Saturday, April 8, 2023



"AUSTRAL" at the 2023 National Folk Festival. Canberra.

EPIC - Canberra 6th - 10th April 2023

Opening Night Concert -  Thursday 6th April  - reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

After a shaky start to the year, when its very existence was threatened, the National Folk Festival has powered back into 2023 with a revitalised and invigorated program, headlined by Billy Bragg, The Waifs, and an impressive line-up of established and emerging artists who celebrate the festival’s roots while at the same time signposting future directions.

Offering a veritable taste-plate of the imaginative programming typifying the broadening ambitions of the 2023 festival, the Opening Night Concert featured six of the headline acts and commenced with a spectacular entrance through the audience by the ACT Emergency Services Pipes and Drums.

Compere, Zev Aviv, introduced Ngunnawal elder, Dr. Caroline Hughes, who offered a graceful 'Welcome to Country' in which she acknowledged the passing of Auntie Agnes Shea as well as the 15th Anniversary of the Stolen Generation, after which Ngunnawal elder, Jude Barlow sang a moving rendition of the Archie Roach song, “Took My Children Away”.

The first of the featured acts was the celebrated four-piece Australian Celtic ensemble, “Austral”, fresh from having won “The Traditional Folk Album of the Year” at the 2022 Australian Folk Music Awards. “Austral” offered an exhilarating, high-energy selection which ensured that they will be one of the “must-see” acts during the festival.

Kavisha Mazzella

Aria-Award winner, Kavisha Mazzella, enthralled with the gorgeous textures of her voice and her selection of songs which began with the haunting “Invisible” and included a delightful tribute to “Victoria Market”.  

Considered one of Australia’s most significant indigenous songwriters, Frank Yamma offered an arresting selection of his deeply personal songs sung with a gutsy authenticity that provided an intriguing contrast to the cultured vocals of Ukrainian songbird, Larissa Kovalchuk, who, wearing a gorgeously beaded costume, and accompanying herself on the bandura, enchanted with her selection of Ukrainian folk songs.

An ensemble called The Lost Clog had the audience in stitches with their program of saucy Lithuanian folk songs, before surprising by ending their selection with a passionately sung dedication to their Ukrainian neighbours.

"We Mavericks" 

An award-winning New Zealand duo, “We Mavericks”, delighted with their musicianship and tight harmonies and their selection of  gritty, evocative original songs; before the Greek ensemble, Apodimi Compania took the stage. 

An ensemble which originated in Brunswick in Melbourne’s inner North, and which for the past 12 years has been  resident in Athens, Apodimi Compania last appeared at the National Folk Festival in 2017. Even though still recovering from their 20- hour flight to Canberra; Apodimi Compania  brought the program to a scintillating conclusion with a fascinating selection of traditional Rebetika, Greek and Cretan song and dance music.  


"Apodimi Compania"

National Folk Festival continues until 10th April - Full program details available