International Folk Music Awards

The International Folk Music Awards (IFMAs) are the premier recognition of folk music industry leaders, legends, unsung heroes, and rising talent. Awards presented are: member-voted Best Of for Album, Song, and Artist of the previous year, Lifetime AchievementSpirit of Folk, inductions into the Folk DJ Hall of Fame, and in a permanent commitment to honor the socially conscious roots of folk music, the People’s Voice and Clearwater Awards. Past performers and presenters include Kris Kristofferson, Ruthie Foster, John Oates, Guy Davis, The Kingston Trio, Anais Mitchell, Megan Mullally, Bruce Cockburn, and Eliza Gilkyson. FAI members can nominate award candidates (except for Best Of Awards) here.

More information on the 2020 International Folk Music Awards will be coming soon. Click here to see programming info from the 2019 IFMAs.

Lifetime Achievement Award Nominees

Each year during the International Folk Music Awards, Folk Alliance International (FAI) presents three Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards. Named after our organization’s co-founder, these awards honor the cultural impact of legendary folk music figures – one Living, one Legacy, and one Organization or Academic institution.

Past recipients include:

  • Living: Joni Mitchell, David Amram, Peggy Seeger, Tom Paxton, Odetta
  • Legacy: Leonard Cohen, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Bessie Jones, Stan Rogers, Malvina Reynolds
  • Organization/Academic: fRoots, The English Folk Dance and Song Society, Folkways Records, Canadian Society for Traditional Music

A comprehensive list of award recipients can be found here.

Voting for Lifetime Achievement Award nominees is open to FAI members only and closes on October 10, 2019.


When Maria Muldaur’s self-titled album was released in 1973, she had no way of knowing “Midnight At The Oasis,” her “goofy little song about a camel,” would wind up beloved worldwide, kickstarting a career that has continued for more than four decades. The Greenwich Village native and veteran of the 60s and 70s folk and blues scenes of Cambridge, MA, and Woodstock, NY, released 41 solo albums to date (almost one a year!), covering the spectrum of American roots music: pop, folk, blues, gospel, R&B, children’s music, and others. Her most recent recording, 2018’s Don’t You Feel My Leg: The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker was nominated for a Grammy – her fifth such nod.

Maria Muldaur’s recording total climbs when you consider the collaborations she’s been a part of. As a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Paul Butterfield’s Better Days group, the duo of Geoff and Maria Muldaur and others, she’s part of many albums contemporary artists cite as influential to their own career development. No wonder Richard Ludmerer of BluesWax says “Muldaur is our national treasure.”

Singer Santiago Jimenez, Jr., has spent the past 60 years carrying on the family tradition: playing the button accordion and performing traditional Conjunto music just as his father did. Conjunto is a dance music native to South Texas, where German, Czech, Mexican, and other immigrants worked together and shared their songs, mixing the sound of accordion polkas with Mexican folk songs.

Santiago, the younger brother of famed Tejano accordionist Flaco Jiminez, has stayed true to the roots of Conjunto, sticking with the basic formula of two-button accordion, acoustic bass and guitar in his band, as opposed to adding the electric bass and drums as many modern conjuntos have. A pro since 15, he’s released more than 60 albums, including a series of Spanish-language recordings for the Rounder and Watermelon labels. He also started a label, Chief Records, to release the music of younger artists.

Santiago Jiménez, Jr., has shared what was considered a “regional music” with the world, taking Conjunto music not just across North and South America, but also touring Russia, Great Britain, Spain, France, and Mexico. He won a National Heritage Fellowship in 2000 for lifetime achievement in traditional Tex-Mex/folk music, a 2015 National Medal of Arts for his contribution to American music, and has been nominated for three GRAMMYs.

Enshrined in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the first Cajun band to ever win a GRAMMY (they now have two wins and 11 nominations!), BeauSoleil (avec Michael Doucet) is one of the state’s most recognizable musical exports. Not bad for a group that began in 1975 as a side project!

Formed when he was a young National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellow tasked with studying the Cajun fiddle masters, Doucet has taken BeauSoleil in another direction since day one. For the past four decades, Michael Doucet and his bandmates have been taking Cajun music places far beyond the bayou – not just by mixing other instruments and tempos in with the traditional guitar, fiddle, and accordion sound, but by performing in all 50 of the United States and more than 33 countries.

In addition to NEA Fellowship mentioned above, Doucet was awarded a 2005 NEA National Heritage Fellowship and a United States Artists Fellowship in 2007.


Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)

Born in New Orleans, LA, in 1911, Mahalia Jackson first sang in public at church – a fitting career start for the woman of whom Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “A voice like hers comes along once in a millennium.”

Jackson left her hometown for Chicago in 1927 and soon word of her amazing voice began to spread. She made a pledge only to sing gospel songs, and her 1948 recording of “Move On Up a Little Higher” was a groundbreaker – the first gospel record to be a huge sales hit with the secular crowd. She also broke barriers of another kind. In 1954 she began hosting a Sunday evening radio show on CBS and two years later, Jackson made her first appearance on national television.

Jackson was also known for her political activism, singing at U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball in 1961 and before a crowd of 250,000 at 1963’s historic March on Washington. She also sang at Dr. King’s funeral.

A mentor to another young gospel singer, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson never wavered from her early pledge, once noting “When you sing gospel you have a feeling there is a cure for what’s wrong.” Jackson, who died in 1972, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Music Hall of Fame in 1997.

