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July 21, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 13:
Australian Participatory Music, Two Ways

We are now in full swing with the release of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music via digital download, streaming services, and on-demand physical CDs. Two albums will be released each week, complemented by a guest blog post, until all 127 albums—including 12 that were previously unreleased—become available. This week features two Australian albums, Australia: Aboriginal Music and Australia: Music from the New England Tablelands of New South Wales, 1850–1900.

GUEST BLOG

by Emily Hilliard

My primary framework for understanding Australia: Music from the New England Tablelands of New South Wales, 1850–1900, a collection of modern interpretations ofbush music” dating back to the latter half of the 19th century, largely comes from my own experience playing American old-time music.

Both traditions have origins in English, Scottish, Irish, and other European musical forms, and the two even share some of the same repertoire. “Barbara Allen” (track 13), arranged on this album with vocals, guitar, violin, cello, kendang (a type of skin-head drum), and clapsticks, is also one of the most popular Appalachian ballads in the old-time tradition. “William Grimes the Drover” (track 15) is another classic American folk song and is included in Cecil Sharp’s Appalachian collection.

“Barbara Allen”


Another similarity between American old-time and Australian bush music is that both are participatory forms, played not necessarily for an audience in performative settings, but for dances, house parties, and other social gatherings. In the liner notes of the album, Barry McDonald refers to “the social integration of musical events,” noting that this music “was generally not conceived of outside personal relationship.” Because of the emphasis on participation rather than performance, the bush music collected here is unadorned, without additional value placed on virtuosity.

The instrumentation used in southern American old-time music and Australian bush music differs in some ways. Though fiddle is prominent in both (something I appreciate as a fiddler), the music from New South Wales features accordion and concertina, two instruments rarely heard in old-time, where fiddle and banjo generally take the forefront.

Australia: Music from the New England Tablelands of New South Wales, 1850-1900American old-time and Australian bush music were both impacted by other cultures encountered in their respective new homes—but in different ways due to the cultural and geographic settings in which these traditions developed. As emphasized by David Holt in his article ‘Roots of Mountain Music,’ American old-time music was heavily influenced by the vocal styles and rhythms of enslaved peoples from Africa as well as Native Americans 1. As suggested in the liner notes, Australian bush music was greatly influenced by Aboriginal rhythms, instrumentation, and vocal techniques2.

This impact often extends to the topical material of some songs. “Dingo Flat” (track 5) is a description of social kangaroo hunting that was an adaptation of local Aboriginal techniques. The liner notes for track 12, a selection of “step tunes,” speak of a musical collaboration on the last song between fiddler Alf Cosgrove and an Aboriginal dancer: “Alf would play this tune for an Aboriginal man, Arthur Widders, who stepped it out on a flattened sheet of bark, ‘rattlin the bones all the while.’ His dancing of the ‘longshoe’ displayed such lightness of step, that he was described by Jim Lowe as ‘a feather with the stem taken out’.”

“Dingo Flat”


Though both traditions are carried on today, the cultural context in which the music is played has changed. In both Australia and the United States, social music, formerly a closely shared cultural practice, for the most part has now become much less so, except in a few small, somewhat isolated communities.

Barry McDonald explains, “New Englanders now have widely diverging contacts with music, but few of us experience it as a closely shared cultural process, expressing and reinforcing the most intimate nuances of social life. Still further are we from Aboriginal experience, where the fundamental spiritual expression of the community has always been musical, powerful enough to revivify the very origins of human existence.”

I listened to Australia: Aboriginal Music to better understand some of the Aboriginal influence of Australian bush music, to learn more about the Aboriginal musical tradition itself, and to consider the different sounds that make up the historical soundscape of Australia. The music compiled here is also a social and participatory form, as much of Aboriginal music is. Differing, though, from the collection of songs from New South Wales, this collection represents music from Aboriginal tribes across Australia and emphasizes regional differences and languages.

Australia: Aboriginal MusicIn general, Aboriginal music is divided into two genres: songs that reinforce social relationships between tribal groups and songs that proclaim the identity of particular groups and their territories. However, much like the songs from New South Wales, these are both community-based musical forms that proclaim a group’s identity and seek to tell its history, values, and belief systems.

Most of the songs included on this album are ceremonial songs performed in an open, public forum, and others are performed only in closed ceremonies by and for initiated men. A small selection is played in minor ceremonies by women only. For the recordings on this album, however, all of the songs were performed in public contexts.

Because the major ceremonies predominantly involve men with women assuming a less visible role, men dominate Aboriginal music. Women have a part in larger ceremonies, evident in the “answer” in the call—and—response selection of “Rain Dreaming” (track 1) from the Northern Territory. Women in certain regions also perform love magic rites, wailing, and mourning songs, as in the droning “Women Wu-ungka songs” from North Queensland (track 8).

“Women Wu-ungka songs”


Though Aboriginal music is largely a vocal form, the most common instruments are simply constructed and made of wood. Some instruments are associated with special rites and are only played during a specific ceremony. The same rhythm sticks from New South Wales bush music are frequently used in Aboriginal music; I would surmise that they are of Aboriginal origin. “Boomerang clapsticks” (paired curve blades) are another common percussive instrument, and lap-slapping and beating sticks on the ground are also typical percussive techniques. The didjeridu or kanbi, as it is known in the Northern Territory, is a long, hollowed branch that is blown with a loose “lip-reed” technique. It is used mainly to enrich the vocal tones, as heard in tracks 1, 4, and 5.

“Balgan songs (selected items)”


“Balgan songs” (track 4) are communal dance songs from western Australia, sung in the Worora and Wunambul languages and performed by male dancers with clapstick percussion and women beating their laps. “Djabi songs” (track 5) are similar to the ballads in the Australian bush music and American old-time traditions as they are not intended for dancing and are topically about real, non-mythological events. Track 8 also includes a song that feels reminiscent of ballads in the old-time tradition. Similar in subject to the traditional American ballad “Omie Wise” about the drowning of a young girl at the hands of her lover, that selection includes an old story song about two girls who were drowned in the mouth of a nearby river.

“Djabi song: The Windmill Of Wallanie Plains”


Like American old-time and Australian bush music, Aboriginal music has also been heavily influenced by other nearby musical traditions, though, according to author Alice M. Moyle: “From available evidence it would seem that Aboriginal singing styles are more likely to be influenced by other Aboriginal singing styles than by the non-Aboriginal music heard on radios and cassettes.” I do wonder if this has changed since the album appeared in 1992 and modern technologies have become more widespread and readily available.

Though mine was certainly not an exhaustive study, these two albums of distinct traditions of participatory Australian music provide a snapshot of the evolving soundscape of the country. Investigating these recordings as well as their influences and social contexts has informed my own understanding of the genre of participatory music—American old-time—that I’m intimately familiar with as a musician and listener.

Emily Hilliard, Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, customer service representative
Folklorist, performs old-time fiddle and writes the pie blog Nothing in the House
Instagram @thehousepie.


1 David Holter “Roots of Mountain Music

2 Alice M. Moyle Liner notes, Australia: Aboriginal Music. UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, 1977, compact disc.

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

July 14, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 12:
The Natural World in Mongolia and Beyond

Week 12 of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music evokes nature scenes with folk songs from the Mongolian steppes to the hillsides of France and beyond in the reissues of Symphony of Nature: Music on the Themes of Water, Fire, Air and Earth and Mongolia.

GUEST BLOG

By Sunmin Yoon

There’s a Mongolian folk song, “View over the KherlenRiver,” that is included in both UNESCO albums released this week: Mongolia and Symphony of Nature. Although “View over the KherlenRiver” is here played by the two string fiddle called Morin Khuur (horse-head fiddle), the piece was originally a long song (urtyn duu). ”My father’s homeland is Kherelen’s Bariyaa,” the lyrics go, “and oh, it appears blue and misty. Dear to me is the river called Kherelen, and oh, its source is in Hentii.” The Kherlenis a river located in Hentii province, and these words reveal the close emotional and physical connection of Mongolians to their homeland.

Mongolia: Traditional MusicIn the winter of 2009, I happened to meet a singer, Sh. Ölziibaat, who was visiting the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar for some concerts and singing competitions. She was from an area called Borjigon, southeast of Ulaanbaatar. I asked her if she could sing “View over the KherlenRiver” (“Kherlengiin Bariyaa”) for me, and she said, “I will sing two versions for you. One is from the central area, and another one is a regional version from my hometown in Borjigon.” She started singing, in one version using very nasal sounds within a smaller range and moving abruptly between pitches. Comparing her own local style with a much more elaborated and ornamented version, she explained to me, “If you come and see the terrain around my hometown, you’ll see it has rocky mountains and jagged cliffs. This technique imitates the landscape. In contrast, the landscapes of the far east region and further north of the central area have more open plains, and you can actually hear this in the melodic line….”



Symphony of NatureMongols have traditionally lived as nomadic herders, adapting to the natural environment on which their survival depended. As Symphony of Nature reveals, in Mongolia and around the world the act of making music was always part of the process of harmonizing with nature. Illustrative selections include Cuban guaijira-son, a Turkmen heroic epic, Turkish folk songs, Bulgarian and Byelorussian harvest songs, Vietnamese theatre songs, and Portuguese flower-picking songs. Both the voice and lyrics express human emotions and stories from the natural world. Some of the pieces here are programmatic instrumental pieces which describe nature by means of the instrument’s articulation and idiomatic expressions, such as a piece for the Chinese two-string fiddle called erhu, and one for solo qin, or silk-string zither. In addition, songs and dances from the Central African Republic, Cameroonian water drum music, and a piece for the Japanese flute all imitate with their own sound the natural sounds of wind, water, birdsong, and the forest. Not only the sound but also the musical medium which produces the sound are closely related to nature: human voices, water drums, a bamboo flute, a zither with silk strings. Unsurprisingly, the strings of Mongolian horse-head fiddle and its bow are made from a horse’s tail hair, and the fiddle is often played to comfort livestock when they are sick or disturbed.


The Mongolia album also presents several types of musical genres that incorporate the spirit of nature. Long songs (urtyn duu) and short songs (bogiin duu) tell of mountains, animals, the open steppe, the sky, the seasons, the moon and sun, and the singer’s own emotions. The diphonic song called khöömei, in which one singer simultaneously sings several tones, and the sound of instruments like the limbe, which is close to the birdsong often heard in the spring on the open steppe, imitate the sounds which surround the musicians and singers while they are herding the livestock—the stream by which they sit, even the echoing sound of the wind.

In another version of the long song “View over the KherlenRiver,” the final lines say: “it was this noble lady whom I had intended to greet, I am happy to have greeted her. I made it happen, and now I’m going home.” The noble lady indicates the KherlenRiver. The singer is, then, not only singing about nature but honoring it, aware as the singers always have been of the mutual relationship that exists between them.

Sunmin Yoon
Faculty member in the Ethnomusicology Program, Kent State University

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

July 9, 2014

Sneak Preview: Canta con Venezuela by Serenata Guayanesa
(out 9/2/14)

Serenata Guayanesa is much more than a music group: For over 40 years, it has been a cultural and social force in Venezuela. On September 2, 2014, Smithsonian Folkways will release Canta con Venezuela, a selection of newly recorded classics that exemplify why Venezuelans embrace Serenata Guayenesa and its music as part of themselves.

Listen to a Sneak Preview of Canta con Venezuela

On Canta con Venezuela the group performs in a variety of Venezuelan musical styles, from boleros (“Desesperanza”) and calypsos (“Calipso de El Callao”) to the ear-catching 5/8-meter of Venezuelan flag song “El papagayo” and a traditional song entitled “Símon, Símon” that praises the efforts of Venezuelan liberator Símon Bolívar. The album also features enriching liner notes from Smithsonian Folkways director and album co-producer Daniel E. Sheehy.

Serenata Guayanesa’s traditional lineup of musicians—tenor voice and cuatro guitar player Miguel Ángel Bosch Cárdenas, countertenor and percussionist Mauricio Castro Rodríguez, bass voice and percussionist César Pérez Rossi, and baritone and cuatro guitar player Iván Pérez Rossi—gained national attention in 1973 with “Calipso de El Callao,” whose unique Afro-Caribbean calypso edged out the international pop smash “Killing Me Softly” for the top spot in the Venezuela hit parade. Since then, the group has established themselves as celebrators of the Venezuelan identity and invaluable cultural icons. In 2011, the Venezuelan government honored them on the occasion of the group’s 40th anniversary by declaring Serenata Guayanesa a treasure of living national cultural heritage.

Canta con Venezuela is the 41st release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

For more information about Serenata Guayanesa, visit:
www.serenata-guayanesa.com
www.facebook.com/SerenataGuayanesa

Tracklist:

  1. El sapo – The Toad
  2. A la una – At One
  3. Polo de la soledad – The Polo of Loneliness
  4. Símon, Símon – Simon, Simon
  5. El papagayo – The Kite
  6. Easter Morning
  7. Viajera del río – River Traveler
  8. Golpe y estribillo
  9. Danzas zulianas: “Soberana, “María Cecilia,” “Maracaibera”
  10. El norte es una quimera – The North Is a Fantasy
  11. Tardes guayanesas – Guayana Afternoons
  12. Calipso de El Callao – Calypso of El Callao
  13. Desesperanza – Despair
  14. Qué bonita – How Pretty
  15. San Rafael guayanés – Guayanan San Rafael
  16. Corre, caballito – Run, Little Horse
More Multicultural Children’s Songs

July 7, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 11 Kosovo and Romania: Looking Outward and Inward

Week 11 of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music features Festive Music from the Maramureș Region, a previously unreleased album of music from the Romanian countryside, and Islamic Ritual from Kosovo, documenting ceremonies of Kosovo’s Sufi community.

GUEST BLOG

By Maurice Mengel

The UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music has been an impressive document of cultural diversity since its beginnings in the 1960s, offering interesting and often unexpected insights into musical traditions that are rarely heard elsewhere. This holds true today when the Internet makes media accessible at the click of the mouse. Even when one looks only at a small region of the world, such as southeast Europe, the UNESCO Collection provides very different images of musical traditions which, taken together, display a mosaic of musical diversity.

Festive Music from the Maramureș RegionA case in point is the album Festive Music from the Maramureș Region, recorded in the early 1990s by the ethnomusicologist Speranța Rădulescu and her team from Romania’s National Peasant Museum. The Maramureș region on Romania's northern border with Ukraine is known as a picturesque rural area where peasants still farm using traditional techniques.


An earlier version of the album circulated on cassettes when I first travelled to Romania in the late 1990s. It provided a view of a changing musical tradition that, at the time, helped me to make sense of the different forms of Romanian folk music. During the Cold War, the Romanian state favored interpretations of Romanian folk music that expressed socialist ideals. This new musical tradition emphasized highly arranged, virtuosic performances, often by large ensembles, as well as recordings that featured a rounded, well-balanced and harmonious sound similar to that of classical music.

The value of Rădulescu's recordings lies in the fact that she avoids these tropes and simply presents the music made by Ioan Pop (guitar) and his wife Anuța (vocals) accompanied by friends singing, playing the fiddle, and adding drums. At the center of the album are several tracks recorded on site during a private dance party in 1992. Additional tracks showcase songs and dances typically performed at weddings and other festivities.

Young drummer during a dancing party in the village of Hoteni. Photo by Dan Comănescu, September 2001.

This album was never published in its current form, where Smithsonian Folkways provides twenty-five pages of especially rich and detailed liner notes that include dozens of photos. In the notes, Rădulescu offers historical context, discussing how the music she found in the 1990s differs from Béla Bartók's account of the same region before World War I. Rădulescu also hints at more recent developments. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Ioan Pop and his friends still performed in local, traditional contexts, while today they mostly perform on stages during national and international tours. I find it to be no small irony that two decades of capitalism have brought about what four decades of communism tried so hard to achieve.

Islamic Ritual from KosovoIslamic Ritual from Kosovo is a very different kind of album, as it offers us a glance into the musical traditions of the Sufi brotherhood and their religious practice. The album is a re-release of a 1974 production and comes with the original liner notes by Bernard Mauguin, who made the recordings in what was then a part of Yugoslavia. Here, the listener has the chance to experience captivating group singing, occasionally accompanied by drums and cymbals. The group documented by the album is the Rufa'i brotherhood, which traces its history back to the 12th century.


Sufism is a branch of Islamic mysticism that deeply incorporates music into their spiritual traditions. For this brotherhood, singing, accompanied by special breathing techniques, sends the individual on an inward journey where normal consciousness is put to rest while another, superior consciousness is awakened. Even without being able to understand the words or their deeper religious meaning, Mauguin’s liner notes allow the listener to comprehend how communal singing has the power to alter perception.

