This year’s People’s Voice Award recipient is singer-songwriter Jackson Browne

Kansas City, MO – As part of its Folk Unlocked virtual festival and conference, Folk Alliance International (FAI) hosted International Folk Music Awards (IFMAs); the premier recognition of folk music industry leaders, legends, unsung heroes, and rising talent, awarding Album of the Year to Kronos Quartet’s tribute to Pete Seeger, Artist of the Year to The War and Treaty, and Song of the Year to Eliza Gilkyson for Peace in our Hearts. Additional recipients included Gordon Lightfoot,Celia Cruz, Jackson Browne, and Raye Zaragoza..

The awards were broadcast virtually this year and are archived on FAI’s YouTube channel and Facebook Page.

This year’s awards were hosted by acclaimed songwriter and FAI past-president, Dan Navarro, and included music-videos by Best of 2020 nominees Jake Blount, Rose Cousins, and Gina Chavez, as well as a moving closing presentation of Tom Prasada-Rao’s song “$20 Bill, which commemorates the murder of George Floyd.”

More info on Folk Alliance:

Photographs of the award winners are here. Bios of honorees are below.

The IFMAs included the following recognitions:

The People’s Voice* Award is presented to an individual who unabashedly embraces social and political commentary in their creative work and public careers. This year’s recipient is singer-songwriter Jackson Browne.

In accepting his award, Browne remarked, ““I feel a great debt of gratitude to folk music… the deep range of its subject and stories and histories that encouraged me to sing about life as I encountered it and try to describe my own life in terms that I would recognize… I accept this award with gratitude. Thank you for hearing my songs and thanks for encouraging me.”

*The People’s Voice Award is not connected to, inspired by, or affiliated with any other entities that share the same name, or similar iteration of the title “The People’s Voice.”

The War and Treaty took home Artist of the Year. The other nominees were Gina Chavez, Samantha Crain, and William Prince. (In a January statement artist John McCutcheon withdrew from the ballot.)

The winner for Song of the Year was “Peace in Our Hearts” by Eliza Gilkyson. The other nominees were “Gone” by Tim Grimm, “Look Long” by the Indigo Girls, “South Gotta Change” by Adia Victoria, and “The Benefits of Being Alone” by Rose Cousins.

Album of the Year went to Kronos Quartet’s Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger. The other nominees were Bet on Love by Pharis and Jason Romero, Old Wow by Sam Lee, Spider Tales by Jake Blount, and the self-titled Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn.

The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards honors the cultural impact of legendary folk music figures in three categories: for a living recipient, a memorial recipient, and an organization or recognized academic. This year’s member-voted recipients are the record label Putumayo (Organization), the late Celia Cruz (Legacy), and legendary Canadian songwriter Gordon Lightfoot (Living).

Lightfoot said, “When I first started out, I never even expected to still be playing at this point… I am really, deeply honored.”

New this year, The Rising Tide Award has been launched to celebrate a new-generation (under 30) artist who inspires others by embodying the values and ideals of the folk community through their creative work, community role, and public voice. The inaugural recipient is Raye Zaragoza.

The Clearwater Award is presented annually to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production. This year’s recipient is the Woodford Folk Festival in Australia.

FAI’s Spirit of Folk Awards are presented to honor and celebrate people and organizations actively involved in the promotion and preservation of folk music through their creative work, community building, and demonstrated leadership, often behind the scenes and without fanfare. The 2021 recipients included producer Magnus Bäckström (founder of the Ethno program), lawyer Matthew Covey (co-founder of Tamizdat), artist/educators Reggie Harris and Suni Paz, and festival director Lisa Schwartz.

Each year FAI’s Folk DJ Hall of Fame recognizes folk radio DJs with more than a 20 year career, who have made an outstanding contribution to the preservation, promotion, and presentation of folk music, and who have demonstrated and inspired leadership in the broadcast field. The 2021 inductees are Manolo Fernádez (Radio Nacional de España), JoAnn Mar (KALW), and the late Chopper McKinnon (CKCU).

The 2020 finalists for Best Artist, Album, and Song of the Year were compiled through a review process of over 20 year-end charts, publications, lists, and awards rosters in the US, UK, EU, Canada, and Australia, including the NACC Folk and FAI Folk Charts. Winners were determined by the voting membership of FAI.

