We haven’t been at Folk Alliance since before the pandemic (stupid COVID). But this year, we returned and were pleased to find that not only were so many of the things we loved about the international festival the same, but many areas had improved as well.

The four-day festival brings folk musicians and industry representatives from across the globe right to the center of the country in Kansas City. While a couple of the floors serve as main areas for showcasing artists and conference-style speeches, the fun comes when the hotel rooms are converted into private (and acoustic) showcases.

We saw a lot of improvements in the festival this year, particularly a larger space for black folk artists. However, we would like to see a lot more musicians from Middle Eastern and Asian countries (we can assure you that there was a massive lack of any Middle Eastern folk musicians, which is shocking consider the stronghold the genre has on the region).

Here are the highs and lows of the festival.


  • Talisk’s berserk set (must-see video below). If you liked these guys, get ready. They’re coming back to the region later this year.
  • Signs posted outside hotel rooms showing the exact full schedule of showcases
  • Rum Ragged’s fiddler holding the speakers while he danced so they didn’t fall over
  • Diversity in the musical acts
  • Black American Music Summit
  • More Native American performers present (Sihasin, Elexa Dawson)
  • Magical moments like having a room full of PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS sing you happy birthday (Rainbow Girls’ set)
  • Musicians and jam circles erupting in song in every nook and cranny (you couldn’t even exit a bathroom without hitting a mini-concert


  • 30-minute waits for the elevators with no stair access to the ballrooms
  • Not getting enough time to see every single act
  • Where are all the Arabs? Sincerely, an Arab.
  • Not enough Lawrence/KC acts (I mean, we heart local music, so duh)



Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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