Photos: Bernard MAUGUINPhotos: Bernard MAUGUIN

These two albums from the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music are just two examples of the range of musical traditions explored by the series as a whole: one directed outwardly, used while celebrating with the community, and the other directed inwardly, to refine the spiritual self. Both demonstrate the diversity of European identities and the different ways that music functions in traditional cultures.

Maurice Mengal, M.A.
Doctoral Candidate, University of Cologne

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

June 30, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 10: Games, Lullabies, and Children’s Songs

Week 10 of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music celebrates games, lullabies, and children’s songs from around the world with Lullabies and Children’s Songs and Canada: Inuit Games and Songs.

GUEST BLOG

by Jason McInnes

It has been a pleasure spending time with the music featured on two recordings from the UNESCO Collection, Lullabies and Children's Song and Canada: Inuit Games and Songs. These albums are filled with beautiful music, as you might expect, but the aspect that continues to turn my ear is the joy in both recordings. Whether I'm digging in to every detail or stepping back to listen with wide ears, I end up thinking about the simplicity and the power of these sounds and the delight that is present throughout.

Lullabies and Children's SongsMy favorite piece on Lullabies and Children's Songs is "The Water Drum," a recording of children swimming in a river. As written in the liner notes: "They push their cupped hands vigorously into the water at different depths; an extraordinary rhythmic background is thereby created for the song, which soars above it in the air." The sound of the children singing is similar to sacred harp choirs—sometimes chaotic sounding, yet always returning to unity.

I teach music to many young people and their families at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, IL. I shared some of the tracks from this album with my students, ages four to six, and their parents. We had a wonderful time using our voices to mimic some of the sounds we heard on this album. A favorite of my young students was the "lip popping" sounds found on the track "Little Girls' Sung Games" from Côte d'Ivoire. Another was the "tongue-rolling trills" in the Japanese song "Ihumke."


In addition, we found that some of the sounds related to noises in our own languages, including English, French, and Spanish. Class quickly turned from questions of "how do you play the guitar?" to "how does music make you feel?" I believe that the joy of these recordings made us able to share openly in the class.

Canada: Inuit Games and SongsAfter hearing the joyous laughter recorded in the album Canada: Inuit Games and Songs, my students and I attempted to mimic these sounds with our own laughing. The liner notes state: "The major part of the recordings present the very interesting 'throat games' as various anthropologists and musicologists call them." From listening to the recording, I sense that what I heard was great pleasure from music-making in a community setting. Many of the recordings end in laughter that, to me, suggests “That was fun! Let's do it again!”


Week after week, my students and I have found we all have talents that we bring to our music. We strive to improve, but at the end of the day, we clap and laugh and sing a song as we walk through the hallways. It is when we are able to bring our best that we find the most joy.

Jason McInnes
Old Town School of Folk Music
Chicago, Illinois

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

June 25, 2014

Sneak Preview: Ella Jenkins to celebrate 90th birthday with More Multicultural Children’s Songs (out 8/5/14)

No Smithsonian Folkways release has been more popular than Ella Jenkins’ 1995 album Multicultural Children’s Songs, a selection of her favorite melodies learned from cultures around the world. In celebration of Ella’s 90th birthday on August 6, Smithsonian Folkways will release More Multicultural Children’s Songs (official release date 8/5/14). The album is her 40th title spanning an amazing 57 years and features 20 classics from her prolific catalogue.

Sneak Preview of ‘More Multicultural Children’s Songs’: Please Share!

More Multicultural Children’s Songs inspires respect and rejoicing in the traditions of others among children of all ages. “Hukilau” takes the listener to a Hawaiian fish-eating ceremony, “Rushing Around in Russia” teaches greetings, and “Qué Bonita Bandera” is a beautiful ode to the Puerto Rican flag. Ella also makes pit stops in China, Germany, Greece and beyond throughout this 20-track journey. More Multicultural Children’s Songs includes a beautiful essay from Ella herself, in which she says: “The songs and stories were inspired by the wonderful people I’ve met all over the world, and in the spirit of how they shared their customs and songs with me, I pass them on to you.”

Chicago-based Ella Jenkins, known as “The First Lady of Children’s Music,” has received many awards over her long career, including a 2004 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award (the only such award given to a children’s musician), and an Honorary Doctorate from the Erikson Institute the same year. In 2005, ‘cELLAbration,’ an album of Ella’s songs performed by Sweet Honey In The Rock, Riders in the Sky, Tom Paxton, Cathy & Marcy, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin, and others won the 2005 GRAMMY for Best Children’s Album.

Ella was the first woman and first children’s musician to receive the ASCAP Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, and in 2009 she earned a United States Artists award. She is one of the first African American women to have a TV show, when in the 1950s she hosted a weekly segment on “The Totem Club,” a children’s program broadcast in Chicago. Her “Me Too Series” films were featured numerous times on “Sesame Street,” and she has also appeared on “Barney and Friends” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Her 1966 album ‘You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song’ is part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. In 2013, Ella kicked off the Lollapalooza festival kid’s stage. Currently, her recordings of “Wade in the Water” and “A Man Went Down to the River” are featured in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s internationally acclaimed ballet Revelations.

“Ella Jenkins is a constant source of inspiration and a bottomless well of songs, ideas, and spirit. She is by far the most worldly performer that children’s music has ever known.” —Dan Zanes

Tracklist:

  1. Where Is Mary? 3:27
  2. Shabbat Shalom 0:47
  3. Hukilau 2:54
  4. Rushing Around in Russia 0:41
  5. In the People’s Republic of China 2:04
  6. A Train Ride to the Great Wall 2:37
  7. Count from One to Ten 8:40
  8. I’m Going to Cairo 1:59
  9. Qué Bonita Bandera 0:41
  10. Canadian Friendship 1:42
  11. A German Counting Rhyme 0:23
  12. Tee-Kan-Yas 2:03
  13. Yemayah 1:38
  14. A Taxi Ride 1:08
  15. Differences (spoken word) 0:54
  16. In Australia 2:19
  17. Australian Zoo 4:50
  18. Bim Bom, Bim Bom 1:27
  19. My Little Blue Dreidel 1:17
  20. Chotto Matte Kudasai 2:20
More Multicultural Children’s Songs

June 24, 2014

Now Available: Classic African American Songsters

Smithsonian Folkways presents the 23rd installment of the award-winning “Classic” series. Classic African American Songsters traces the complicated yet rich history of the “songster,” featuring celebrated artists like Big Bill Broonzy, Brownie McGhee, Lead Belly, Peg Leg Sam, Mississippi John Hurt, John Cephas, and more. The collection spans seven decades, and touches on everything from ragtime, country, and Tin Pan Alley to pre-blues, blues hybrids, and old-timey string band though 21 classic tracks – including five previously unreleased.

Purchase CD or Album Download

What is a songster? Album co-producer Barry Lee Pearson, scholar of African American music at the University of Maryland, says that the term is an often contradictory one. While the designation originated in Europe over a thousand years ago, by the early 20th century in America it acquired more of a racial meaning, designating travelling African American singers with the ability to change repertoires to suit the tastes of different audiences.

As Pearson puts it, “[A songster] is both a keeper of tradition, disseminating folk materials wherever he goes, and tradition’s worst enemy, contaminating local tradition with modern popular music. He is the inventor of blues and not a blues musician at all." Classic African American Songsters aims to set the record straight and show that there has long been much more to the African American secular song tradition than just the blues.

Classic African American Songsters was co-compiled and produced by Pearson and Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place, a two-time GRAMMY Award winner who has produced more than 50 Smithsonian Folkways recordings.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, Classic African American Songsters explores the breadth and depth of a genre with liner notes that offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released “Classic” compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others.

Classic African American Songsters tracklist:

**Previously Unreleased

  1. Warner Williams with Jay Summerour – “Bring It On Down to My House”
  2. Pink Anderson – “Talking Blues”
  3. John Jackson – “Nobody’s Business (If I Do)”
  4. Little Brother Montgomery – “Alabama Bound”
  5. Brownie McGhee – “Pallet on the Floor”
  6. Bill Williams – “Chicken, You Can’t Roost Too High for Me”**
  7. Lead Belly – “My Hula Love”
  8. Reverend Gary Davis – “Candy Man”
  9. John Cephas and Phil Wiggins – “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”
  10. Peg Leg Sam – “Froggy Went A-Courting”**
  11. Mississippi John Hurt – “Monday Morning Blues”
  12. Pink Anderson – “The Boys of Your Uncle Sam”
  13. Brownie McGhee – “Raise a Ruckus Tonight”
  14. Marvin Fodrell – “Reno Factory”
  15. John Jackson – “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down”
  16. Warner Williams with Jay Summerour – “Honeysuckle Rose”
  17. Big Bill Broonzy – “Bill Bailey”
  18. Bill Williams – “When the Roses Bloom Again”**
  19. Peg Leg Sam – “Straighten Up and Fly Right”**
  20. Snooks Eaglin – “Careless Love”
  21. Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong – “They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree”**
Classic African American Songsters

June 23, 2014

New issue of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the end of apartheid, the newest issue of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine spotlights music of South Africa in the Smithsonian Folkways collection. Contributor Tayo Jolaosho provides a unique retrospective of anti-apartheid music, with a special focus on the 1990 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program “Musics of Struggle.” Diane Thram, the director of the International Library of African Music (ILAM), discusses the history and significance of their archival holdings, widely considered among the oldest and largest collections of African music in the world. In this issue’s “From the Field” article, Andrea Emberly and Mudzunga Junniah Davhula examine the relationship between childhood, culture, community learning, and music from the perspectives of Venda young people. Additionally, this issue features a multimedia lesson plan that draws connections between anti-apartheid songs of South Africa and music of the African American civil rights movement.

Magazine

June 23, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 9: Voices of Greece and Côte d'Ivoire

Week 9 of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music features two nations competing in the World Cup this week: Greece and the Ivory Coast. Here, however, we focus on their music with the reissues of Traditional Music of Greece and Côte d’Ivoire: Baule Vocal Music.

GUEST BLOG

By Mike Janssen

Soccer teams from Greece and Ivory Coast face off this week, coinciding with the Smithsonian Folkways reissue of recordings from the two countries as part of its UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music series. These snapshots of traditional music from two cultures bring us a wide spectrum of human voices, along with instrumental contributions fraught with just as much deep feeling.

Côte d’Ivoire: Baule Vocal MusicListening to some of the recordings from Côte d’Ivoire: Baule Vocal Music; it may seem that something is missing. This would be the visual element of dance, the setting in which many of these songs were recorded. As many as twenty voices at a time, men’s and women’s, weave together and counter each other over skittering beats. We hear the voices, drums, rattles, and scrapers that make up the soundtrack to the dances, but we can’t see the masked and costumed dancers bringing the complicated rhythms to life. (Thankfully, you can find video examples online by searching for "Pays Baoule")

Amid this album’s frenetic vocal performances, a more understated one stands out. Its assured rhythm is more straightforward, accompanied by the solo voice of Kwadio Wafi. As he plays a harp-lute called an aloko, Wafi shares the tale of Queen Aura Poku, a pivotal figure in the story of the Baule. As the legend goes, the Baule split from the Akan people of neighboring Ghana in the 18th century “after a quarrel of succession.”1 When the refugees arrived at a river, a diviner recommended the sacrifice of a boy. Aura Poku threw her son into the water so that her people might cross.


Wafi tells this story over a solid riff laid down on his aloko as accompanying percussionists strike iron tools used to uproot palm trees, the beat crisscrossing Wafi’s muted strings. The sounds hint at the repetitive rhythms that Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti brought to a global audience in the 1970s, or even at of one of Kuti’s influences, James Brown.

Wafi’s back story is as intriguing as Aura Poku’s. The liner notes tell us that he took up his instrument after two dwarf spirits told him to hang himself. He followed their advice only to be found and cut down by his neighbors, at which point a diviner advised Wafi to take up his paternal uncle’s instrument. I’m glad my own path to playing banjo was less arduous.

Traditional Music of GreeceThe performances of Traditional Music of Greece likewise hark back to story and myth. “Mountaineer’s Song Followed by a Mantinades” resembles “the Dionysiac mystic chants of the ancient world,” according to the liner notes. On these recordings, the voice of the soloist dominates rather than the communal polyphony of the Baule ensembles. With the first track, “Miroloi,” a throaty, passionate clarinet erupts into hypnotic riffs. On “Shepherd’s Song,” clarinetist Leonidas Koufoianis navigates a modal melody, climbing into higher and higher registers.


For a parallel, listen to jazz saxophonist John Coltrane as he gets going at the beginning of A Love Supreme (iTunes | spotify)—a composition also noted for a modal melody. What if Coltrane and Koufoianis went toe to toe in a cutting contest of Greek and African-American fusion? The contest might transport the listener to a borderland between northern Greece and an Ivorian village—and it would certainly be as riveting as a soccer match.

Mike Janssen is digital editor of Current, a trade publication covering the business of public media. He also plays banjo in the Washington, D.C., band, The Boundary Stones.
Twitter | Bandcamp



1 Hugo Zemp, liner notes to Côte d’Ivoire: Baule Vocal Music, UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, 1967, compact disc.

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

June 17, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 8: Brazil and Mexico: Beyond Soccer

Week 8 of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music features recordings from two nations squaring off in the World Cup this week: Brazil and Mexico. No winners are declared here, other than the listeners that delve into Brazil: The Bororo World of Sound and Mexican Indian Traditions.

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by Jackson Sinnenberg

One of the most immediately notable characteristics of the two UNESCO releases for this week is a focus on ritual and celebration. The dances featured in Mexican Indian Traditions (1992) showcase the celebrations of life:  adolescence (“Danza de pascola: Canción de la pubertad”), the beauty and mysteries of nature (“Danza de Los Quetzales”), healing (“Danza de Los Negritos”) and cultural history (“La danza de la pluma”). Brazil: The Bororo World of Sound (1989) captures the music of a Bororo traditional funeral and the activities that make up the event, including dance and chant. The ritual marks the transfer and journey of the Bororo's soul.

Even though the subject matter of these dances is different, they share a common goal in helping the body and soul connect to one another and their ancestors. The Mexican Indians celebrate living nature and community, while the Bororo look to the life of the soul.

Brazil: The Bororo World of SoundThe final rite of the funeral, the oieigo (track 9 on this album), illustrates the shared concept of living between the two recordings. Riccardo Canzio writes in the liner notes that the oieigo is: "mostly associated with hunting and fishing chants and especially with the ritual hunt that follows a death in the community. The oieigo is sung for the living, not for the dead."


In track 5 of Brazil: The Bororo World of Sound, a dance game is performed. Dancers use the marido, or wheel made of palm sticks. The marido are lifted above their heads, and the participants dance to the point of exhaustion.



Mexican Indian TraditionsMexican Indian Traditions features music and dance from different indigenous Mexican communities. Track 5, “The White Horse,” is part of a larger collection of dances from the Mayo ethnic group. Percussion instruments accompany three dancers, one wearing an animal mask and carrying a flower.  These two objects are believed to represent the duality of good and evil within human nature and the joint human and animal essence of the Mayo Indians.1


Brazil: The Bororo World of Sound was recorded during the events of an actual funeral, while Mexican Indian Traditions was recorded at the 1992 Avignon Festival. This difference in recording process does not take away from the significance or quality of the performances. In fact, it is interesting to note the similarities in the two presentations. Despite the ostensible "performed" presentation of the Mexican Indian dances, they still contain of all the energy of their original setting. The power and beauty of the dances are preserved impeccably in this form. 

The marvel of the bird-like qualities that the performers take on in Dance de los Quetzales is no less potent in this setting. The transformative power of the dance is emphasized when the participants gather onto a moving platform, evoking a quetzal in flight.2

In a similar way, the intense communal power of the Bororo rituals is captured from the chorus of voices that open the album (“roia kurireu”). One hears – and can almost see – these rituals come to life as the entire Bororo village gathers to begin the funerary process.


Lastly, these two recordings demonstrate disparate development of native music in Latin America. Brazil: The Bororo World of Sound is a snapshot of a long-lost tradition and a world which few people in the twenty-first century can still imagine. Mexican Indian Traditions represents a mix of traditional instruments and song forms as well as those influenced by Western European culture (such as the use of guitar and violin).

Drum KA/Tambour KADrum KA/Tambour KA

Jackson Sinnenberg
Freelance Music Critic and Journalist
B.A. American Musical Culture and English, Georgetown University


1 Alfonso Muñoz-Güemes, liner notes to Mexican Indian Traditions, UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, 1992, compact disc.

