Angelique Kidjo

LEAF Festival Keeps Black and Brown Music at the Forefront

Cory Henry

Over the long weekend of October 17–20, 12,000 people will descend on the historic Lake Eden in Black Mountain, NC, for the 49th bi-annual LEAF Festival, under the 2019 theme “Reach for the Stars.”

Consistently ranked as one of the best music festivals in the Southeast, LEAF Community Arts aims to connect cultures and create community through music and art.

LEAF’s mission includes bringing black and brown artists to western North Carolina, and more than half of this fall’s headliners are musicians of color. The festival will feature Darrell Rose, Masankho Banda, The Golden Trumpets, Nex Millen, Paul Beaubrun, Les Filles de Illigidad, Brandon Taz Niederauer, Nattali Rize, Huun Huur Tu, Jonathan Scales, Southern Avenue, and La Santa Cecilia.

Leading the headliner pack are two black artists who couldn’t be more different. For the younger generation, Friday night will feature Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles. Only 32, Henry is successfully redefining R&B for a new generation. Originally a member of Snarky Puppy, Henry is an accomplished pianist, songwriter, and producer who was chosen by Quincy Jones to headline his curated “Soundtrack of America” series.

Angelique Kidjo

On the other side of the spectrum is an artist hailing from the other side of the world. Angelique Kidjo, a three-time Grammy Award winner who has been ranked as one of BBC’s “50 most iconic African Figures,” The Guardian’s “Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World,” and the first woman to be listed among Forbes magazine’s “The 40 Most Powerful & Influential Celebrities in Africa.” It has been said that Kidjo carries the weight of a continent on her shoulders through her pioneering music, renowned humanitarian work, and undeniable legacy. She is renowned for her performance on th Talking Heads album, Remain in Light, inspired by the music of West Africa, notably Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat.

The family-friendly festival will feature five Family Adventure villages.

Overall, the family-friendly festival will feature some 400 performers on six stages, more than 60 vendors, five Family Adventure villages, and many healing arts & earth skills workshops. Artistic Director Ehren Cruz had this to say:

“Of all the forces in our universe, few things captivate more inspiration, awe, and wonder… than the stars. No matter where we stand upon this beautiful Earth, up above is a celestial blanket beckoning our vision to higher possibilities. For the 49th LEAF Festival, the artists selected transcend expectation, defy all convention, and capture the essence of what it means to embrace one’s fullest potential. From the shores of Benin to the mountains of Colorado, to the forests of Ireland, to the city streets of LA. This fall, over 15 nations will unite at Lake Eden to share a vision of who we are.”

The LEAF festival will be held October 17–20, 2019 at Lake Eden in Black Mountain. Tickets are available at, and children under 10 are free.


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