Album of the Year winner Kronos Quartet

For over 45 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet has continually reimagined the string quartet experience, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 60 recordings, collaborating with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet. Kronos has received over 40 awards, including two Grammys and both the Polar Music and Avery Fisher Prizes, two of the most prestigious awards given to musicians.
In addition to its role as a performing and recording ensemble, Kronos is committed to mentoring emerging performers and composers and has led workshops, master classes, and other education programs with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, Kaufman Music Center’s Face the Music, Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and through the Embassy Adoption Program (a program of Washington Performing Arts and District of Columbia Public Schools), among other institutions in the U.S. and overseas. Kronos has recently undertaken extended educational residencies at UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances, Holland Festival, Texas Performing Arts Association at the University of Texas at Austin, New York University Abu Dhabi, and Mount Royal University Conservatory.

Artist of the Year Award winner The War and Treaty

When it comes to making music with both extraordinary passion and exceptional chops, few acts today can surpass the sheer excellence of The War And Treaty. Newly signed to Rounder Records, the husband-and-wife team of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter deliver a dynamic sound that joyfully blends Southern soul with elements of gospel, country, rock-and-roll, and blues. Also known for their phenomenal live show, the Nashville-based duo are now gearing up to make their Rounder debut with a sophomore album showcasing their boundless energy and tremendous generosity as songwriters and performers.
Despite the deep sense of communion that infuses their music, Michael and Tanya hail from wildly different backgrounds. Originally from just outside Washington, D.C., Tanya discovered her supreme vocal skills at a young age and promptly pursued a career in music and acting. Michael grew up in Cleveland and D.C., spending part of his childhood in homeless shelters and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. While stationed in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces several years after 9/11, he gained access to a piano and quickly captivated his fellow troops with his powerful vocal presence. Soon tasked with writing and performing songs in memoriam to his unit’s fallen soldiers, Michael cultivated a distinct songwriting voice that he further developed upon returning home.
After he and Tanya shared the stage at a music festival, the two began creating music together, eventually marrying and forming The War And Treaty. Their EP Down to the River arrived in July 2017, and the duo made their full-length debut with Healing Tide—a widely acclaimed effort. The Associated Press called them, “…a powerhouse R&B duo who sound as though they were born to sing together,” while Billboard went on to claim that, “The music world…has definitely shown that it’s ready to love The War and Treaty.”

Song of the Year winner Eliza Gilkyson

Eliza Gilkyson is a 2-time Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and activist who has become one of the most respected musicians in Folk, Roots and Americana circles. She has appeared on NPR, Austin City Limits, Mountain Stage, etown, Sirius/XM, Air America Radio and has toured worldwide as a solo artist and in support of Richard Thompson, Patty Griffin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Dan Fogelberg.
Her songs have been covered by Joan Baez, Bob Geldof, Tom Rush and Rosanne Cash and have appeared in films, PBS specials and on prime-time TV. She has been inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame and recognized with countless Austin Music and Folk Alliance awards. Eliza’s music has always offered a vivid reflection of the times we live in, full of joys and sorrows, each song a window into a life of struggle and triumph in a world she feels is “poised on the edge of moral, economic and environmental bankruptcy.”

Lifetime Achievement Awards

2021 recipients: Putumayo (Organization), Celia Cruz (Legacy), and Gordon Lightfoot (Living)

Lifetime Achievement Award (Organization) – Putumayo /
Putumayo began in 1975 as a Latin American handicraft shop in New York City by then 23-year old Latin American Studies student Dan Storper. Named after Colombia’s Putumayo River Valley, the company grew to seven shops and a wholesale business. The Putumayo World Music record label was launched in 1993 and since then has become known for its joyful compilations of international music, featuring playful album covers illustrated to connect the traditional to the contemporary. Putumayo has been considered a pioneer in developing the non-traditional market of gift, health food, children’s, and other specialty stores as outlets for music. The company’s commitment to helping communities in the countries where the music originates led to the label contributing more than half a million dollars to non-profit organizations around the world. Putumayo’s Kids music collections have received over 20 Parents’ Choice Awards and their World Music Hour is a syndicated weekly radio show on over 100 stations worldwide.