2 Ibid.

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

June 16, 2014

Smithsonian Folkways Wins Three Independent Music Awards

For the sixth consecutive year, Smithsonian Folkways has earned multiple Independent Music Awards as selected by a panel of judges:

  • Best Children’s Music Album: Elizabeth Mitchell – Blue Clouds. The clear and beautiful voice of children’s music favorite Elizabeth Mitchell weaves musical landscapes that embrace us with sound in a celebration of family, imagination and love.
  • Best World Traditional Album: Various Artists – Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda. The songs in this collection are written and performed by the coffee farmers of the Peace Kawomera (Delicious Peace) Fair Trade cooperative in Mbale, Uganda.
  • Best Bluegrass Song: “Fly Around My Blue-eyed Girl/Cripple Creek/Ida Red/Old Joe Clark” by Pete Seeger on Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways. Pete Seeger took the banjo into new musical territory and blazed a trail many have followed.

According to the International Music Awards, these projects are awarded for the totality of artistic excellence based on originality, musicianship, musicality, vocals, recording quality, and other categories.

Including the winners, eight Smithsonian Folkways entries were finalists for the 13th Independent Music Awards. All finalists are also eligible for the Vox Populi, “voice of the people”, awards, determined by fan voting. Voting is open until midnight on Friday, July 18th. Submit your votes by clicking on the links next to the nominations below and by giving each entry a 5 star rating (registration required).

Independent Music Awards

June 13, 2014

Smithsonian Folkways Remembers Ruby Dee (1922-2014)

Smithsonian Folkways remembers actress and civil rights advocate Ruby Dee (1922-2014), who is perhaps best known for her role in the film Raisin in the Sun. She recorded several spoken word albums for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, all of which attest to her dedication to political causes and advocacy. On the albums Every Tone a Testimony and The Original Read-In for Peace in Vietnam, she appears with her husband Ossie Davis, also an activist. Dee recorded a two-disc set entitled What If I Am a Woman?, Vol 1: Black Women’s Speeches and What If I Am a Woman?, Vol 2: Black Women’s Speeches for Folkways Records in 1977. These albums feature Dee performing speeches by pioneering African American women’s rights activists, including Sojourner Truth, Coretta Scott King, and Angela Davis.

Ruby Dee

June 9, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 7: Music from Indonesia and Fiji

Week 7 of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music features traditional folk music of West Java and music of contemporary Fiji. Fiji: Songs of Love and Homeland – String Band Music is the second of twelve previously unreleased recordings made available as part of the UNESCO Collection project.

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By David Goldsworthy

The captivating sounds of traditional Southeast Asian bronze percussion ensembles and more modern music of voices, guitars, and ukuleles from the Pacific Ocean can be heard on this week’s albums from the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music: Indonesia: Music from West Java, recorded and compiled by Jacques Brunet in 1970, and Fiji: Songs of Love and Homeland – String Band Music, recorded and compiled by myself in 1986.

Jacques Brunet, a well-known pianist and musicologist, recorded a series of traditional Southeast Asian music between 1963 and 1982. I am an ethnomusicologist whose recordings and research have focused on traditional and popular music of Indonesia and the Pacific.

The types of music on both albums, recorded 44 and 28 years ago respectively, can still be heard performed live in Indonesia and Fiji. The Indonesian album has six tracks of “traditional” instrumental music from West Java, mainly gamelan (percussion) ensemble music. This music is traditional in the sense that it “...is the result of an artistic activity which has been going on since the fifteenth century.”1 The Fiji album contains vocal music that dates back only to the 1920s and is influenced by Western popular styles. This music has maintained several features from indigenous Fijian traditions.

Indonesia: Music from West JavaThe Sundanese people of West Java have a culture that is somewhat distinct from that of neighboring Central Java. The Sundanese language is different from Javanese, and Sundanese music displays a forthright dynamic and lively quality of performance not often found in the more “refined” and laid-back (alus) Javanese approach. Sundanese people of West Java are also known in Indonesia for their sense of humor, which comes out in musical performances. The gamelan ensembles of West Java do share common features of instrumentation and musical structure with those of Central Java, but they usually have fewer instruments. Simon Cook compares the Sundanese and Central Javanese sounds, remarking: “Sundanese gamelan tend to have a clunkier, less sustained sound, more in keeping with the faster style of playing.”2 Sundanese music also uses two tunings not found in Central Java: the alluring pentatonic madenda and degung scales (heard in tracks 1 and 5 on this album).


On Brunet’s album, you will hear gamelan music to accompany the traditional masked dances (tari topeng) and puppet theater (wayang golek) of West Java, as well as instrumental compositions for royal ceremonies. The first track is a type of “chamber” music for a flute and two zithers. You can see why the Sundanese are also known for the sadness of their music in the haunting beauty of this track.

Fiji: Songs of Love and Homeland: String Band MusicFijian musical culture embraces three main streams: traditional chant/dance (centered on the meke), Christian religious music, and popular music. This album focuses on popular music of Fijian villages known as “songs for bumping” (sere ni cumu), so called because the songs were often sung to accompany beer or kava drinking sessions where men would sit around clinking or bumping their cups or glasses together.

Eight tracks of the Fiji album are by the same group: three young men singing in sweetly blended three-part harmony accompanied by acoustic guitars and ukulele. This village ensemble was keen for me to record their original songs and put out a CD, so I decided to feature them on this album. The rest of the songs on the album come from different villages on the islands of Taveuni and Kadavu.

Many of these popular songs are about love of people, nature, or homeland, but other topics include bereavement, politics and sport. Track 15 is about football and includes the English words “Never say die!” in otherwise Fijian-language lyrics. The songs are accompanied by acoustic instruments—guitars and ukuleles—but track 18 features an electric band. Songs usually have three or four vocal parts using the Western major scale. Strong bass singing can be heard on this album, as Fijians generally admire a prominent bass line.

Playing the lali (slit drum). 1986.Playing the lali (slit drum). 1986.

Apart from obvious features derived from Western music, Fijian sere ni cumu do have some traditional aspects such as narrative texts full of poetic imagery and symbolism reminiscent of old chant styles, the employment of male falsetto, and the occasional use of traditional musical instruments such as the slit drum and stamping tubes to accompany the singing.


Besides the listening enjoyment provided by the delightful music on both albums, these recordings are also significant for their historical value as sonic documents of Indonesian and Fijian music genres performed in times past and present.

1 Jacques Brunet, liner notes to Indonesia: Music from West Java, UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, 1970, compact disc.

2 S. Cook, Guide to Sundanese Music, Bandung (Unpublished manuscript), 1992.

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

June 2, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 6: China, from Qin to Chuida

Week Six of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music spotlights both Chinese classical and folk music styles. China is a focus for the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which runs from June 25 to June 29 and July 2 to July 6 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music is being re-released two albums per week via digital download, streaming services, and on-demand physical CDs.

GUEST BLOG

By Jing Li

In the world of Chinese traditional arts, there are two main categories of study: classical culture (concerned with intellectual pursuits) and folk culture (concerned with popular expression). Classical culture, associated with the educated elite, has played an important role in China for more than 3,000 years. It has been influenced by both royal taste and trends from popular culture.

Although it is hard to say which has had a bigger impact on the other (as classical and folk cultures co-existed and developed side by side in history), the cultures are the two most distinctive aspects to serve as introduction to Chinese traditional music. The two newly re-released albums from Smithsonian Folkways’ UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music illustrate both aspects.

ChinaRecorded in 1985, China is a beautiful presentation of some of the most celebrated pieces of classical music. Confucius’ idea that one’s education and academic cultivation must include music points to the art form’s importance in Chinese intellectual life.

The qin (or guqin, a seven-string board zither) is said to be among the most beloved instruments of the intellectuals because it represents high taste and is of equal importance to books.1 Other instruments presented in this album include the xiao (vertical flute), the zheng (eighteen to twenty-one string board zither), and the pipa (plucked lute).

One of the pieces featured in this album is legendary qin solo “Liushui” (Flowing Waters), performed by Guan Pinghu. Guan Pinghu also recorded this piece for the Voyager Golden Records included on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts in 1977.

“Liushui” tells the story of a fictional qin player Yu Boya, who went to the mountains to find a celestial master said to help musicians elevate their skills. He set his qin by the water and started to play, creating two famous qin pieces: “Gaoshan” (High Mountains) and “Liushui.” Struck by the awe-inspiring environment around him, Yu Boya realized that the celestial teacher is Nature itself.

Guan Pinghu’s recording delivers this narrative just perfectly. You can hear water flowing, falling, jumping, and splashing as it lands, creating a resonant echo in the mountains.


China“Shi Mian Mai Fu” (The Great Ambuscade) is one of the best-known pipa pieces. It presents an epic warfare scene of the Chuhan War (202 BC) through a single instrument. Records say an older version of this piece called “Chuhan” dates back to the sixteenth century, while the score of “Shi Mian Mai Fu” was first seen in 1818. In this work, a variety of musical techniques combine to create a large-scale sound.

In the 1653 article “Biography of Pipa Player Tang,” Qing Dynasty essayist Wang Youding described the sound of “Shi Mian Mai Fu”: “When the two armies took their final fight, the sound shakes the sky and the earth. Even the tiles on the roofs seem to be falling down. If you listen closely, there are sounds of metal clashing, drum beating, bow tightening, and there are sounds of frightened men and horses. Suddenly it is silent. Then you hear Chu songs sung by the enemy Han’s army; then, there is the sad singing of the Chu emperor Xiang Yu and his farewell to his concubine Yuji. There is the sound of him stuck in the swamp, chased by enemy army. Then there is the sound of him killing himself by the river and the sound of the rest of his troupe trying to save him. The piece makes you excited at first, then frightened, finally sad and helpless.”

ChinaIn contrast to the classical music of the previous album, China: Chuida Wind and Percussive Instrumental Ensembles presents musical genres that continue to play an important role in day-to-day Chinese community life. Chuida (“wind and percussion”) is considered the most typical instrumental folk style across the country, widely played for occasions like weddings, funerals, festivals, and other rituals. However, this album features instrumentation beyond wind and percussion, such as melodic strings played in both the Quanzhou Nanyin (ballad) and Jiangnan sizhu (silk and bamboo) styles.

Quanzhou is a port city in Southern Fujian, a province known for its rich musical and theatrical traditions. Quanzhou gained its reputation as the “biggest port of the East” in the late twelfth century because it was the starting point of the water silk route. As a result, the city’s music absorbed and blended elements from other cultures brought with the flow of merchants and travelers.

Among its diverse musical traditions, Nanyin is one of the oldest types of Chinese ballad music still heard in communities today. Inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Nanyin is performed in local Minnan dialect and accompanied by elegant pipa, xiao, and string instrument melodies. “Incantation to Guanyin” is a typical example of this genre.


Another distinctive Quanzhou style is Longchui, which literally means “musicians with wicker baskets.”2 Longchui is typically comprised of the suona (oboe-like wind instrument), xiao, and string and percussion instruments such as drums, gongs, and clapping boards. The musicians travel with storage baskets for their instruments and carry the baskets while performing during processions. They usually play at celebrations and rituals.

“Overture” features the suona, a bright, loud, and high-pitched wooden instrument brought to China from Central Asia. By the sixteenth century, it could be heard throughout China in the Northern Provinces, the Qinghai and Tibetan Plateau, the Yellow River valley, the central plain, and the southern coast. Compared to the sounds of the graceful Nanyin, the lively Longchui gives you a totally different listening experience.

The two pieces from Shanghai present two further distinct musical characters: the delicate and soft sizhu (silk and bamboo) and the loud and exciting percussive drum and gong ensemble. Silk and bamboo, referring to string and wind instruments, is a melodic musical style often performed in teahouses as entertainment. In the piece “Four in One,” you hear a dialogue between the melodic silk and bamboo ensemble and the rhythmic percussion group as they perform in turns.


China

At the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, China: Tradition and the Art of Living will present a special evening concert on Saturday, July 5th by classically-trained pipa virtuoso Wu Man. Wu Man is a Smithsonian Folkways artist who has created new compositions for the instrument and brought it into intercultural musical dialogue. In addition, the Quanzhou Puppet Troupe will perform an ancient theatrical tradition with accompaniment from another distinctive musical institution, the “puppet opera.” Other Festival performers include the Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe and musicians from Inner Mongolia and the Miao and Dong ethnic groups.

Jing Li
Program Coordinator of China: Tradition and the Art of Living, 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Performing arts manager, former intern and huge fan of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.


1 The Editorial Committee of Chinese Civilization, China: Five Thousand Years of History and Civilization (Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong, 2007), 462.

2 Franςois Picard, liner notes for China: Chuida Wind and Percussive Instrumental Ensembles, UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, 1992, compact disc.

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

May 27, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 5: India – Two Vīṇā Masters

The UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music is being issued two albums per week via digital download, streaming services, and on-demand physical CDs until all 127 recordings are available. Week Five presents masters of two playing styles on the vīṇā, a traditional Indian string instrument. One of this week’s albums is the previously unreleased South India: Ranganayaki Rajagopalan—Continuity in the Karaikudi Vīṇā Style, the first of 12 newly issued recordings in the series.

May 27, 2014

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South India: Ranganayaki Rajagopalan—Continuity in the Karaikudi Vīṇā Style
By Richard Wolf

When I first heard the vīṇā, I was drawn to its rich resonance and, as a guitarist, intrigued by the facility with which the performer could bend its strings. I remember being attracted to the exquisite, organic appearance of the instrument, with its graceful curves, nut-brown grain, bone inlay, and gilt carving of the mythical Tamil yāḻi turning its head toward the player—as if this dragon-like creature were listening attentively.

For years I listened to India’s great vīṇā players and looked, mostly in vain, for recordings that captured the intimate sound of their instruments—not the distorted, compromised sound of concert performances but the deep, clear sounds performers themselves hear when they practice or perform in a chamber context.

South IndiaCapturing just such a sound, this album presents Srimati Ranganayaki Rajagopalan, one of the world’s foremost masters of the instrument at the apex of her career, playing a selection of compositions and improvisations in the sequence they would normally be heard in a concert. Extensive liner notes provide unique access to the history of the performer and her style and scholarly notes describing each section of the performance.


I encountered the vīṇā while in college, shortly after my life-changing experience of hearing South Indian music for the first time. My first hands-on experiences with the music were those of learning to play the drum featured on this recording, a double-headed barrel drum called the mridangam. The performer puts a paste of cream of wheat on one head to make it heavier, allowing him to make deep, undulating sounds with the heel of his hand. The center of the other head has a black spot made of slag and rice powder that allows the drummer to tune the head to “sa”—the tonic and drone pitch held throughout a performance.

The drum seemed a natural fit for me at the time because its sounds captured what I wish I could have produced with my own two hands as a restless teenager. I would incessantly and impatiently pound out rhythms on whatever I could find—desks, chairs, tables, books, boxes. After starting to learn the mridangam I recall practicing my lessons everywhere, reciting syllables like “tha ki ta ki ta ta ka dik ku thong gu ki ta tha ka,” rapping my right and left hand fingers against a lamppost as hard as I could. This was one of my favorite pastimes as I made my regular journeys across the US as a hitchhiker in the 1980s. Many years later, more gently, I practiced on the back of my infant son as I put him to sleep. And now, I listen to my boy play those patterns himself on the drum. The drums settle in your bones.

I encountered South Indian music at a time when I was looking for new frameworks to guide my own lead guitar improvisations, and I saw South Indian music as a possible resource for composing. But as I reached deeper and deeper into this music, I became less interested in India as an inspiration for my own artistry and more and more interested in learning about it through participation—playing the music, speaking the languages.

I was extremely lucky in this regard to learn from the most revered vīṇā teacher in Madurai in the early 1980s, Karaikudi Lakshmi Ammal. Her father was Subbarama Iyer (1873–1936), a seventh-generation vīṇā player in a lineage of court musicians and the elder of the esteemed Karaikudi brothers. Smt. Ranganayaki Rajagopalan, under whom I was to apprentice a few years later and from whom I continue to learn, was the senior disciple of the younger Karaikudi brother, Sambasiva Iyer (1888–1958).

South India: Ranganayaki RajagopalanSmt. Ranganayaki Rajagopalan is respected for her ability to bring out the essence of Indian melodic modes, called rāgas, with clarity and apparent simplicity. The style in which she plays, the Karaikudi bāṇi, emphasizes capturing the details of integral ornaments, called gamakas. These involve deflecting the string and performing intricate and delicate combinations of hammer-ons, pulloffs, and slides.

