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.

Best Of 2019 Nominees

The member-voted “Best of” 2019 winners for Song, Album, and Artist of the Year were announced during the IFMA’s and are listed below. Finalists were compiled through a review process of over 20 year-end charts, publications, lists, and awards rosters from the US, UK, EU, Canada, and Australia, including the NACC Folk and FAI Folk Charts.

Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards are presented annually to honor the cultural impact of legendary folk music figures (Living, Legacy, and Organization/Academic.) A comprehensive list of past award recipients can be found here.


Enshrined in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the first Cajun band to ever win a GRAMMY, BeauSoleil is one of the state’s most recognizable musical exports. Formed in 1975 when Michael Doucet was a young National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellow tasked with studying the Cajun fiddle masters, BeauSoleil have recorded 25 albums to date and have toured all 50 States and more than 33 countries. Famous for mixing instrumental styles, various southern genres, and both English and Cajun-French lyrics, the band has pushed the genre forward and garnered a total of 11 Grammy nominations, and two wins.


Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)

(1911-1972) Born in New Orleans, LA, in 1911, Mahalia Jackson first sang in public at church, a fitting start for an artist who came to be known as the “Queen of Gospel”. Her 1948 groundbreaking recording of “Move On Up a Little Higher” was the first gospel record to be secular sales hit. In 1954 she began hosting a Sunday evening radio show on CBS and two years later 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, before a crowd of 250,000 at 1963’s historic March on Washington, and at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral. A mentor to Aretha Franklin, Jackson once stated “When you sing gospel you have a feeling there is a cure for what’s wrong.” Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Music Hall of Fame in 1997.


Opened in 1961 as a way to keep “true” New Orleans Jazz alive, Preservation Hall began as an art gallery turned music venue in the heart of the French Quarter and now presents 360 shows a year to over 150,000 visitors. Evolving over time, the Preservation Hall Foundation now “protects, preserves, and perpetuates the musical traditions and heritage of the city through four program areas: Education, Community Engagement, Legacy, and Archives”. The Hall actively partners with area organizations including The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the Make It Right Foundation, and the New Orleans Musician’s Hurricane Relief Fund. Beyond performance, the Foundation provides music instructors for local schools, community centers, and detention centers. The famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band takes the Foundation’s message on the road, offering history lessons and sharing New Orleans music around the globe.

The People’s Voice Award is presented annually to an individual who unabashedly embraces social and political commentary in their creative work and public careers.

Ani DiFranco

A vocal activist and female icon, Ani DiFranco’s international career was made notable through meaningful songwriting that embraces and embodies social activism. DiFranco’s folk roots run deep. Pete Seeger (for whose passing she penned a tribute published by the Wall Street Journal) is among her most influential mentors. DiFranco launched Righteous Babe Records in 1990 and has released more than 20 albums to date. In 2013, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg. Through the Righteous Babe Foundation, DiFranco has backed various grassroots cultural and political organizations, supporting causes ranging from abortion rights to gay visibility, and fair labor laws with the late Utah Phillips. In 2015, she recorded a version of Peter Mulvey’s song “Take Down Your Flag” with New Orleans musicians and jazz players, Ivan Neville and Terence Higgins, in support of the victims of the Charleston church shooting. In 2016, DiFranco urged election day turnout on her “VOTE DAMMIT” tour. Continuing her activism on and offstage, Ani regularly publishes guest articles in notable publications, and has recently written a memoir – “No Walls and the Recurring Dream” which has become a New York Times bestseller.

Clearwater Award (sponsored by the Levitt Foundation)

The Clearwater Award is presented annually to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production.


Pickathon, based near Portland, Oregon, is the only outdoor music festival in the eliminate all single-use, cups, bottles, dishware, and utensils. Starting in 2010, the festival successfully replaced all throw-away cups with stainless steel cups. Since 2011, all plastic food dishes and utensils have been replaced with reusable bamboo-based materials. Free drinking water is available throughout the festival site for patrons to use with refillable containers. A volunteer Recycling & Compost team is active throughout the entire festival to ensure appropriate waste management streaming. The site, Pendarvis Farm, hosts a permanent solar array on the roof of the “Galaxy Barn”. The energy generated during the year offsets 100% of the energy used during the festival, including all the food and craft vendors.

Spirit of Folk Awards

These awards are presented to honor and celebrate people and organizations actively involved in the promotion and preservation of folk music through their creative work, their community building, and their demonstrated leadership. View past recipients here.

  • Jan Ramsey (OffBeat Magazine)
  • Laura Hassler (Musicians Without Borders)
  • Ellen Bello (Native American Music Awards)
  • Åke Lundström (Nordic Folk Alliance)
  • Ephraim Bugumba (refugee-artist)
  • Ben Sandmel (folklorist/writer)

Folk DJ Hall of Fame

The Folk DJ Hall of Fame has been established to recognize radio DJs 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.

  • Holger Petersen (CBC, CKUA – Edmonton, Canada)
  • Mary Katherine Aldin (KPFK – Los Angeles, USA)
  • Nick Spitzer (PRX – New Orleans, USA)