Lifetime Achievement Award (Legacy) – Celia Cruz
Celia Cruz (1925-2003) and is considered one of the 20th century’s most popular Latin artists, rising to fame in the 1950s as “La Guarachera de Cuba” and was known internationally as the “Queen of Salsa”. Cruz performed and recorded various Afro-Cuban music styles including guaracha, rumba, son, and bolero. Following the Cuban Revolution Cruz moved to Mexico before finally establishing her career in the U.S. Throughout her career she performed with Sonora Matancera, Tito Puente, Fania All-Stars, Dionne Warwick, and Luciano Pavarotti. Her most notable songs include “Bemba colorá”, “Quimbara”, “La vida es un carnaval”, and “La negra tiene tumbao”. She recorded 37 studio albums and multiple live albums and collaborations. She made several movies and telenovelas appearances and her catchphrase “¡Azúcar!” became an iconic symbol of salsa music. Cruz was the recipient of 14 GRAMMY nominations, two GRAMMY Awards, three Latin GRAMMY Awards, and the Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lifetime Achievement Award (Living) – Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot was a genre-defining figure in the folk-pop scene of the 1960s and 1970s and has maintained an active recording and touring career for over 60 years and 22 albums. His songs paint pictures and whether topical (The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald), historical (Canadian Railroad Trilogy), political (Black Day in July), romantic (Song for a Winter’s Night), or reflective (If You Could Read My Mind), they are indelible to the folk music landscape. His songs have been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Eric Clapton, Peter, Paul & Mary, and countless others. Lightfoot was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and is a recipient of a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest honor in the performing arts, as well as being named a Companion of the Order of Canada. He is the winner of a record 16 Juno awards, and five GRAMMY nominations.

The Clearwater Award
Woodford Folk Festival (produced by Woodfordia),Queensland, Australia.

The Woodford Folk Festival has a “500-year plan” that aims to gift future generations of the festival a clean slate; unencumbered by financial, social, or environmental debt. The festival occurs on 500 acres of environmentally responsible parkland, featuring best practices in environmental management including waste minimization, use of biodegradable and recyclable packaging, onsite composting of the serving materials for over 50 restaurants, a re-usable bar cup system, annual tree planting at The Planting Festival weekend which has resulted in the planting of over 100,000 endemic rainforest species, eradication of pesticide use, erosion control, development of wildlife corridors, and the introduction of endangered species into a purpose-built on-site recreational wetland, Lake Gkula.

Woodford uses locally-sourced sustainable bamboo for the construction of large-scale bamboo structures and artworks, and constructed a fully sustainable wastewater treatment facility onsite, which reduced annual carbon emissions by 9%. The festival has a #OneLessCar program that encourages cycling to the festival, ridesharing, and the use of public and festival transportation and to reduce vehicle traffic on-site during the event there is a fleet of bikes for volunteers. A Scientist-in-Residence (staff member) runs education programmes throughout the year, including BioBlitzes (digital cataloguing), which has resulted in the identification of at least one previously unidentified spider species. ‘Woodfordia’ is lovingly tended each month by a dedicated volunteer team affectionately known as ‘The Treehuggers’.

The People’s Voice Award – Jackson Browne

Raised on blues and folk music, Jackson Browne is a 6-time Grammy nominee, an inductee into both the Songwriters and the Rock and Roll Halls of Fame, and a recipient of both the Gandhi Peace Award and the John Steinbeck Award for environmentalism and social values.

His activism started in the 70’s when he began performing in support of action against the construction of nuclear power and reprocessing plants. He later co-founded the antinuclear organization MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy).

Despite commercial acclaim, including a number 1 record and then a number 7 Billboard single with “Somebody’s Baby”, his music shifted to be more political in the 80’s. Throughout his career he has collaborated with other artists for fundraisers and benefits, giving of his time for causes of importance to him including Farm Aid, Amnesty International, the Christic Institute, Artists for Peace and Justice, the Children’s Defense Fund, Occupy Wall Street, the Arts Foundation benefit, Safety Harbor Kids Holiday Collection, the Stamp Stampede, Sanctuary Centers, the Eric Lowen Trust, The Fund for Civility, Respect, and Understanding,, and One Percent For The Planet.