She has added her own physical touch and creative imagination to compositions she has learned from several vocalists in her lifetime, while carrying forward the famous pieces her guru Sambasiva Iyer refined for the Karaikudi style in his lifetime—such masterpieces as “Mīnākṣi Me Mudam” and “Ĉakkanirāja,” both of which appear on this album. Like all instrumentalists in South India, Smt. Ranganayaki strives to reproduce the sounds of the voice. In the Karaikudi style this is accomplished by plucking with the right hand or the left in places where the vocalist either articulates with a consonant, or provides vocal emphasis on a vowel for the purpose of musical phrasing. In South India today, a fetishization of “the voice” as limitlessly fluid and continuous has led to new instrumental styles that try to do away with many of the forms of attack and articulation that are idiomatic to musical instruments. I believe this has been misguided. Voices and instruments have modeled one another for many centuries in the history of Indian music, and the vīṇā (in many forms) has been the most important instrument through which South Indian music has been conceptualized and described.


Smt. Ranganayaki’s style is rooted in a period long before the development of the microphone. Unlike modern styles in which performers may play prolonged passages after a single pluck on a narrow-gauge string and capture every nuance with the microphone, the Karaikudi style relies on the acoustic resonance of tightly strung, heavy strings. It is a muscular style that balances articulations produced by right and left hands with forms of melodic continuity produced by considerable pressure against the frets. The physicality of music making on the vīṇā comes through on this recording, with the brilliant sound of the instrument captured just as I had wished.

Richard K. Wolf
Professor of Music and South Asian Studies
Harvard University

May 27, 2014

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India: Vicitra vīṇā—The Music of Pandit Lalmani Misra
By Morgan Brown

One can marvel at the incredible variety of sounds and songs that can come from a singular instrument. Take for example the vīṇā, humbly defined as a thick, hollow stem with strings resting on two gourds that in the hands of virtuosos achieve disparate yet equally rich expressiveness. Richard Wolf enlightens us on the compelling work of Smt. Ranganayaki Rajagopalan and her mastery in the Carnatic, or South Indian Karaikudi style of vīṇā playing. One can distinguish each instrument when listening to Smt. Ranganayaki, with the vīṇā clearly in the forefront. We are swept into the recording by a consistent and swift rhythm, containing seven sharp counts.

India: The Music of Pandit Lalmani Misra<India: Vicitra vīṇā—The Music of Pandit Lalmani Misra features Dr. Lalmani Misra performing Raga “Kausi Kanhada.” Misra blends styles, combining two raga forms: Raga Malkaus and Raga Kanhada. Combined, they offer a series of melodic tones that are consistently ascending and descending slowly. Because the vicitra vīṇā has no frets, it is known for its sliding sound, which adds to the undulating melody. The piece keeps a steady and peaceful pace with a gat, or instrumental composition, in slow “Tal Tintal.” But Misra shifts to gat in fast Tal Tintal, where the tablas (drums played by Pandit Ishwar la Misra) are introduced. The pace quickens, but one still hears the same steady melodic climb and fall. Misra presents a magnetic, calm sound until the end.


We can compare the work of Ranganayaki Rajagopalan and the Karaikudi style with the vicitra vīṇā. Misra brought the vicitra vīṇā style back to life, as it was practically a lost form of Hindustani playing since the Middle Ages (200 AD – 1200 AD). As a young child in Calcutta (now Kolkata) he began studying singing and harmonium. His mentor was Pandit Gobardhantal, who, amazed by Misra’s talent, encouraged him to involve himself in all musical circles of Calcutta. He became notable for dhruvapad, or dhrupad singing. But the development of chronic sinus problems led him to leave singing behind and become an instrumentalist.

He developed his love for vicitra vīṇā in Lucknow, where he heard musician Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan. His first performance with vicitra vīṇā was soon after this in 1950. From then on, “... vicitra vīṇā was his favorite instrument,” according to producer Dr. Laxmi Tewari. He developed particular techniques of playing, creating new ragas specifically to accompany dhrupad singing. Misra expanded his network by becoming a notable academic. Through his leadership roles in different schools and universities, the vicitra vīṇāstyle of playing had come alive once again by the late 1950s.1

India: The Music of Pandit Lalmani Misra

In totality, this performance is close to one hour long, presented as a single track. I imagine that Tewari made this choice for the same reason I enjoy this work so much: the sounds come together as one hypnotic story, one that should not be cut into parts. Similar to South India: Ranganayaki Rajagopalan—Continuity in the Karaikudi Vīṇā Style, this album is dedicated to an artist that flourished within his or her own musical community. Both Lalmani Misra and Ranganayaki Rajagopalan revitalized ancient styles of playing, bringing them into the world of modern Indian music.

Morgan Brown
Intern, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Georgetown University

1 Dr. Laxmi G. Tewari, liner notes to India: Vicitra vīṇā — The Music of Pandit Lalmani Misra, UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, CD, 1996.

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

May 19, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 4: Japanese and Tibetan Buddhist Rituals

Week Four of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music spotlights Buddhist ritual music of Japan and Tibet in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

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By Fred Gales

These two albums, originally released in the 1970s, are devoted to an important Buddhist ceremony, one of the Japanese Shingon (“true words”) school and the other of the Nyingma (“old”) school of Tibetan Buddhism.

The schools are related in that they belong to the third “esoteric” or Vajrayana mainstream of Buddhism and thus share an emphasis on rituals, mantras, and initiations as well as the use of an elaborate system of sound symbolism and offerings of music.

To the best of my knowledge, both albums were groundbreaking at their time and provide fascinating insight into how music and sound are used in Buddhism. They are also historical documents illustrating the cultural and religious practices of the time.

Japan: Shomyo Buddhist Ritual - Dai Hannya CeremonyShomyo Buddhist Ritual is a 1975 recording of the Shingon Dai Hannya ceremony. The central part is a cursory reading of a key Buddhist text—the prajna paramitra sutra or the large sutra of transcendental wisdom—is embedded in an elaborate framework of chanting (shomyo), body gestures, playing of musical instruments, and meditative and ritual acts. These elements are all meant to enhance the spiritual effectiveness of the ceremony.


The story of Shomyo Buddhist Ritual as an album starts in 1966.  For the first time in Shingon’s 1,100-year-long history the abbot Yuko Aoki (1891–1985) and his monks performed a Buddhist ceremony on a stage at the National Theatre in Tokyo.  It created a sensation, and shomyo was immediately recognized as a national treasure.

Despite the opposition of the more conservative members of the Buddhist community to the ritual being presented as a performance, Aoki and his monks continued to present the ritual at the National Theatre, and in 1973 they were invited to join a worldwide tour of Japan’s most outstanding musicians.

During this tour Shomyo Buddhist Ritual was recorded on a theatre stage by the German public broadcasting station WDR, a key player in the dissemination of world and avant-garde music in Europe. After the monks’ return to Japan, the number of performances multiplied, and by the 1980s the once occasional ensemble had become institutionalized as the Karyobinga Shomyo Kenyukai.

The monks became professional musicians and participated in performing compositions by modern composers such as Ishii and Matsushita, taking their shomyo chanting art gradually farther outside its original ritual context.


Tibetan RitualTibetan Ritual has a similar structure to Shomyo Buddhist Ritual. This time, however, the ceremony is dedicated to Yeshiki Mamo, one of the fearsome protectors of the faith of the Nyingmas. As the one-eyed mother of wisdom, she is also a symbol of the basic Buddhist concept of non-duality and the interconnectedness of all beings.

The innovation of Tibetan Ritual is that it breaks with the earlier habit of publishing compilations limited to excerpts of Tibetan religious music. Sitar player Manfred Junius (1929–2004) was responsible for the album’s recordings, one of ten records the German-born scholar, musician, and author of “The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy” recorded for UNESCO in North India.

Unlike Shomyo Buddhist Ritual, Tibetan Ritual was recorded in its usual context, in this case, the Mindrolling Nyingma monastery of Dehra Dun in 1971. This refugee monastery had just a few years earlier been re-established and was not yet, as it is nowadays, a large and thriving religious establishment.


At that time, the Tibetan community in exile was struggling to rebuild its culture and religion, and only a small number of monks were well versed in the teachings and ritual expression of their faith. Nonetheless, Tibetan Ritual is well executed and well recorded without distortion of the powerful and penetrating sounds of the orchestra with its shawms, long horns, large drums, and cymbals. The voices are balanced and there is almost none of the sneezing, coughing, and similar noises which are so prominent in other field recordings.


While the liner notes of Shomyo Buddhist Ritual provide all the basic information necessary (only the names of the different stages of the ceremony and the individual shomyo hymns are lacking), those of Tibetan Ritual are another story.

They start with some highly speculative and uninformed remarks about Asia’s prehistory and the nature of Tibetan Buddhism. The ritual is described superficially, and although something is said about the instruments and the symbolism of the sounds employed, none of performing monks are named, nor has any attempt been made to explain why the recording is divided in three parts.

Curious also is that the pictures of Yeshiki Mamo and the monks with their instruments on the original LP sleeve have been replaced by images that have nothing to do with the record except being “Tibetan.” 

A pity but these deficiencies are small fry compared with the value of the musical content heard on Tibetan Ritual.

Fred Gales, MA
Independent researcher, broadcaster and author on traditional musics with the Dutch company Sound Reporters
www.soundreporters.nl

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

May 12, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 3: Strings of Ireland and Norway

Week Three in the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music release takes us to Europe, with a comparison of Norwegian hardingfele fiddle tunes to Irish seisiúin music.

GUEST BLOG

by Ian Martyn

The Hardanger fiddle, or hardingfele in Norwegian, is an ornately decorated fiddle with eight or nine strings, four of which are tuned and played as on a standard violin. The other four or five act as sympathetic strings, sounding purely through the influence of the main four strings without the touch of the human player.

Norway: Fiddle and Hardanger FiddleListening to Norway: Fiddle and Hardanger Fiddle brings back memories of my time in the fjords of Norway, the echo-like sounds of the sympathetic strings evoking images of tall mountains surrounding the glistening, narrow passage of water. These sympathetic strings work in tandem with a preference for double-stops which appear in nearly every tune for the hardingfele. The soloistic style of the instrument, accompanied only by the stomping of dancing feet where appropriate, evokes the vastness of Norway itself, apparent when traversing the great length of the country. Vidar Lande’s performance on tracks such as the opening “Førespel” exemplify this vastness, showing off the ringing of the sympathetic strings with slow, virtuosic playing.

“Førespel”


On the other hand, foot taps on “Reinlender frå Åseral” show off the hardingfele’s ability to provide music for dancing, the infectious rhythms accentuated by double stops, heightening the sense that a group of instruments is playing rather than just one.

“Reinlender frå Åseral”


IrelandIreland represents a mostly soloistic approach to Irish music, although the beginning starts off with some live recordings of tunes to accompany dancing. A wide range of styles are represented here, and the inclusion of an ample amount of sean-nós (old-style Irish solo singing) in the Irish language is a welcome find in light of recent Irish language revival successes. For an example of sean-nós, listen to Nioclas Toibin's “Ar Bhruach na Laoi san Oíche do Casadh mé.” The progression of the selections makes the listener feel as though he or she is sitting in a room full of musicians, with each musician taking his or her turn to show off a different instrumental tune or song.

“Ar Bhruach na Laoi san Oíche do Casadh mé”


The range of music represented on Ireland reminds me of the time that I spent playing in the pub seisiúin (Irish music sessions) on the western coast of Ireland. The focus of the seisiún is communal playing rather than solo, and this feeling is exemplified by the event’s social aspects. As Dorothea E. Hast and Stanley Scott observe in the book Music in Ireland, “their playing is neither a performance in the conventional sense nor background music. Instead, they are a complete unit within themselves—playing for each other and immensely enjoying another’s company” (Hast and Scott, 5).

Making a direct comparison of these two compilations is perhaps most easily done by examining both musical traditions in relation to dance. The biggest revelation is that the hardingfele itself acts as multiple musical instruments. First, listen to the tune set “Cherish the Ladies/Tobin's Favourite/Jerry's Beaver Hat,” performed by Carcur Mummers’ Group on the Ireland compilation. Notice how the accordion plays both the melody and some accompanying chords while dancing feet tap out a rhythm. This style can most closely be compared to the hardingfele as used in dancing music, where its sympathetic strings work with a melody-and-drone style of double-stop playing to drive the stomping of the dancers’ feet.

“Cherish the Ladies/Tobin's Favourite/Jerry's Beaver Hat”


In a very similar way, this same double-stop technique echoes the Uilleann pipes in Irish music. Often used to play slow airs, a style of lamenting, free-meter tune, these pipes contain a set of regulators, drone pipes with valves which change the pitch of the drones. This movable drone functions in the same way as the technique of striking two notes at the same time on the hardingfele. One can hear this style exemplified in “An Chúileann” as played by Johnny Doran on the Ireland compilation. In both cases, these drones help to settle the melody, even in the absence of aspects typically found in music such as a steady beat. As Sean Williams, an expert on Irish music and sean-nós, states in her book Focus: Irish Traditional Music, “the drones of the pipes, which establish a continuous ‘floor’ against which the melody is played, reinforce the notion of a tonic of ‘home’ to which the melody returns” (Williams, 11).

“An Chúileann”


Although clear differences exist between these two musical traditions, one cannot help but notice the connections they share. With Irish and Scandinavian traditions interacting closely, both in geographical and cultural contexts, these similarities demonstrate how musical styles can travel from one culture to the next.

Ian Martyn, M.A.
University of California – Davis, Ethnomusicology
Independent Musician and DJ

Hast, Dorothea E. and Stanley Scott. Music in Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Williams, Sean. Focus: Irish Traditional Music. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010.

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

May 5, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 2: Twenty Generations of Indian Dhrupad

We are now in full swing with the release of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music via digital download, streaming services, and on-demand physical CDs. Two albums will be released each week, complemented by a guest blog post, until all 127 albums—including 12 that were previously unreleased—become available.

GUEST BLOG

by Anne-Marie Gilliland

What is dhrupad?

A good question.

Before researching for the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, I had never heard of dhrupad, considered the oldest form of Indian vocal music. It has been exciting for me to work with these world heritage albums, and I now have a broader appreciation and knowledge of diverse cultures and can share what I’ve learned with others. It may not be a passport stamp, but my ears have heard sounds and songs that in some cases were endangered of not being heard by future generations.

Part of what makes these two albums so special is the concept of heritage, a tradition of passing the music down through the generations. It has been a moving experience to learn about dhrupad. By listening, I have become part of the tradition in a small but not insignificant way.

North India: Vocal Music: Dhrupad and KhyalNorth India: Vocal Music: Dhrupad and Khyal, recorded in 1965, includes two tracks, the first of which is a dhrupad. Dhrupad is remarkable in that it can be traced for twenty generations through a single familial lineage. This album captures two brothers of the Dagar family: Moinuddin and Aminuddin.  They toured Europe in the 1960s and helped bring dhrupad back into the cultural forefront.


Much of this piece, “Alap and Dhrupad,” consists of the vocals passing between the brothers. In this clip, however, you can here them singing in tandem. This reflects the very nature of dhrupad music. It is very much an oral tradition being passed down through the generations: they are part of the 19th generation in this gharana1.  As Mani Kaul, an Indian filmmaker, said in an interview:
“In this music, individual musicians must express their own individual selves as they are. That's the secret of this tradition: if you wrote down phrases and forced people to learn only a certain way of playing, the tradition would die.”2

Upon Moinuddin’s death in 1966, the younger pair of Dagar brothers, Ustad Nasir Zahiruddin and Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin, took up the mantle of sharing dhrupad music. While the UNESCO collection does not include a recording of the younger Dagar brothers, Faiyazaddin’s son, Wasifuddin (Wasif), was recorded as he continues the family tradition.

North India: Dhrupad Singing by Ustad F. Wasifuddin DagarAfter performing with both his father and uncle Zahiruddin until each died, Wasif performed dhrupad alone. Wasif’s solo dhrupads can be heard on North India: Dhrupad Singing by Ustad F. Wasifuddin Dagar.


In this style, a pakhavaj (drum) and tanpura (lute) accompany the singers. The singer sits cross-legged, center-stage, with the musicians in the background, usually to the left and right.

Both of these dhrupads begin with a long introduction known as an alap. An alap lacks the drumbeat of the dhrupad proper and the vocalization is wordless. It is meant to set the mood for the dhrupad to come. Like all Indian classical music, these dhrupads have specific ragas, which can indicate what time of day a song should be played. The dhrupad on the elder Dagar brothers’ album is intended for nightfall, while the first dhrupad on Wasif’s album is intended for midnight.

It’s inspiring to know that there is a familial musical tradition that has continued for twenty generations and is also available to the world.

For further reading, visit:
“Dagarwani” by Uday Bhawalkar
Dagarvani.org

Anne-Marie H. Gilliland, M.A.
Intern, Smithsonian Folkways
Past Adjunct Professor of English, Anne Arundel Community College


1 “hereditary musician families known as gharanas, which operate as semi-professional guilds in which successful maestros handed down musical learning to their sons, nephews, grandsons and grandnephews and on occasion to a talented male apprentice outside of the family.” Two Men and Music: Nationalism In the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition Janaki Bakhle

2 “A Critical Cinema 3: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers,” Scott MacDonald, 1998, pg 172-173.

