Partying “Balera” style: Florence Folks Festival

Discover new music and learn liscio dance moves

Michelle Davis
July 28, 2017 - 15:32

Nothing says Summer Fun more than a Balera party. These vintage dance halls hail from a time when village parties and neighbourhood get-togethers culminated in night-long marathons of people dancing liscio, a traditional folk dance that was born in Romagna towards the end of the 19th century and has won over many with its sliding step patterns and “smooth” (in Italian: liscio) shuffling moves.


Florence's La Scena Muta, a collective organisation dedicated to the promotion and preservation of local music and practices, has chosen this kind of setting for the second edition of the Florence Folks Festival that takes place inside the Balera sull'Arno di Varlungo, just off the Varlungo bridge in the proximity of Florence's Obihall. Here, you will find a special handmade market, baby play areas, free workshops for children and the “violetta”, a variety of the Italian eggplant that thanks to La Scena Muta will be making a comeback as the main ingredient of the festival's menu (try it as a pizza topping - it's delicious!).


Partying "Balera" style at Florence Folks Festival Partying "Balera" style at Florence Folks Festival (Ph. Alessandro Scipioni)


Be ready to dance, be ready for adventure and new musical styles, but most of all: be ready for good times!

The program, made possible thanks to the support of ARCI Firenze, Estate Fiorentina and Ruffino, kicked off yesterday with a sizzling performance of Florentine singer-songwriter Ginevra Di Marco, recently awarded the prestigious Tenco prize for her album “La Rubia canta la Negra”, a touching tribute to Argentine folk legend Mercedes Sosa.


Tonight, from 9 pm onwards, another female powerhouse will be taking over the Florence Folks Festival stage: directly from Uganda, DJ Rachael supplies untamable afro-electronic beats and is a firm supporter of female selectas. In 2016 she founded Femme Electronic, a platform for East-African female deejays and music producers which plans on bridging this sector's gender divide by training, organizing workshops, mentoring and raising awareness among young wannabe deejanes.


DJ Rachael stirring up good vibes DJ Rachael stirring up good vibes


I think that music is a way of empowering women, a stepping stone towards possible futuresDJ Rachael smiles as we speak after the press conference “We try to get as many girls possible onboard – we have recently spread out to Kenya and aim at reaching Tanzania very soon. We owe a lot to institutions such as the Goethe Institut in Kampala, Uganda, and Nairobi-based Santuri Safari, an underground network for East-African musicians and artists. We are searching for further sponsors but in the meantime we host guest lectures and workshops with deejanes from all over the world”.


Her 20-year long career has brought her all over the world, but a special mention goes to her participation in 2016's prestigious Womex Deejay Summit in Santiago de Compostela, where she was the first artist to ever represent Uganda. She was recently featured in a documentary entitled Equalizing Music: women changing the face of electronic music alongside Chicago superstar deejane The Black Madonna.


"I started by chance... I actually was an MC when I first began getting acquainted with the turntables. I haven't looked back since!" she laughs "I can't wait to feel the Florentine crowd... be ready to dance, be ready for adventure and new musical styles, but most of all: be ready for good times!".


Florence Folks Festival will be on until Sunday July 30, with book presentations, wine tastings and musical performances by singer-songwriter Giancane, Colombian sensation Puerto Candelaria, Romagna vintage liscio band Extraliscio, Florentine beat-master Biga and a funky female trio featuring yours truly alongside Mimmy and La Ponto, two of the stellar deejanes featured in our recent article "Girls on Decks".


Check out the festival's full program here and be sure to come by for your annual dose of balera fun!


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