Browne is a passionate environmentalist who is a member of the Ocean Elders advocacy group, lives on a wind and solar powered ranch, and since 2008 has banned single use plastic bottles on his tours as part of the Plastic Free Backstage campaign. Whether singing about injustice of the American prison complex in “Lives in the Balance” or the devastating human impact on the oceans in his most recent “Downhill from Everywhere” Browne has consistently worn his heart on his sleeve, and used his time on stage to champion change.

For these reasons and the enduring legacy of his activism in art, FAI is proud to honor Jackson Browne with this year’s People’s Voice award.

The inaugural recipient of the Rising Tide Award is Raye Zaragoza

A galvanizing presence and self-assured artist, she describes her work as music that “fights for, represents, and celebrates those left too long outside the spotlight”. Deemed “one of the most politically relevant artists in her genre” by Paste Magazine, Zaragoza is both tender and tenacious as she examines life, self, identity, immigration, and the times in which, for many, simply existing is political.

Raised in New York City and living in LA, Zaragoza independently released her debut album Fight For You in 2017 covering topics related to social justice, feminism, the environment, and Indigenous rights and featured songs The American Dream, In The River, and Driving to Standing Rock.

Her sophomore album Woman In Color was released in 2020 on her own Rebel River Records label, and embraces all aspects of her mixed-race identity as a Japanese-American, Mexican, Indigenous woman. Songs include Fight Like A Girl, Red, and They Say – an intriguing critique of demographic pigeonholing of folk music.

She is a recipient of the Global Music Awards’ Heretic Award for Protest/Activist Music and the Honesty Oscars’ award for Best Song.

Spirit of Folk
The Spirit of Folk awards are presented to honor and celebrate people and organizations actively involved in the promotion and preservation of folk music through their creative work, community building, and demonstrated leadership, often behind the scenes and without fanfare. Past recipients include Anais Mitchell, ShoShona Kish, Barbara Dane, Si Khan, Sam Lee, Bernie Finkelstein, Sylvia Tyson, Mike Seeger, and Ramy Essam.

The 2021 recipients of the Spirit of Folk awards include producer Magnus Bäckström (founder of the Ethno program), lawyer Matthew Covey (co-founder of Tamizdat), artist/educators Reggie Harris and Suni Paz, and festival director Lisa Schwartz.

About the 2021 recipients:

Magnus Bäckström
Magnus is celebrated for his spirit of folk as the founder of the Ethno program, a peer to peer learning summer camp for young adult musicians, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and is presented around the world by Jeunesses Musicales International. Magnus is a Swedish traditional folk musician who has toured internationally, appeared on some 20 recordings, and he is the composer of a Swedish national repertoire tune. He was a music teacher, consultant, festival director (Falun), record label founder (Giga), and magazine founder (Lira). He served as artistic director of Womex 98, was the CEO and artistic director of both the Gävle Concert Hall and the Uppsala Concert and Congress Hall, and was the director of Kultur i Väst before retiring in 2018.

Matthew Covey
Matthew Covey has devoted his professional career to helping artists build bridges between international communities. Following studies, an indie music career, and time as both a festival talent-buyer and running Knitting Factory Records’ Amsterdam booking agency, and managing Grammy Award winning band, The Klezmatics. In 1998 he co-launched Tamizdat, a non-profit with a mission to facilitate international cultural exchange and in 2015 he launched Tamizdat’s affiliated law firm, CoveyLaw, the U.S.’s leading authority and advocate for arts immigration with TamizdatAVAIL providing a pro bono legal assistance hotline for the performing arts. He has presented and chaired sessions on artist mobility issues at countless conferences, and is President of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

Reggie Harris
Reggie Harris is a songwriter, storyteller, educator, and lecturer who has been a vibrant part of the international music community for over 40 years, presenting concerts and lectures throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Reggie uses music and spoken word to address issues related to education, social and racial justice, and the environment, in addition to leading workshops for students and adults on the history of music related to the Underground Railroad and the Modern Civil Rights movement. A Woodrow Wilson Scholar, Reggie is one of the founding teaching artists of the John F Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts program, is the Co- President and Music Education Director for the Living Legacy Project, and a recipient of the Magic Penny Award for lifetime achievement in music by the Children’s Music Network.