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

May 1, 2014

Sneak Preview: Classic African American Songsters (Out 6/24)

On June 24, Smithsonian Folkways will release the 23rd installment of the award-winning “Classic” series. Classic African American Songsters traces the complicated yet rich history of the “songster,” featuring celebrated artists like Big Bill Broonzy, Brownie McGhee, Lead Belly, Peg Leg Sam, Mississippi John Hurt, John Cephas, and more. The collection spans seven decades, and touches on everything from ragtime, country, and Tin Pan Alley to pre-blues, blues hybrids, and old-timey string band though 21 classic tracks – including five previously unreleased.

Listen to selections from Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways:

What is a songster? Album co-producer Barry Lee Pearson, scholar of African American music at the University of Maryland, says that the term is an often contradictory one. While the designation originated in Europe over a thousand years ago, by the early 20th century in America it acquired more of a racial meaning, designating travelling African American singers with the ability to change repertoires to suit the tastes of different audiences.

As Pearson puts it, “[A songster] is both a keeper of tradition, disseminating folk materials wherever he goes, and tradition’s worst enemy, contaminating local tradition with modern popular music. He is the inventor of blues and not a blues musician at all. Classic African American Songsters aims to set the record straight and show that there has long been much more to the African American secular song tradition than just the blues.

Classic African American Songsters was co-compiled and produced by Pearson and Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place, a two-time GRAMMY Award winner who has produced more than 50 Smithsonian Folkways recordings.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, Classic African American Songsters explores the breadth and depth of a genre with liner notes that offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released “Classic” compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others.

Classic African American Songsters tracklist:

**Previously Unreleased

1. Warner Williams with Jay Summerour – “Bring It On Down to My House”
2. Pink Anderson – “Talking Blues”
3. John Jackson – “Nobody’s Business (If I Do)”
4. Little Brother Montgomery – “Alabama Bound”
5. Brownie McGhee – “Pallet on the Floor”
6. Bill Williams – “Chicken, You Can’t Roost Too High for Me”**
7. Lead Belly – “My Hula Love”
8. Reverend Gary Davis – “Candy Man”
9. John Cephas and Phil Wiggins – “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”
10. Peg Leg Sam – “Froggy Went A-Courting”**
11. Mississippi John Hurt – “Monday Morning Blues”
12. Pink Anderson – “The Boys of Your Uncle Sam”
13. Brownie McGhee – “Raise a Ruckus Tonight”
14. Marvin Fodrell – “Reno Factory”
15. John Jackson – “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down”
16. Warner Williams with Jay Summerour – “Honeysuckle Rose”
17. Big Bill Broonzy – “Bill Bailey”
18. Bill Williams – “When the Roses Bloom Again”**
19. Peg Leg Sam – “Straighten Up and Fly Right”**
20. Snooks Eaglin – “Careless Love”
21. Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong – “They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree”**

Classic African American Songsters

April 28, 2014

UNESCO Collection Week 1 – Music as a Universal Language?

Starting today, Smithsonian Folkways begins releasing the extensive and influential UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music via digital download, streaming services, and on-demand physical CDs. Two albums will be released each week, complemented by a guest blog post, until all 127 albums—including 12 that were previously unreleased—become available.

Week One features Musical Sources and Dance and Festivity, two compilations drawn from the larger collection which serve as a perfect introduction to the series.

GUEST BLOG

by Georgia A. Newlin

I decided to listen to these two albums without first reading the liner notes. My intent was to experience the music aesthetically—to get a feel—and then listen again, intellectually, with notes in hand.

Dance and FestivityListening to the Dance and Festivity album went smoothly, as upbeat tempi, polyrhythms, body percussion, quick instrumental lines, and harmonious voices all lent to the feel of being in a place where an event was being celebrated through music. The activity seemed to support the adage that music is a universal language. Regardless of whether or not I understood the lyrics or even knew what particular instrument was producing an interesting sound, I could feel that the music represented an occasion.

Musical SourcesHowever, Musical Sources proved to be much more difficult for me to experience without liner notes, especially without having a theme in mind as with the title of the first recording. I sometimes couldn’t tell whether a slow song was mournful, contemplative, joyful, or sacred.

Listening to the second album belied the postulation that music is a universal language. For me, without contextual knowledge, there was no universal syntax for this varied music that allowed me to comprehend the meaning behind each particular piece. Scales and modes, rhythms, instruments, melodies, harmonies, textures, structural forms, meters, vocal timbres, dynamics, tempos, languages, and performance practices seem different for each musical selection.

Interestingly, however, while listening through both albums the second time with liner notes in hand, I was struck by the thought that, while not a universal language, music is a universal experience. We all live, celebrate, laugh, protest, mourn, dance, remember, teach, and love through music. Some mourn with stiff upper lips and others with wailing moans. Some protest with marches or confrontation, while others remain resolutely composed. Some pray sitting still with quiet responsorial music playing in the background, while others stand to sing, clap, move, and shout. Indeed, it is our universal experiencesfused with our individual differences that make listening to Dance and Festivity and Musical Sources so fascinating!

Dance and Festivity includes selections from 20 musical traditions, and the liner notes include information on cultural background, instruments, origin, performers, dances, celebrations, or symbolism for each song.

Musical Sources contains 30 selections, and the liner notes provide more detailed performer and instrument information for every piece, as well as photographs of the original album from which each of these tracks was taken. The musicians and their instruments are all displayed in beautiful color. In this way, meaning is added to the music.

Both of these recordings are samplers—each track is taken from another recording from the UNESCO collection that embodies a particular heritage, geographical location, festival, et cetera. I found myself absolutely drawn to music about which I know little or nothing. The difference in vocal timbres from around the world is amazing. The variety of ways of producing a unique sound from a hand-held drum is innumerable. The ways in which people from every livable location on the globe experience music appear to be completely divergent, and, yet, because of music being entwined with all facets of life for all people, a feeling of similarity can be shared.

Dance and Festivity and Musical Sources are a perfect pair of recordings for early release in the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music. The varied tracks of music as well as the gorgeous photography will prompt people to dig further into each tradition, demonstrating that this 127-album collection is worthy of further exploration!

Georgia A. Newlin, DMA
Professor of Music Education, Adelphi University
Past President, Organization of American Kodály Educators

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

April 18, 2014

New Release: Long Time... Seldom Scene

Long Time... Seldom Scene, the Smithsonian Folkways debut album by longtime pillars of the bluegrass world, is now available. The newly recorded collection features fresh interpretations of 16 oft-requested tunes and is The Seldom Scene's first studio album since the GRAMMY-nominated album Scenechronized in 2007. It’s a family reunion in all the best ways, featuring the current—and longest-running—lineup, joined by founding members Tom Gray and John Starling and guests Chris Eldridge, Emmylou Harris, and Rickie Simpkins.

Purchase CD or Album Download

This is The Seldom Scene’s first-ever release with Smithsonian Folkways, and captures the identity and playfulness that have endeared the group to audiences around the world for so long. “Hickory Wind” is a homesick ballad that features the vocals of longtime friend of the Scene, Emmylou Harris, who originally recorded the song on her Blue Kentucky Girl album in 1980. Fan-favorite “Wait a Minute” is a fresh take of a song originally recorded for 1974’s Old Train album and includes founding member John Starling (vocals) and guests Rickie Simpkins (fiddle) and Chris Eldridge (guitar), son of founding member Ben Eldridge (banjo).

Click to watch video

Watch video for “Wait a Minute” featuring John Starling.

Over 40 years since they began playing together at weekly jam sessions in Ben Eldridge’s Bethesda, Maryland basement, The Seldom Scene have become one of the single greatest contributors to the progression of bluegrass while setting a new standard and attracting new audiences to the genre. Their legendary weekly DC-area residencies included bluegrass versions of country music, rock, and even classical pop. The band's popularity soon forced them to play more than once a week—but they continued to maintain their image as being seldom seen, and on several of their early album covers were photographed with the stage lights on only their feet, or with their backs to the camera. The Seldom Scene have performed at the White House many times, and continue to tour year-round.

The Seldom Scene are founding member Ben Eldridge (banjo), Lou Reid (mandolin/vocals), Dudley Connell (guitar/vocals), Ronnie Simpkins (bass/vocals), and Fred Travers (dobro/vocals). The album was produced by three-time GRAMMY award-winning Smithsonian Folkways Sound Production Supervisor Pete Reiniger.

Upcoming tour dates include visits to NY, VA, NC, SC, CA, PA, TN, MD, KY, NJ, and TX.

The Seldom Scene dedicate this album to the memory of founding members John Duffey (1934-1996) and Mike Auldridge (1938-2012).

Long Time... Seldom Scene

March 26, 2014

Smithsonian Folkways Gives New Life to the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music Starting April 29

The UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, a pioneering effort for more than five decades to make the world’s musical heritage more widely known and appreciated, takes on new life with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings releasing of more than 100 albums spanning more than 70 nations. This project will for the first time make these recordings, including 12 previously unreleased albums, available on CD, digital download, streaming services, and library subscription.

Click here for a sneak preview from the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music:

Beginning on April 29, 2014, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will release two albums per week at folkways.si.edu and all major music retailers worldwide. Each week, folkways.si.edu will publish an in-depth article about the newest releases as well as streaming audio to allow as much access as possible for safeguarding and revitalizing these rare and influential recordings. The first week will feature two compilations that present a perfect introduction to the series – 50 tracks that are selection of rare styles and traditions from around the world.

Week 1: Musical Sources and Dance and Festivity (listen to sneak preview)
Week 2 and beyond: Visit folkways.si.edu each week to find out!

Other albums in the series include central African Pygmies, seven volumes from India, Portuguese fado, French bagpipes, and Canadian Inuit music. The collection has been a resource for academic research and also an influence on popular musicians such as the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, who cited the Indian collection as one of his favorites.

See the full list of albums to be released at folkways.si.edu/unesco.

List of twelve previously unreleased albums:

  • Afghanistan: Music During the Civil War (1979-2001)
  • Fiji: Songs of Love and Homeland—String Band Music
  • Japan: Koishimaru Izutsuya: Master of the Kawachi Ondo Epics
  • Oman: Arabian Weddings
  • Peru: Andean Music of Life, Work, and Celebration
  • Portugal: Festas in Minho
  • Portugal: Music and Dance from Madeira
  • Romania: Festive Music from the Maramureş Region
  • South India: Ranganayaki Rajagopalan—Continuity in the Karaikudi Vīṇā Style
  • Uzbekistan: Echoes of Vanished Courts
  • Uzbekistan: Musical Traditions of the Karakalpaks
  • Venezuela: Afro–Venezuelan Music, volumes I and II

The release of the 12 new titles was saluted by UNESCO’s Cécile Duvelle, Chief of the Section for Intangible Cultural Heritage, who said, “These important recordings have sat too long on UNESCO’s shelves without being available to interested listeners around the world. This strategic partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the preeminent publisher of the world’s musical heritage, makes it possible for them finally to reach eager audiences.”

The UNESCO Collection was launched in 1961 in collaboration with ethnomusicologist Alain Daniélou (1907-1994) and the International Music Council (created by UNESCO in 1949). Later, the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation and the International Council for Traditional Music collaborated with UNESCO as the collection grew. More

UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music

March 12, 2014

Smithsonian Folkways Earns Nine Nominations for the 13th Independent Music Awards

Nine Smithsonian Folkways projects were selected as finalists in eight categories for the 13th Independent Music Awards.

Finalists are also eligible for the Vox Populi awards as determined by fan voting. Click here to submit your votes now through July 18, 2014. To vote, you must register and give the album/song up to five stars.

Here is the complete list of Smithsonian Folkways Album/Song finalists:

The nominations in more than 80 album, song, EP, music producer, music video and design categories were culled from thousands of submissions from North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Greenland and Europe.

Independent Music Awards

February 20, 2014

Now Available: Flaco & Max: Legends & Legacies

In the world of accordion-driven Texas-Mexican conjunto music, Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez and Max Baca are at once pillars of the past and forgers of the future. Legends & Legacies spotlights these GRAMMY award-winning artists, each an inheritor of familial musical legacies, and each a dynamic force of musical genius.

For more than 60 years, Flaco has pioneered the three-row button accordion, earning five GRAMMYs along the way, and ever since Max, 28 years his junior, joined him on the bajo sexto guitar, the duo has cultivated a larger-than-life reputation both on and off the stage. On February 25, 2014, Smithsonian Folkways will release Flaco & Max: Legends & Legacies, a new album featuring Flaco and Max's interpretations of the best of the conjunto repertoire.

“If you only just push one button and you push it with heart, that’s all you need—the heart, the alegría (joy).” — Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez

Listen to selections from the album


Click to watch video

Watch Flaco and Max record “Me voy lejos (I’m Going Far Away)”

With accordion and the deep-pitched bajo sexto front-and-center, electric bass and drum kit supporting, and lyrics that are down-to-earth and often funny, conjunto ranges from fast-paced polkas (canción-polca) to slower, Mexican-style country songs (canción-ranchera). 'Flaco & Max' showcases the full breadth of the genre. Each an inheritor of a musical legacy from his father and grandfather, Flaco and Max chose the repertoire they consider most important to their respective musical paths for the album.

On the boisterous canción-polca "Cada Vez Que Cae La Tarde" — composed by Flaco's father, Santiago Jiménez, Sr. — Flaco and Max sing as a solid duo during the verses, and in between they trade zippy, virtuosic riffs. Other selections on the album were written by Flaco (“Fiesta alegre,” Joyful Fiesta) or were taught to Flaco and Max by their fathers ("Me voy lejos").

Born in 1939 into a line of pioneering Tejano accordionists, Flaco has won GRAMMYs for his own recordings and for albums with the Texas Tornados. He's also recorded with artists including The Rolling Stones, Dwight Yoakam and Ry Cooder.

Max was 7 when he met Flaco at a concert; 20 years later, he became his bajo sexto player. Flaco brought Max into the Texas Tornados, whose combination of country, rock and conjunto has inspired Max's Los Texmaniacs. The band's 2009 Smithsonian Folkways album 'Borders y Bailes' won a GRAMMY, and its 2012 album 'Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds' received a Latin GRAMMY nomination this year.

‘Flaco & Max: Legends and Legacies” is the 40th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

For upcoming tour dates, please visit http://texmaniacs.com

Click to enlarge and view caption

January 28, 2014

Now Available: Ella Jenkins: 123s and ABCs

Ella Jenkins: 123s and ABCs distills the genius of America’s “First Lady of Children’s Music” into 16 tracks that teach counting and the alphabet in multiple languages. Ella’s joyful engagement, delight in music and games, and deep respect for children of all backgrounds—make this a classic recording for and with young children. This is Ella’s 34th album for Smithsonian Folkways, spanning an amazing 56 years.

Now in her ninth decade, she continues to provide a rare model of the music that best suits the lives and learning styles of young children. Her irresistible songs—performed at preschools, schools, camps, and community institutions as well as on radio, television, concerts, and at teachers’ conferences—draw on a long history of children’s game songs coupled with her own genius as a composer and music educator.

123s and ABCs features songs in four languages (English, Spanish, Swahili, and Yiddish) and includes classics such as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” and “This Old Man.”

Listen to a selections from the album

Chicago-based Ella Jenkins has received many awards over her long career, including a 2004 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2005, ‘cELLAbration,’ an album of Ella’s songs performed by Sweet Honey In The Rock, Riders in the Sky, Tom Paxton, Cathy & Marcy, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin, and others won the 2005 GRAMMY for best children’s album. In 2013, Ella kicked off the Lollapalooza festival kid’s stage. She was the first woman and first children’s musician to receive the ASCAP Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and in 2009 earned a United States Artists award. She is one of the first African American women to have a TV show, when in the 1950s she hosted “The Totem Club,” a weekly children’s program broadcast in Chicago. Her “Me Too Series” films were featured numerous times on “Sesame Street,” and she has also appeared on “Barney and Friends” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Her 1966 album ‘You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song’ is the best-selling title in the history of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and is part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

Parenting magazine has said that Jenkins’ “simple but irresistible songs, poems, and mini-language lessons... reflect the beauty of diverse cultures.”

