Leonard Podolak

This artist performed at the VFMF in 2017

Leonard Podolak

Banjo player Leonard Podolak is known for his charisma and giant smile. Plus, he’s no slouch on his instrument, the 5-String, open back clawhammer banjo, the instrument he learned from his father.

Raised in the cradle of the Winnipeg Folk Festival (his dad is festival founder Mitch Podolak), Leonard was exposed to all forms of acoustic music as he grew up.

He became the founder and band leader of The Duhks, folk music innovators, and toured throughout the world. Everywhere he went, he shared the styles of music he loves from the string traditions of Appalachia, Ireland, Scotland, England, Quebec, and Louisiana, while bringing in influences of gospel, blues, rock, Afro-Cuban, and African traditions.

Leonard’s unique style of claw-hammer banjo makes a place for the five string in all of these traditions. His playing is based on the Appalachian technique, but he also likes playing jigs and reels – and if there’s a Cajun song on the go, he plays his banjo like a triangle. If it’s an Irish tune, he plays it like a tenor banjo. He clogs, hambones, sings, tells stories and nurtures a great time in whatever room (or field) in which he finds himself.

A Grammy and Juno award winner, along with many nominations under his belt, the biggest accolade Leonard received came from his hero Doc Watson, who once told him that his banjo playing on the first Duhks CD “Your Daughters And Your Sons” was as fine a claw hammer pickin’ as he’d ever heard!