Arhoolie Awards 2019

The Arhoolie Awards are a central piece of our commitment to celebrating roots music. This annual award, now in its second year, honors musicians, organizations, and individuals who carry on and uplift roots and regional music styles.

The Arhoolie Awards are neither applied for nor sought. Nominations are made by board members, friends, and experts in our field. Winners are chosen by the Arhoolie Foundation board of directors. Recipients receive $10,000 with no obligations: this award is simply meant to encourage, support, and shine a light on extraordinary people and organizations, and to help them continue doing what they do.

The awards will be presented at the Second Annual Arhoolie Awards and Benefit Concert.
November 22, 2019 at The Chapel in San Francisco.

Meet the recipients of the 2019 Arhoolie Awards:

Linda Tillery

Linda Tillery
Linda Tillery
photo © Sandy Morris

Linda Tillery is a vocalist, percussionist, music producer, songwriter, music arranger, and educator. She got her start in the 1960s with the “San Francisco psychedelic soul band” The Loading Zone. Through much of the 1970s, in addition to solo performance, she worked as a session musician providing backing vocals and occasionally drums on albums by Santana, Boz Scaggs, Lenny White, and more.

In 1992, Linda founded the Cultural Heritage Choir, which is dedicated to helping “preserve and share the rich musical traditions of African-American roots music” including spirituals, work and play songs, field hollers and other slave songs in the folk tradition. She has been a member of the National Advisory Board for the Archives of African American Music & Culture in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University; and a visiting lecturer and artist at the San Francisco Jazz Center, conducting workshops on the Music of the African Diaspora.

Cedric Watson

Cedric Watson
photo © Phillip Gould

Cedric Watson is committed to keeping the old ways alive. Born in 1983, he grew up in Texas but moved to Lafayette, Louisiana in his early twenties to study fiddle and Creole French. He was drawn to traditional Cajun and Creole music, as well as old-school zydeco. He was a member of Cajun group the Pine Leaf Boys before starting his own band, Bijou Creole. Cedric has performed internationally, and wants “to present the Creole Nation of Louisiana to the Creole Nations in other parts of the world, to make these Creole cultures aware of the one in Louisiana, and vice versa.”1

An accomplished fiddler, vocalist, and accordionist, Cedric is a four-time Grammy nominee. Wilson Savoy of the Pine Leaf Boys is impressed and inspired by Cedric’s love for Louisiana’s traditional music and way of life: “I’ve never known someone to delve so deep into the music. He is a killer accordionist and fiddler, as well as a student of Creole French and a hunter, who prefers to hunt with a bow and arrow in the old fashioned way.”

Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center

AshkenazAshkenaz Music & Dance Community Center has been a Berkeley gathering place since 1968. It was originally a folk dance club, and has evolved to host an eclectic and varied mix of musical genres. A nonprofit social dance hall and performance venue that also presents dance classes, Ashkenaz is a major Bay Area venue for touring Cajun and zydeco bands from Louisiana, reggae groups from Jamaica, African bands, eastern European musics, flamenco and much more.

Ashkenaz has stayed true to its roots, offering a convivial and down-home atmosphere for community building, dancing, and roots music of all kinds. Local musician and Arhoolie Foundation board member Suzy Thompson states, “I can’t think of any place that is as perfect an example of the kind of musical melting pot that is the Bay Area — and I love that Ashkenaz continues to celebrate and provide a venue for all kinds of social dance.”

Learn about past Arhoolie Award winners here.