“Ella Jenkins is a constant source of inspiration and a bottomless well of songs, ideas, and spirit. She is by far the most worldly performer that children’s music has ever known.” — Dan Zanes

February 14, 2014

Sneak Preview: Long Time... Seldom Scene by bluegrass legends The Seldom Scene (available 4/22/14)

What does it take for a bluegrass band to remain popular for more than four decades? For The Seldom Scene, it’s taken not only talented musicians, a signature sound, and a solid repertoire, but also a sheer sense of fun. On April 22, the longtime pillars of the bluegrass world will return with the aptly titled Long Time... Seldom Scene. The newly recorded collection features fresh interpretations of 16 oft-requested tunes and is the band’s first studio album since the GRAMMY-nominated album Scenechronized in 2007. It’s a family reunion in all the best ways, featuring the current—and longest-running—lineup, joined by founding members Tom Gray and John Starling and guests Chris Eldridge, Emmylou Harris, and Rickie Simpkins.

Listen to a two-Song Sneak preview of Long Time... Seldom Scene

This is The Seldom Scene’s first-ever release with Smithsonian Folkways, and captures the identity and playfulness that have endeared the group to audiences around the world for so long. “Hickory Wind” is a homesick ballad that features the vocals of longtime friend of the Scene, Emmylou Harris, who originally recorded the song on her Blue Kentucky Girl album in 1980. Fan-favorite “Wait a Minute” is a fresh take of a song originally recorded for 1974’s Old Train album and includes founding member John Starling (vocals) and guests Rickie Simpkins (fiddle) and Chris Eldridge (guitar), son of founding member Ben Eldridge (banjo).

Watch a video of “Through the Bottom of the Glass”

Over 40 years since they began playing together at weekly jam sessions in Ben Eldridge’s Bethesda, Maryland basement, The Seldom Scene have become one of the single greatest contributors to the progression of bluegrass while setting a new standard and attracting new audiences to the genre. Their legendary weekly DC-area residencies included bluegrass versions of country music, rock, and even classical pop. The band's popularity soon forced them to play more than once a week—but they continued to maintain their image as being seldom seen, and on several of their early album covers were photographed with the stage lights on only their feet, or with their backs to the camera. The Seldom Scene have performed at the White House many times, and continue to tour year-round.

The Seldom Scene are founding member Ben Eldridge (banjo), Lou Reid (mandolin/vocals), Dudley Connell (guitar/vocals), Ronnie Simpkins (bass/vocals), and Fred Travers (dobro/vocals). The album was produced by three-time GRAMMY award-winning Smithsonian Folkways Sound Production Supervisor Pete Reiniger.

Upcoming tour dates include visits to NY, VA, NC, SC, CA, PA, TN, MD, KY, NJ, and TX.

The Seldom Scene dedicate this album to the memory of founding members John Duffey (1934-1996) and Mike Auldridge (1938-2012).

1. California Cotton Fields
2. Wait a Minute (feat. John Starling)
3. What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round
4. Hickory Wind (feat. Emmylou Harris)
5. I’ll Be No Stranger There
6. Walk Through This World with Me
7. Big Train (from Memphis)
8. With Body and Soul (feat. Emmylou Harris, Tom Gray, John Starling)
9. Paradise
10. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
11. Mean Mother Blues (feat. John Starling)
12. My Better Years
13. Little Georgia Rose (feat. Tom Gray)
14. Like I Used to Do
15. Through the Bottom of the Glass
16. Lorena

January 28, 2014

Smithsonian Folkways Remembers Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

The Smithsonian community was saddened to learn of the death of Pete Seeger Monday, January 27. Seeger, a venerated folklorist, musician and writer, performed and advocated for causes for more than seventy years.

Seeger was a national treasure, and the Smithsonian Institution is honored to have his recordings in its Smithsonian Folkways collection, which he and his family helped establish and support. Smithsonian Folkways—the Institution’s nonprofit record label—has sixty-seven albums in its collection with Seeger as the lead performer. Seeger and his wife Toshi (1922-2013) also served on the Smithsonian Folkways Advisory Board.

Smithsonian Folkways has created a tribute to Seeger, and members of the public are invited to share thoughts in the online guestbook.

“Pete Seeger showed us how folk music—music of the people, by the people, and for the people—has the power to inspire, to bring us together, and to make us think, through refrains such as ‘Oh when will they ever learn?’ He was a bard, a brother, and a bellwether to us all, a cornerstone of the Smithsonian Folkways record label. We will carry his legacy with us always.” – Daniel Sheehy, director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

“Pete Seeger was a giant of our time, and his voice and presence will be truly missed.” – Jeff Place, archivist and producer, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Seeger was involved in almost every important facet of American music. He was on the board of the Newport Folk Festival and has been a board member of Sing Out!, Smithsonian Folkways, and many other organizations. Since the 1960s, he has been involved in a successful fight to clean up his beloved Hudson River, near his Beacon, New York home. Along with the sloop The Clearwater, Seeger and others have spent years sailing the Hudson to sing songs in support of the river clean up to audiences in towns along the way. He and his wife Toshi ran the Clearwater Festival in New York state each year.

Right up until his death, Seeger continued to compose and perform folk music as well as advocate for social change. In January 2009, he led a crowd of hundreds of thousands sing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” on the Lincoln Memorial steps during the pre-inauguration concert before Barack Obama became president of the United States.

He was nominated in 2014 for a GRAMMY Award for Best Spoken Word Album. Just days before his death, he helped organize a celebration of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Beacon, New York. He was out there doing what he felt was right, up to the end.

Seeger was a recipient of The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1993), The National Medal of Arts (1994), and the Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Honor (1994); he was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1996). He earned GRAMMY awards for Best Traditional Folk album in 1996 and 2008, and Best Children’s Album in 2010. In 2008 he earned The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award for his commitment to peace and social justice as a musician, songwriter, activist, and environmentalist. He has also been suggested as a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pete Seeger. Photo by Diana Davis

January 22, 2014

New issue of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine

The new issue of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine features expressions of "faith" in Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Throughout human history, faith has been a steady source of inspiration for creative cultural expressions around the world. By highlighting traditions of diverse faith-based communities, the new issue explores faith as a cultural muse, social process, and transcendent experience.

In the early part of his career, Folkways Records founder Moses Asch recorded substantial collections of Jewish cantorials. In "Remembering and Rebuilding: Folkways Cantorials 1947–1965," professor Judah Cohen places these recordings at the historical nexus of popular arts and postwar rebuilding to illuminate the rich tradition of cantorial expression. In "Sound and Community in the Muslim Call to Prayer," professor Joseph Progler details how adh?n, the Muslim call to prayer, can simultaneously reflect social, cultural, political, and religious dynamics in diverse Muslim communities. In the latest "From the Field" feature, produced in partnership with the Society for Ethnomusicology, ethnomusicologist Clifford Murphy describes his experience documenting and presenting Singing and Praying Bands of Maryland and Delaware, the oldest living sacred musical tradition of those states. Lastly, a holiday-themed lesson plan, based on the Christmas best-seller The Sounding Joy, introduces students to Christmas songs from the Ruth Crawford Seeger songbook. Enjoy!

January 22, 2014

100+ Free Lesson Plans Published Online

Smithsonian Folkways recently published its 100th free lesson plan online! Sourced from a vast network of international teachers, Smithsonian Folkways now makes more than 100 free lesson plans available to the public through its Tools for Teaching program. The topics of lesson plan materials are based on music in the Smithsonian Folkways collection, which can range from South African freedom songs to Mexican son jorocho and everything in between. Browse by geography at folkways.si.edu and our Pinterest board.

January 9, 2014

Sneak Preview: Flaco & Max: Legends & Legacies (available 2/25/14)

In the world of accordion-driven Texas-Mexican conjunto music, Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez and Max Baca are at once pillars of the past and forgers of the future. Legends & Legacies spotlights these GRAMMY award-winning artists, each an inheritor of a musical legacy from his father and grandfather, and each a dynamic force of musical genius.

For more than 60 years, Flaco has pioneered the three-row button accordion, earning five GRAMMYs along the way, and ever since Max, 28 years his junior, joined him on the bajo sexto guitar, the duo has cultivated a larger-than-life reputation both on and off the stage. On February 25, 2014, Smithsonian Folkways will release Flaco & Max: Legends & Legacies, a new album featuring Flaco and Max's interpretations of the best of the conjunto repertoire.

“If you only just push one button and you push it with heart, that’s all you need—the heart, the alegría (joy).” — Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez

Listen to selections from the album


Click to watch video

Watch Flaco and Max record “Me voy lejos (I’m Going Far Away)”

With accordion and the deep-pitched bajo sexto front-and-center, electric bass and drum kit supporting, and lyrics that are down-to-earth and often funny, conjunto ranges from fast-paced polkas (canción-polca) to slower, Mexican-style country songs (canción-ranchera). 'Flaco & Max' showcases the full breadth of the genre. Each an inheritor of a musical legacy from his father and grandfather, Flaco and Max chose the repertoire they consider most important to their respective musical paths for the album.

On the boisterous canción-polca "Cada Vez Que Cae La Tarde" — composed by Flaco's father, Santiago Jiménez, Sr. — Flaco and Max sing as a solid duo during the verses, and in between they trade zippy, virtuosic riffs. Other selections on the album were written by Flaco (“Fiesta alegre,” Joyful Fiesta) or were taught to Flaco and Max by their fathers ("Me voy lejos").

Born in 1939 into a line of pioneering Tejano accordionists, Flaco has won GRAMMYs for his own recordings and for albums with the Texas Tornados. He's also recorded with artists including The Rolling Stones, Dwight Yoakam and Ry Cooder.

Max was 7 when he met Flaco at a concert; 20 years later, he became his bajo sexto player. Flaco brought Max into the Texas Tornados, whose combination of country, rock and conjunto has inspired Max's Los Texmaniacs. The band's 2009 Smithsonian Folkways album 'Borders y Bailes' won a GRAMMY, and its 2012 album 'Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds' received a Latin GRAMMY nomination this year.

‘Flaco & Max: Legends and Legacies” is the 40th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

For upcoming tour dates, please visit http://texmaniacs.com

Click to enlarge and view caption

December 18, 2013

Sneak Preview: Ella Jenkins: 123s and ABCs (out Jan. 28, 2014)

Ella Jenkins: 123s and ABCs (out January 28, 2014) distills the genius of America’s “First Lady of Children’s Music” into 16 tracks teaching counting and the alphabet in multiple languages. Ella’s joyful engagement, delight in music and game-playing, and deep respect for children of all backgrounds—all make this a classic recording for and with young children. This is Ella’s 34th album for Smithsonian Folkways, spanning an amazing 56 years.

Now in her ninth decade, she continues to provide a rare model of the music that best suits the lives and learning styles of young children. Her irresistible songs—performed at preschools, schools, camps, and community institutions as well as on radio, television, concerts, and at teachers’ conferences—draw on a long history of children’s game songs coupled with her own genius as a composer and music educator.

123s and ABCs features songs in four languages (English, Spanish, Swahili, and Yiddish) and includes classics such as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” and “This Old Man.”

Listen to a Sneak Preview

Chicago-based Ella Jenkins has received many awards over her long career, including a 2004 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2005, ‘cELLAbration,’ an album of Ella’s songs performed by Sweet Honey In The Rock, Riders in the Sky, Tom Paxton, Cathy & Marcy, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin, and others won the 2005 GRAMMY for best children’s album. In 2013, Ella kicked off the Lollapalooza festival kid’s stage. She was the first woman and first children’s musician to receive the ASCAP Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and in 2009 earned a United States Artists award. She is one of the first African American women to have a TV show, when in the 1950s she hosted “The Totem Club,” a weekly children’s program broadcast in Chicago. Her “Me Too Series” films were featured numerous times on “Sesame Street,” and she has also appeared on “Barney and Friends” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Her 1966 album ‘You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song’ is the best-selling title in the history of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and is part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

Parenting magazine has said that Jenkins’ “simple but irresistible songs, poems, and mini-language lessons... reflect the beauty of diverse cultures.”

“Ella Jenkins is a constant source of inspiration and a bottomless well of songs, ideas, and spirit. She is by far the most worldly performer that children’s music has ever known.” — Dan Zanes

December 18, 2013

Listen to Holiday Music from Around the World

Holiday music traditions such as Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa feature an incredibly diverse range of musical accompaniment. The new Holiday Music Map from Smithsonian Folkways includes 56 songs from 24 nations. Listen to them all in a row, or take a self-guided tour! This project was a collaboration with ESRI.

December 9, 2013

Elizabeth Mitchell’s Blue Clouds nominated for the 56th GRAMMY Awards

Elizabeth Mitchell’s 2012 album Blue Clouds was nominated for the 56th GRAMMY Awards in the Best Children’s Album category. The award ceremony will be held January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles. This is Elizabeth’s second consecutive nomination and the 29th nomination in the history of the Smithsonian Folkways collection.

More about Blue Clouds:

In the land of Blue Clouds, anything can happen. The clear and beautiful voice of children’s music favorite Elizabeth Mitchell weaves musical landscapes that “seem like a patchwork of memories we’ve always shared,” writes Caldecott Award-winning author Brian Selznick. The dreamlike illustrations of legendary artist Remy Charlip illuminate the magical narratives of these timeless songs. Mitchell’s extended family band, You Are My Flower, including daughter Storey and husband Daniel Littleton, embrace us with sound in a celebration of family, imagination and love. Featuring artwork from the book Arm in Arm by Remy Charlip, with introductory essay by Brian Selznick.

December 2, 2013

Happy 108th Birthday Moses Asch!

Monday, December 2, 2013, would have been the 108th birthday of Folkways Records founder Moses “Moe” Asch (1905–1986). Folkways Records issued 2,168 albums in 39 years (an amazing average of one per week!).

Celebrate a quarter century of Smithsonian Folkways and listen to this year-by-year playlist – one song each from 1988 to 2013 – from the collection of more than 3,000 albums (and growing!).

November 27, 2013

New Video for “Baby Born Today” by Elizabeth Mitchell and Friends

Elizabeth Mitchell's album The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In and Out of the Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook features a luminary list of musical family, friends, and neighbors. Her new video for the spiritual “shout” song “Baby Born Today” features guests Amy Helm, Byron Isaacs, Daniel Littleton, Natalie Merchant, Mike Merenda, Simi Stone, and Ruthy Ungar.

The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In and Out of the Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook

November 6, 2013

Rare Recording of "This Land Is Your Land" One of the "Objects That Made America"

Woody Guthrie's 1944 recording of his anthem “This Land Is Your Land” from the Smithsonian Folkways collection is one of the artifacts included in The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, a new book by the Smithsonian’s Richard Kurin. In addition, the song is featured in Smithsonian Magazine’s November cover story 101 Objects That Made America and the upcoming Smithsonian Channel series Seriously Amazing Objects.

The 78 rpm acetate disc, part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection at the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, is the only known recording by Guthrie to include one of the two "missing" verses from the original written lyrics. For more than 50 years until Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place discovered the disc in 1996, the two verses were believed to only exist on paper. Both verses were sung by Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen at an Inaugural concert for Barack Obama in 2009. Guthrie first wrote “This Land Is Your Land” as a protest song, and it became a popular American classic after being sung by folk artists such as Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary, and subsequently taught to countless schoolchildren. The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects features a variety of items from across Smithsonian museums and research centers.

This Land Is Your Land

October 28, 2013

Now Available: Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection by Dave Van Ronk

Called “The Mayor of MacDougal Street,” Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) was a leading figure in the Greenwich Village music scene for more than four decades. He epitomized the urban “folksinger”— apprenticing through immersion in the music revival’s New York City epicenter of Washington Square Park. A raconteur as well as a “guru on the mountain,” he taught and advised musicians including Bob Dylan, Danny Kalb, Christine Lavin, Jack Hardy, Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, and many more. His legacy as a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and grand mentor of the folk and blues revivals is collected in a 54-track, 3-disc set featuring 16 previously unreleased recordings. Down in Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, compiled and annotated by GRAMMY-winning Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place, is now available for purchase in CD and digital download format.

Click here to purchase and get a free download of “Mean Old Frisco”

The 3-disc set paints a musical mosaic of Van Ronk’s artistry from early live recordings made in 1958 (the year before his first Folkways album) to his final studio recordings in 2001, just months before his death. The collection also includes his full set from a 1997 concert presented by the Smithsonian in tandem with the reissue of the Anthology of American Folk Music, four songs of which are available for the first time. Liner notes include a detailed biography and song annotations by Place, and a heartfelt essay by Van Ronk’s widow, Andrea Vuocolo, that incorporates the last song lyrics he wrote, appropriately titled “Down in Washington Square.”

Click to watch video

Dave Van Ronk — “Spike Driver Blues”

Van Ronk was born in Brooklyn and learned to play ukulele, banjo, and guitar at an early age. His first love was jazz, which alongside Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music had a profound impact on his performing and writing. In the early 1950s, he started to spend time at the jam sessions at the fountain in Washington Square Park, which were attracting the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and in 1957 Odetta encouraged him to perform his songs in concert. His first album, recorded for Folkways in 1959, was Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual. The follow-up, Dave Van Ronk Sings, was released in 1961. Included here also are songs from Foc’sle Songs and Shanties, a 1959 collection of sea shanties that featured Van Ronk and Paul Clayton. During his career, he developed a large repertoire drawing from a wide range of styles, including traditional folk and blues, his own tunes, and compositions by Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Bessie Smith, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Jelly Roll Morton, Josh White, and countless others.