Suni Paz
Suni Paz, is an Argentinean singer-songwriter, educator, and activist who has used music to teach Spanish-language curricula and as a tool for social change. She was part of the progressive Latin American music movement known as nueva canción (new song) and performed across South America, North American, and Europe for over 30 years focused on social justice and cultural awareness. Suni is an NEA National Heritage Fellow and joined Woody Guthrie in being awarded the Magic Penny Award for lifetime achievement in music by the Children’s Music Network. In addition to eight recordings with Smithsonian Folkways, she has over 400 songs recorded for children and is quoted as saying that for children music can “encourage pride in their heritage and inspire them to build upon these traditions.”

Lisa Schwartz
Lisa is celebrated for the singular passion she brings to organizing and serving the folk music community. Her lifelong love for the folk music genre is not only represented in the roles she has held, but in the joyous relationships she has established always with a smile and a desire to see people connect through music. She has volunteered with the Philadelphia Folk Festival since 1974, was President of the Philadelphia Folksong Society for almost 9 years, and currently serves as the Festival Director. She is in her 9th year of service on the board of Folk Alliance International, much of that spent on the Executive Committee, and has recently retired from the role of Board President.

The new Folk DJ Hall of Fame inductees include Manolo Fernádez (Radio Nacional de España), JoAnn Mar (KALW), and the late Chopper McKinnon (CKCU):

Manolo Fernández has been producing his program Toma Uno every weekend since 1973 to highlight the folk-roots music of America. Since 1982 it has been featured on different radio stations of Spanish public radio (Radio Nacional de España). He has released three compilations of the music of his show (Sin Rodeos, Toma Uno-Radio Con Botas, and Lo Mejor de Toma Uno) and was awarded in 2009 in the Media category by the European Country Music Association (European CMA). In addition to his work on radio, he’s been employed on television networks such as CNN+ and Non Stop People, as well as wrote columns, articles and interviews on newspapers and magazines including Billboard, Cash Box, El País, ABC, Diario 16, El Mundo, Ya and Ruta 66, among others. He has worked as a consultant and specialist in marketing for several record companies (like RCA, Warner, MCA and EMI), advised and hosted music festivals, spoken at conferences, and taught at the Instituto de RTVE.

JoAnn Mar is a veteran radio announcer, producer and host of Folk Music & Beyond, heard every Saturday from 3 to 5 pm on KALW 91.7 in San Francisco, California. The show is in its 33rd year and features folk, Celtic, and global roots music and interviews. In her spare time, she is a radio documentary producer/journalist and news reports and features have aired on NPR, Voice of America, The Charles Osgood File, Pacifica Radio, and AARP’s series Prime Time Radio. Topics covered include prisons, end-of-life, women’s issues, the plight of immigrants and public education. In 2006, Mar received the prestigious George Polk award for investigative reporting on prison privatization. More recently, she was the recipient of a 2007 media fellowship from the Open Society Institute and produced the in-depth, award-winning documentary “Prisons In Crisis: A State Of Emergency In California.”

Chopper McKinnon founded ‘Canadian Spaces’ on CKCU FM in Ottawa in September, 1980. He produced and hosted the program for 33 years, giving airplay and encouragement to countless singer-songwriters and other musicians along the way. Every Saturday morning, he invited the show’s loyal listeners – known as the ‘Space Cadets’ – to ‘put the kettle on’ and enjoy live performances and relaxed, in-depth interviews with musicians from across Canada and beyond. As Canada’s longest-running folk radio show, ‘Canadian Spaces’ continues to be a vital hub and sounding board for musicians locally, nationally and internationally. CKCU created the Ottawa Folk Festival in 1993 in response to the size and enthusiasm of Chopper’s audience. Chopper died in 2013 and is sorely missed by the Ottawa music community and his extended listening audience.

For more info, please contact Nick Loss-Eaton at or 718.541.1130.

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