Allen Toussaint (1938-2015)

Singer, songwriter, pianist, and producer Allen Toussaint (1938-2015) was a fixture on the New Orleans music scene for more than 50 years. He had STYLE, both in and out of the studio. Hard to miss around town clad in a suit and sandals, driving a Rolls with PIANO tags, Toussaint’s string of hits started in the late ‘50s and include hits on the pop, R&B, country, and dance charts.

Even an early ‘60s stint in the military couldn’t slow him down – in 1964, his Army band, dubbed the Stokes, went into the studio and recorded an instrumental he called “Whipped Cream.” Herb Alpert covered it a year later, turning the track into a huge hit single and the theme for the long-running TV show The Dating Game.

But that wasn’t Toussaint’s only song to be covered by another artist: “Fortune Teller” was cut by many bands, including The Who and The Stones; Glen Campbell had a hit with the autobiographical “Southern Nights,” and Ernie K-Doe’s 1961 hit, “A Certain Girl,” was also recorded by the Yardbirds and Warren Zevon (just to name three).

By the end of the ’60s, Allen Toussaint was New Orleans’s premier producer. Ten years later, he was becoming equally well known for his own records.

After Hurricane Katrina rocked New Orleans, Allen Toussaint relocated to New York City. His next project, the Katrina themed “The River in Reverse,” was recorded with Elvis Costello and earned Toussaint a Grammy nomination.

In 2013, Allen Toussaint was awarded the National Medal of Arts in a ceremony at the White House.

Formed in 1979, by Lafayette, Louisiana, born accordionist Stanley Dural, Jr., it’s safe to say the Buckwheat Zydeco band did more than any other group to bring the music of the Gulf Coast region to audiences worldwide. A shortlist of Buckwheat Zydeco’s feats include: recording three of the largest selling Zydeco albums ever, winning a Grammy and an Emmy, having songs placed on hit film and television soundtracks, and playing festivals or recording with rock and pop luminaries such as Eric Clapton, the Boston Pops, and Paul Simon (just to name three). The band was also chosen to close out the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Interestingly, the accordion wasn’t Stanley Dural’s first instrument, nor was he really a zydeco fan growing up! R&B was his favorite, and Dural was originally an organ player, with early professional gigs backing up Joe Tex, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and others. But he switched to accordion soon after joining zydeco master Clifton Chenier’s band in 1976 and found a love for the music.

As an international ambassador of Louisiana music, Dural traveled the world with his accordion, sharing his hometown sound and Creole culture with millions. Buckwheat Zydeco released more than 25 albums over a five-decade career, with one win and five GRAMMY nominations.


This North Carolina based the 501c3 non-profit Music Maker Relief Foundation was founded by Tim and Denise Duffy in 1994 to “preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. Music Maker gives future generations access to their cultural heritage through documentation, education, and live performance programs that build knowledge of and appreciation for America’s musical traditions.”

For more than 25 years the organization has offered these artists not just a way to gain recognition for their art, but also help meeting their day-to-day needs – food, housing, utilities, and medical bills. Music Maker will also provide performers with instruments and help finding gigs, if needed. As the Duffy’s have explained in countless interviews, it’s a very hands-on, people-centric approach – the opposite of the standard folklorist tradition of preservation by documenting and archiving. Taking care of the artists first leads to the music being preserved.

Since Music Makers began, the organization has offered more than 12,000 artist grants and supported 435 artists.

The Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the leading folklife archives in the United States and is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing music, art, and cultural items related to the American south. Its mission statement explains the SFC aims to “advance the study and public recognition of these art forms, and support the educational, research and service missions of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

The SFC collection officially opened for research in April 1989 and is vast, containing nearly 82,000 sound recordings, including cylinders, acetate discs, wire recordings, 78-rpm and 45-rpm discs, LPs, cassettes, CDs, and open-reel tapes. Moving image materials include over 3,000 video recordings and 18 million feet of motion picture film. Paper-based materials include thousands of photographs, song folios, posters, manuscript materials, ephemeral items, and research files. Centered around the John Edwards Memorial Collection, the SFC is especially rich in materials documenting the emergence of old-time, country-western, hillbilly, bluegrass, blues, folk, gospel, rock and roll, Cajun and zydeco musics.

Opened as a way to keep “true” New Orleans Jazz alive, the Preservation Hall of today is far more than what visitors saw in 1961. Then, it was simply a music venue in an old art gallery in the heart of the French Quarter. Today, Preservation Hall is an internationally known landmark synonymous with the city and it’s estimated that more than 150,000 visitors pass through its doors each year attending one (or more!) of the scheduled 360 shows. Their mission has changed as well – the Preservation Hall Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit established in 2011, “protects, preserves, and perpetuates the musical traditions and heritage of New Orleans through its four program areas: Education, Community Engagement, Legacy and Archives.”
The Foundation’s primary activity is serving the next generation of New Orleans’ musicians and listeners through education and community engagement programs. They do this by bringing the music – and instructors – directly to local schools, community centers, and detention centers. The famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band takes the message on the road, spreading New Orleans music around the globe and offering history lessons as they play.

Preservation Hall is an active member of the local cultural community, partnering with groups including the New Orleans Musician’s Hurricane Relief Fund (NOMHRF), The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, and the Make It Right Foundation.