This December, the award-winning Coen Brothers will release the film Inside Llewyn Davis, inspired by Dave Van Ronk’s autobiography “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” and its recollections of life in the Village in the early '60s. The film and its soundtrack feature “Dink’s Song,” which was collected by John Lomax in 1908 and recorded by Van Ronk for Folkways in 1961 (among many other versions recorded during the folk revival and since).

DISC 1:

1. Duncan and Brady 3:02
2. River Come Down (Bamboo) 3:47
3. Spike Driver Blues 3:17
4. John Henry 2:28
5. Backwater Blues 3:04
6. K.C. Moan 3:04
7. Haul on the Bowline 1:21
8. Just a Closer Walk with Thee 3:04
9. Gambler’s Blues 2:30
10. Sweet Substitute 2:36
11. Bed Bug Blues 2:46
12. Winin’ Boy 2:38
13. Georgie and the IRT 3:35
14. Betty and Dupree 3:37
15. Come Back, Baby 3:55
16. My Baby’s So Sweet 2:35
17. Black Mountain Blues 4:02
18. Ya-Yas-Yas 2:09

DISC 2:

1. Willie the Weeper 3:01
2. Dink’s Song 3:46
3. Santy Ano 1:45
4. Leave Her, Johnny 1:30
5. Tell Old Bill 4:24
6. Careless Love 2:59
7. Standing by My Window 5:00
8. Please See My Grave Is Kept Clean 2:56
9. Had More Money 2:57 (Dave Van Ronk) ++
10. If You Leave Me, Pretty Mama 3:09
11. Hesitation Blues 2:36
12. In the Pines 3:08
13. Oh, What a Beautiful City 3:15
14. Mean Old Frisco 3:16++
15. Stackalee 2:34++
16. How Long 3:56
17. Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down 4:54
18. House of the Rising Sun 6:03++

DISC 3:

1. Hootchie Kootchie Man 3:16
2. Reckless Blues 2:30++
3. Trouble in Mind 3:48++
4. Oh Lord, Search My Heart (1:32)++
5. God Bless the Child 3:18++
6. Losers 3:18
7. Another Time and Place 4:31
8. Garden State Stomp 3:00
9. Motherless Children 3:12
10. Don’t You Leave Me Here (I’m Alabama Bound) 4:35++
11. Spike Driver Blues 6:56
12. Down South Blues 5:03++
13. St. James Infirmary (Gambler’s Blues) 4:41++
14. Ace in the Hole 3:27++
15. Going Down Slow++
16. Buckets of Rain 3:52++
17. Jelly Jelly 2:58++
18. Sometime (Whatcha Gonna Do) 2:38++

++previously unreleased track

Dave Van Ronk

October 21, 2013

Rachel Harris wins ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for liner notes to Borderlands: Music of Central Asia Vol. 10

ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers) announced the winners of the 45th Deems Taylor Awards. The awards are given annually for outstanding print, broadcast and new media coverage of music. Among the winners this year is University of London ethnomusicologist Rachel Harris for her liner notes to Borderlands: Music of Central Asia Vol. 10. The 2012 album by pipa virtuoso Wu Man and other master musicians from the Silk Route explores the musical connections between China and Central Asia and features a 48-page booklet and bonus DVD.

This is the second Deems Taylor Award for the Music of Central Asia series, joining the 2011 award to series-producer Theodore Levin for the liner notes to volumes 7, 8, and 9.

Smithsonian Folkways artist Stephen Wade was also among this year’s winners for his book The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience, in which Wade explores the stories behind thirteen Library of Congress field recordings recorded between 1934 and 1942. His 2012 album Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition was nominated for a GRAMMY for best liner notes.

Music of Central Asia Vol.10: Borderlands

October 11, 2013

Now Available: The Sounding Joy by Elizabeth Mitchell and Friends

GRAMMY-nominated recording artist Elizabeth Mitchell presents The Sounding Joy, an exploration of Christmas and solstice songs from the American folk tradition. Drawn almost exclusively from the often overlooked but deeply influential songbook of revered composer and anthologist Ruth Crawford Seeger, these songs evoke an era before mass media and the commercialization of Christmas, when sacred song, dance, contemplation, and gathering were prized above all else during the holiday season.

Click to view image gallery

Mitchell’s fifth album for Smithsonian Folkways, The Sounding Joy features husband Daniel Littleton, daughter Storey, and special guests Peggy Seeger, Natalie Merchant, Amy Helm, Aoife O’Donovan, Gail Ann Dorsey, Larry Campbell, Dan Zanes, and John Sebastian, among many other family, friends, and neighbors. This gorgeously reverent 24-song collection attempts to save these traditional American holiday songs from an “unmarked grave,” as Merchant puts it in her essay included in the liner notes. The Sounding Joy is truly for listeners of all ages and is Smithsonian Folkways’ first holiday album in more than a decade.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE CDs OR DIGITAL DOWNLOADS – FREE DOWNLOAD OF “CHILDREN, GO WHERE I SEND THEE”

While recovering from surgery four years ago, Mitchell spent a Thanksgiving weekend thinking about the project that would eventually become The Sounding Joy. A longtime fan and champion of Ruth Crawford Seeger’s work, Mitchell soon found herself thoroughly immersed in Seeger’s third and final songbook, American Folk Songs for Christmas. Seeger, mother of musicians Mike and Peggy Seeger and stepmother of Pete Seeger, died from cancer at age 52 in 1953, the very same year American Folk Songs for Christmas was published.

Mitchell chose to strike a balance between remaining faithful to the beauty and subtle complexity of Seeger’s unique arrangements, and bringing her own breadth and range as a producer and arranger to bear on these largely unknown traditional songs. The wide diversity of voices, players, and instruments on the album breathes new life into words first sung over a century ago by farmhands, country preachers, and small-town congregations and gospel groups.

Adapting a number of Seeger’s piano arrangements for a string trio and inventive percussion, Mitchell radiates warmth on “Ain’t That Rocking” and “Shine Like a Star.” Amy Helm leads a rousing version of “Last Month of the Year” through a groove and vocal quartet style that invokes the early Staple Singers with guitar figures reminiscent of Malian desert blues. Merchant lends her vocals on the haunting “Joseph and Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol),” and also contributes an essay to the liner notes, while writer/artist Brian Selznick (author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret) provided illustrations for the album package. Recordings not from the songbook include classics “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” and an a cappella arrangement of “Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming,” a “family heirloom” arranged by Elizabeth’s father-in-law, Michael Storey Littleton.

Although the songs presented are specific to the Christian tradition, Mitchell’s husband Daniel Littleton cites the inclusive nature of the project, describing the assembly of musicians as an “ecumenical summit” of sorts, with participants of many religious and non-religious backgrounds coming together happily to bring the songs to life. Mitchell sums up the spirit of the album best in her notes: “However you and your loved ones celebrate the last month of the year, I hope it is filled with the sounds of joy.”

Her previous Smithsonian Folkways releases are Blue Clouds (2012), the GRAMMY-nominated Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie (2012), Sunny Day (2010), and You Are My Little Bird (2006). Elizabeth and Dan Zanes also recently released a duet album Turn, Turn, Turn.

The Sounding Joy Tracklist:

1. Oh, Mary and the Baby, Sweet Lamb
2. Mary Had a Baby
3. Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow (feat. Mike Merenda)
4. January, February (Last Month of the Year) (feat. Amy Helm and Marco Benevento)
5. Joseph and Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol) (feat. Natalie Merchant)
6. Shine Like a Star in the Morning (feat. Simi Stone)
7. Joy to the World (feat. Jay Ungar)
8. Christmas Day in the Morning (feat. Peggy Seeger)
9. Mother’s Child (Child of God) (feat. Peggy Seeger)
10. Sing-a-Lamb (feat. Dan Zanes and Suzan Lori-Parks)
11. Great Big Stars
12. Baby Born Today (feat. The Silver Hollers - Amy Helm, Ruthy Ungar and Chris Wood, with Larry Campbell)
13. Ain’t That a-Rockin’ All Night
14. Cradle Hymn
15. Bright Morning Stars Are Rising
16. Sing Hallelu (feat. Elizabeth Clark-Jerez)
17. The First Noel
18. The Blessings of Mary (feat. Larry Campbell)
19. Oh, Watch the Stars (feat. Aoife O’Donovan)
20. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
21. Mary Was the Queen of Galilee (feat. Gail Ann Dorsey and Joan Osborne)
22. Silent Night
23. Singing in the Land (feat. Natalie Merchant, Happy Traum, and John Sebastian)
24. Children, Go Where I Send Thee (feat. Natalie Merchant, Amy Helm, Ruthy Ungar, Gail Ann Dorsey, Dan Zanes, Aoife O'Donovan, Simi Stone)

2013 Tour Dates

Saturday, October 19, 2013 – 11 AM
Fall Family Fun Festival Ashokan Center
Olivebridge, NY
More info: www.ashokancenter.org

Sunday, October 20, 2013 – 3:00 PM
Modlin Center for the Arts
Richmond, VA
Ticket info: modlin.richmond.edu
Note: Duo show with Dan Zanes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013 – 1:30 PM and 4:00 PM
Mayo Performing Arts Center
Morristown, NJ
Ticket info: mayoarts.org
Note: Duo show with Dan Zanes.

Saturday, December 14, 2013 – 11:00 AM
Symphony Space
New York, NY
Ticket info: tickets.symphonyspace.org

The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In and Out of the Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook

September 26, 2013

Los Texmaniacs Nominated for Latin GRAMMY

Smithsonian Folkways recording artists Los Texmaniacs have been nominated in the 14th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards for “Best Tejano Album” with Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds. The awards will be held Thursday, November 21 in Las Vegas, Nevada and will be broadcast live on Univision. The 18-song album from the San Antonio-based group features a blend of polka, boleros, ballads, and Western swing, drawing from the rich tradition of Tex-Mex culture. This is their second album with Smithsonian Folkways, following the GRAMMY-winning Borders y Bailes in 2009, and features renowned Western swing singer Ray Benson and fiddle player Jason Roberts from the group Asleep at the Wheel, as well as GRAMMY-winning fiddler Bobby Flores.

Listen to “Ay te dejo en San Antonio” and “Waltz Across Texas”

Max Baca, a virtuoso of the bajo sexto (a type of 12-string guitar), formed Los Texmaniacs in 1997 after his decade-long career with popular and innovative group the Texas Tornados. The San Antonio-based quartet Los Texmaniacs have performed for US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia/Kosovo, and have also played in China, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, acting as ambassadors of conjunto music and Texas culture worldwide. They also performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on three occasions.

Click to watch video

Watch Los Texmaniacs record “Ay te dejo en San Antonio”

GRAMMY Award-winning and highly respected artist Flaco Jiménez, who is working on a new duet album with Baca due out in 2014, said of the group: “I think Max [Baca] is the top dog on the bajo sexto… We’re all on the same page. They’re a real tight band, man.”

Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds was the 38th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA. The series has earned four GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY awards and seven nominations.

For tour dates, please visit http://texmaniacs.com

October Tour Dates

Saturday, October 5, 2013
Disney Amphitheatre - World Music Center
Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, October 10, 2013
Slim's
San Francisco, CA

Saturday, October 12, 2013
Ford Theatre (Tribute To Freddy Fender W/ Flaco Jimenez & Rick Trevino)
Los Angeles, CA

Sunday, October 19, 2013
Fiesta Gardens W/ Rick, Augie, Little Joe and Flaco Jimenez
Austin, TX

Thursday, October 24, 2013
Blue Moon Saloon, Blackpot Kickoff Party
Lafayette, LA

Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds by Los Texmaniacs

September 3, 2013

New Dave Van Ronk release Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (Out October 29)

Called “The Mayor of MacDougal Street,” Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) was a leading figure in the Greenwich Village music scene for more than four decades. He epitomized the urban “folksinger”— apprenticing through immersion in the music revival’s New York City epicenter of Washington Square Park. A raconteur as well as a “guru on the mountain,” he taught and advised musicians including Bob Dylan, Danny Kalb, Christine Lavin, Jack Hardy, Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, and many more. His legacy as a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and grand mentor of the folk and blues revivals is collected in a 54-track, 3-disc set featuring 16 previously unreleased recordings. Down in Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, compiled and annotated by GRAMMY-winning Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place, will be released October 29 on Smithsonian Folkways.

Van Ronk’s version of “Dink’s Song,” which is also performed by Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford on the soundtrack for the upcoming Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis, will be available September 10 as a digital download from folkways.si.edu other retailers.

The 3-disc set paints a musical mosaic of Van Ronk’s artistry from early live recordings made in 1958 (the year before his first Folkways album) to his final studio recordings in 2001, just months before his death. The collection also includes his full set from a 1997 concert presented by the Smithsonian in tandem with the reissue of the Anthology of American Folk Music, four songs of which are available for the first time. Liner notes include a detailed biography and song annotations by Place, and a heartfelt essay by Van Ronk’s widow, Andrea Vuocolo, that incorporates the last song lyrics he wrote, appropriately titled “Down in Washington Square.”

Van Ronk was born in Brooklyn and learned to play ukulele, banjo, and guitar at an early age. His first love was jazz, which alongside Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music had a profound impact on his performing and writing. In the early 1950s, he started to spend time at the jam sessions at the fountain in Washington Square Park, which were attracting the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and in 1957 Odetta encouraged him to perform his songs in concert. His first album, recorded for Folkways in 1959, was Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual. The follow-up, Dave Van Ronk Sings, was released in 1961. Included here also are songs from Foc’sle Songs and Shanties, a 1959 collection of sea shanties that featured Van Ronk and Paul Clayton. During his career, he developed a large repertoire drawing from a wide range of styles, including traditional folk and blues, his own tunes, and compositions by Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Bessie Smith, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Jelly Roll Morton, Josh White, and countless others.

This December, the award-winning Coen Brothers will release the film Inside Llewyn Davis, inspired by Dave Van Ronk’s autobiography “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” and its recollections of life in the Village in the early '60s. The film and its soundtrack feature “Dink’s Song,” which was collected by John Lomax in 1908 and recorded by Van Ronk for Folkways in 1961 (among many other versions recorded during the folk revival and since).

DISC 1:

1. Duncan and Brady 3:02
2. River Come Down (Bamboo) 3:47
3. Spike Driver Blues 3:17
4. John Henry 2:28
5. Backwater Blues 3:04
6. K.C. Moan 3:04
7. Haul on the Bowline 1:21
8. Just a Closer Walk with Thee 3:04
9. Gambler’s Blues 2:30
10. Sweet Substitute 2:36
11. Bed Bug Blues 2:46
12. Winin’ Boy 2:38
13. Georgie and the IRT 3:35
14. Betty and Dupree 3:37
15. Come Back, Baby 3:55
16. My Baby’s So Sweet 2:35
17. Black Mountain Blues 4:02
18. Ya-Yas-Yas 2:09

DISC 2:

1. Willie the Weeper 3:01
2. Dink’s Song 3:46
3. Santy Ano 1:45
4. Leave Her, Johnny 1:30
5. Tell Old Bill 4:24
6. Careless Love 2:59
7. Standing by My Window 5:00
8. Please See My Grave Is Kept Clean 2:56
9. Had More Money 2:57 (Dave Van Ronk) ++
10. If You Leave Me, Pretty Mama 3:09
11. Hesitation Blues 2:36
12. In the Pines 3:08
13. Oh, What a Beautiful City 3:15
14. Mean Old Frisco 3:16++
15. Stackalee 2:34++
16. How Long 3:56
17. Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down 4:54
18. House of the Rising Sun 6:03++

DISC 3:

1. Hootchie Kootchie Man 3:16
2. Reckless Blues 2:30++
3. Trouble in Mind 3:48++
4. Oh Lord, Search My Heart (1:32)++
5. God Bless the Child 3:18++
6. Losers 3:18
7. Another Time and Place 4:31
8. Garden State Stomp 3:00
9. Motherless Children 3:12
10. Don’t You Leave Me Here (I’m Alabama Bound) 4:35++
11. Spike Driver Blues 6:56
12. Down South Blues 5:03++
13. St. James Infirmary (Gambler’s Blues) 4:41++
14. Ace in the Hole 3:27++
15. Going Down Slow++
16. Buckets of Rain 3:52++
17. Jelly Jelly 2:58++
18. Sometime (Whatcha Gonna Do) 2:38++

++previously unreleased track

Dave Van Ronk

August 15, 2013

Sneak Preview: The Sounding Joy by Elizabeth Mitchell and Friends (Out October 15)

On October 15, GRAMMY-nominated recording artist Elizabeth Mitchell releases The Sounding Joy, an exploration of Christmas and solstice songs from the American folk tradition.  Drawn almost exclusively from the often overlooked but deeply influential songbook of revered composer and anthologist Ruth Crawford Seeger, these songs evoke an era before mass media and the commercialization of Christmas, when sacred song, dance, contemplation, and gathering were prized above all else during the holiday season.

