenever we translate from a language or literature not yet widely represented in English, the danger is that what was intended as art will be reduced to anthropology,” translator Deborah Smith writes in this thought-provoking piece. Here, Smith explores the oft-overlooked nuances of translation, among them, describing North Korean children playing on sorghum stilts—a cultural nuance lost on non-native speakers. Still, Smith sees imagination as the key to cross-cultural understanding. “As a work of fiction, it is an attempt to counter the stifling of human imaginations with an act of that same imagination,” Smith writes.
Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough and to Sabrina Lynn Motley and Huib Schippers for their contributions to this week’s digest.
Photo by Darius Soodmand