Mitchell’s fifth album for Smithsonian Folkways, The Sounding Joy features husband Daniel Littleton, daughter Storey, and special guests Peggy Seeger, Natalie Merchant, Amy Helm, Aoife O’Donovan, Gail Ann Dorsey, Larry Campbell, Dan Zanes, and John Sebastian, among many other family, friends, and neighbors. This gorgeously reverent 24-song collection attempts to save these traditional American holiday songs from an “unmarked grave,” as Merchant puts it in her essay included in the liner notes. The Sounding Joy is truly for listeners of all ages and is Smithsonian Folkways’ first holiday album in more than a decade.

Sneak Peek at The Sounding Joy: Listen to “Children, Go Where I Send Thee (Little Bitty Baby: A Cumulative Song)”

While recovering from surgery four years ago, Mitchell spent a Thanksgiving weekend thinking about the project that would eventually become The Sounding Joy.  A longtime fan and champion of Ruth Crawford Seeger’s work, Mitchell soon found herself thoroughly immersed in Seeger’s third and final songbook, American Folk Songs for Christmas.Seeger, mother of musicians Mike and Peggy Seeger and stepmother of Pete Seeger, died from cancer at age 52 in 1953, the very same year American Folk Songs for Christmas was published.

Mitchell chose to strike a balance between remaining faithful to the beauty and subtle complexity of Seeger’s unique arrangements, and bringing her own breadth and range as a producer and arranger to bear on these largely unknown traditional songs. The wide diversity of voices, players, and instruments on the album breathes new life into words first sung over a century ago by farmhands, country preachers, and small-town congregations and gospel groups.

Adapting a number of Seeger’s piano arrangements for a string trio and inventive percussion, Mitchell radiates warmth on “Ain’t That Rocking” and “Shine Like a Star.” Amy Helm leads a rousing version of “Last Month of the Year” through a groove and vocal quartet style that invokes the early Staple Singers with guitar figures reminiscent of Malian desert blues. Merchant lends her vocals on the haunting “Joseph and Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol),” and also contributes an essay to the liner notes, while writer/artist Brian Selznick (author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret) provided illustrations for the album package. Recordings not from the songbook include classics “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” and an a cappella arrangement of “Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming,” a “family heirloom” arranged by Elizabeth’s father-in-law, Michael Storey Littleton.

Although the songs presented are specific to the Christian tradition, Mitchell’s husband Daniel Littleton cites the inclusive nature of the project, describing the assembly of musicians as an “ecumenical summit” of sorts, with participants of many religious and non-religious backgrounds coming together happily to bring the songs to life. Mitchell sums up the spirit of the album best in her notes: “However you and your loved ones celebrate the last month of the year, I hope it is filled with the sounds of joy.”

Her previous Smithsonian Folkways releases are Blue Clouds (2012), the GRAMMY-nominated Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie (2012), Sunny Day (2010), and You Are My Little Bird (2006). Elizabeth and Dan Zanes also recently released a duet album Turn, Turn, Turn.

The Sounding Joy Tracklist:

1. Oh, Mary and the Baby, Sweet Lamb
2. Mary Had a Baby
3. Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow (feat. Mike Merenda)
4. January, February (Last Month of the Year) (feat. Amy Helm and Marco Benevento)
5. Joseph and Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol) (feat. Natalie Merchant)
6. Shine Like a Star in the Morning (feat. Simi Stone)
7. Joy to the World (feat. Jay Ungar)
8. Christmas Day in the Morning (feat. Peggy Seeger)
9. Mother’s Child (Child of God) (feat. Peggy Seeger)
10. Sing-a-Lamb (feat. Dan Zanes and Suzan Lori-Parks)
11. Great Big Stars
12. Baby Born Today (feat. The Silver Hollers - Amy Helm, Ruthy Ungar and Chris Wood, with Larry Campbell)
13. Ain’t That a-Rockin’ All Night
14. Cradle Hymn
15. Bright Morning Stars Are Rising
16. Sing Hallelu (feat. Elizabeth Clark-Jerez)
17. The First Noel
18. The Blessings of Mary (feat. Larry Campbell)
19. Oh, Watch the Stars (feat. Aoife O’Donovan)
20. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
21. Mary Was the Queen of Galilee (feat. Gail Ann Dorsey and Joan Osborne)
22. Silent Night
23. Singing in the Land (feat. Natalie Merchant, Happy Traum, and John Sebastian)
24. Children, Go Where I Send Thee (feat. Natalie Merchant, Amy Helm, Ruthy Ungar, Gail Ann Dorsey, Dan Zanes, Aoife O'Donovan, Simi Stone)

2013 Tour Dates

Saturday, August 17, 2013 – 4:00–5:30 PM
The Getty Museum – Central Garden, Getty Center
Los Angeles, CA
Ticket info: Admission to the museum is FREE; no other ticket information provided for the concert. www.getty.edu

Sunday, August 18, 2013 – 4:00–5:15 PM
The Getty Museum – Central Garden, Getty Center
Los Angeles, CA
Ticket info: Admission to the museum is FREE; no other ticket information provided for the concert.
www.getty.edu

Saturday, August 24, 2013 – 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
New York, NY
Ticket info: nyuskirball.org
Note: Duo show with Dan Zanes.

Sunday, August 25, 2013
The Summer Hoot at Ashokan
Olivebridge, NY
Ticket info: www.eventbrite.com
Note: With Dan Zanes, Pete Seeger, and more.

Saturday, September 21, 2013
The Fresh Grass Bluegrass Festival
North Adams, MA
Ticket info: tickets.massmoca.org
Note: Duo show with Dan Zanes.

Saturday, September 28, 2013 – 11 AM and 2 PM
Old Town School of Folk Music
Chicago, IL
Ticket info: www.oldtownschool.org
Note: Duo show with Dan Zanes.

Saturday, October 12, 2013 – 11 AM
World Café Live
Philadelphia, PA
Ticket info: tickets.worldcafelive.com
Note: Peanut Butter and Jams; duo show with Dan Zanes.

Sunday, October 20, 2013 – 3:00 PM
Modlin Center for the Arts
Richmond, VA
Ticket info: modlin.richmond.edu
Note: Duo show with Dan Zanes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013 – 1:30 PM and 4:00 PM
Mayo Performing Arts Center
Morristown, NJ
Ticket info: mayoarts.org
Note: Duo show with Dan Zanes.

Saturday, December 14, 2013 – 11:00 AM
Symphony Space
New York, NY
Ticket info: tickets.symphonyspace.org

Children, Go Where I Send Thee

August 8, 2013

White House Workers: Traditions and Memories features “The Butler” Eugene Allen

On August 16, 2013, theaters will premiere Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a historical drama that follows the experience of an African American butler in the White House during eight presidential terms from 1952 to 1986. The film’s main character is based on Eugene Allen (1919–2010), a White House butler and maître d’ who witnessed the remaking of American racial history.

The Butler is not the first film that features Allen. In 1990, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage curator Dr. Marjorie Hunt began researching White House workers for the 1992 Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Workers at the White House program. One of the results of the research was a 32-minute documentary, Workers at the White House, directed by Hunt, that features Allen and other workers who served many presidents. Hunt’s documentary, which was produced in collaboration with the White House Historical Association, also appears on the 2009 DVD, White House Workers: Traditions and Memories, along with an introduction by President Jimmy Carter; a 12-minute video accompanying the Smithsonian traveling exhibition, The Working White House; and two hours of additional interviews produced by Center curator James Deutsch and media director Charles Weber. The DVD illuminates the social and cultural history of America’s most famous residence, exploring the skills, customs, knowledge, and experience of a wide range of White House workers. The DVD contains Allen’s stories about the differing customs among first families, golf with President Ford, presidential birthday celebrations, and many others.

Watch the man who inspired The Butler on White House Workers: Traditions and Memories, and learn how the dedication, skills, and sacrifices of residence staff members have helped the White House fulfill its multiple roles as a family residence, seat of government, ceremonial center, historic building, and museum.

Click to watch video

Eugene Allen, White House Maître D’ and the Man Who Inspired The Butler

Click to watch video

Eugene Allen and President Carter

Click to watch video

Eugene Allen and First Lady Nancy Reagan

White House Workers: Traditions and Memories features “The Butler” Eugene Allen

August 6, 2013

Sounds of the Civil Rights Movement

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with this playlist of 1960s civil rights material. Composed of seminal recordings, this playlist highlights the important role that music played in uniting, energizing, expressing, and sustaining momentum among participants in the African American civil rights movement.

Sounds of the Civil Rights Movement

August 5, 2013

Now Available: Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways

Smithsonian Folkways presents Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways, a 30-track compilation that captures the great versatility of the banjo and how it helped shape American musical identity, including the instrument’s vital role in the 1960s folk revival. The history of the banjo stretches across a complex, international terrain, from West Africa and the Caribbean, to North America and around the world.

Purchase CDs or album downloads and support our nonprofit mission today!

The collection offers an introduction to some of the many faces behind the music of the banjo, such as a recording of a young Pete Seeger performing a rapid-fire banjo medley as well as Doc Watson’s 1976 rendition of “Rambling Hobo,” the first banjo tune Watson, better known for his guitar playing, ever learned. Other featured performers include Elizabeth Cotten, Bill Evans, Snuffy Jenkins, Bill Keith, Dink Roberts, Roni Stoneman, Tony Trischka, and Don Vappie.

Classic Banjo was compiled by ethnomusicologist Greg Adams and archivist Jeff Place from over 300 albums in the Smithsonian Folkways collection, and is the 22nd album in Smithsonian Folkways' acclaimed Classic series. Place, archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s Rinzler Archives, has produced more than 50 Smithsonian Folkways recordings, including the GRAMMY-winning Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection. Adams is also currently an archivist in the Rinzler Archives and has been playing banjo and studying its history since 1994, working closely with scholars, musicians, and collectors to raise awareness of the banjo’s broader multicultural significance.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, Classic Banjo explores the breadth and depth of a genre while the liner notes offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released Classic compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others.

Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways tracklist:

1. Fly Around My Blue-Eyed Girl / Cripple Creek / Ida Red / Old Joe Clark — Pete Seeger
2. Banging Breakdown — Hobart Smith
3. Johnson Boys — Frank Proffitt
4. Peachbottom Creek — Wade Ward
5. Coo Coo — Dink Roberts
6. Josh Thomas's Roustabout — Mike Seeger
7. Jaw Bone — Willie Chapman
8. Bright Sunny South — Dock Boggs
9. Coal Creek March — Pete Steele
10. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues — Josh Thomas
11. Walk Light Ladies — Rufus Crisp
12. Buck Creek Girls — Bill Cornett
13. Gut Bucket Blues — Don Vappie
14. Skylark / Roaring Mary — Mick Moloney
15. St. Anne's Reel / La Renfleuse Gorbeil — Ken Perlman
16. Smokey Mokes — Roger Sprung
17. Golden Bell Polka — A.L. Camp
18. Banjoland — Tony Trischka with Bill Evans
19. Sally Ann — Snuffy Jenkins
20. Lonesome Road Blues — Roni Stoneman
21. Fox Chase — Lee Sexton
22. Hop Along Lou — John Tyree
23. Cotton Eyed Joe — "Big Sweet" Lewis Hairston
24. Foggy Mountain Top — Ola Belle Reed
25. Rambling Hobo — Doc Watson
26. Old Rattler — John Snipes
27. Georgia Buck — Elizabeth Cotten
28. I Wish to the Lord I'd Never Been Born — Irvin Cook
29. Black Eye Susie — Roscoe Holcomb
30. Bluegrass Breakdown — Bill Keith with Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys

Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways

July 12, 2013

In Remembrance of Toshi Seeger

Everyone at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings mourns the loss of Toshi Seeger, who passed away Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Toshi Seeger and her husband Pete were closely involved in the 1987 acquisition of Folkways Records, & Service Corp., and both served on the Smithsonian Folkways Advisory Board for several years. Toshi and Pete made a marvelous combination: Pete with his big visions and ideals, and Toshi with her crystal-clear pragmatism. She was always able to explain why this or that would or wouldn't work, from nuts and bolts about day-to-day operations and distributors, to how the United States' national museum could best operate a nonprofit record label. Were you to visit the Clearwater Festival in New York State, Toshi's stamp could be felt everywhere. From early morning to late at night, she could be seen be riding around the site, taking care of the ten thousand details involved in such an endeavor. From our perspective, Toshi was the organizational force behind all of her husband Pete’s accomplishments. We will miss her very much.

Sincerely,

Everyone at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Related Album:

Freedom Songs: Selma, Alabama
Negro Prison Camp Worksongs

July 9, 2013

¡Kashnami Kawsanchik! [This is how we live!]
by Jessie M. Vallejo

Prior to my first trip to Ecuador in 2010, I spent my teenage summers combing through stacks of CDs sold by Otavalan merchants at venues like the Great New York State Fair. When I traveled to Otavalo during the Hatun Puncha-Inti Raymi summer solstice festival, I expected to hear groups of musicians playing sanjuanitos on panpipes (zampoñas, Spanish), notched end-blown flutes (quenas, Sp.), violins, and guitars. Upon my arrival at the Maldonado household, however, I was introduced to transverse cane flutes (called flautas or gaitas, Sp.), which sounded nothing like what I had listened to on my recordings of well-known Otavalan groups like Runakuna, Sisa Pacari, or Ñanda Mañachi. When I asked Patricio Maldonado (one of my host brothers and manager of Hatun Kotama) about the flutes, he modestly told me, "It's just a little tradition we have here."

The music that Hatun Kotama will perform during the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival is - for the most part - ritualistic and played by men. Throughout Hatun Puncha-Inti Raymi, musicians perform facing each other, turning in a small, tight circle while dancers form a large spiral around them. The repetitive characteristic of the music places the participants in a trance-like state, allowing for them to connect with each other, spirits, Mother Earth, and our cosmos through song and dance. The songs are in a two-part form and do not have a standard ending or closure to the music because flutists repeat the same tune until the next duo or trio of musicians interrupts with another song.

Flauta music still maintains its own unique tuning system, or musical language, that does not correspond to the Western twelve-tone organization of pitches. Songs, or tunus, are polyphonic, short, and repetitive. To someone not familiar with this music, it may sound melancholic, spooky, or urgent, though to the Runakuna, it is spirited and enlivening. One may also assume that the music is simple because the instruments are rustic in appearance, but as I became more acquainted with this tradition, I began to realize how difficult it is to master even one song. Flute masters' performance technique includes ornamentations, such as trills and vibrato, and an impeccable embouchure, which creates a strong sound capable of cutting through ambient noise of festival onlookers, dancers, and competing groups of musicians.

By far, one of the most challenging aspects of playing the Otavalan transverse flute is being able to maintain one's endurance throughout Hatun Puncha-Inti Raymi, performing day and night over a week's time with little rest. A competent flutist must adhere to strict performance standards and memorize the melodies without error, or else they risk being ejected from the player's circle.

Hatun Kotama is at the forefront of the flauta grassroots revival movement. Whereas other Otavalan villages have traditionally been known for their flute makers, Kotama has been regarded as a home of outstanding flutists. The founders of Hatun Kotama, several of whom you will meet at this year's Folklife Festival, recognized that the tradition was disappearing and at risk of becoming obsolete due to religious conversion, migration, economic changes, the adaptation of new instruments, and the 1990s cholera epidemic. They are also aware of the important role flauta music holds in Runa culture. At their cultural center, the flute teachers do not only intend to pass on flauta techniques and repertoire; rather, they hold themselves responsible for transmitting other types of cultural knowledge, such as the Kichwa language (all classes are run completely in Kichwa), and how to live together (convivir, Sp.). Their recording project with Smithsonian Folkways, ¡Así Kotama!: The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador, is an example of Hatun Kotama's mission to preserve their tradition while redefining it in today's world.

During my field research in Ecuador, one of the phrases I was most often told by the Maldonado family and flute masters was "kashnami kawsanchik," or "this is how we live!" It has been an honor for me to learn from them, and I look forward to being able to reciprocate by sharing my life and culture with them during their residency at the festival. If you will be in the D.C. area for the second week of the Folklife Festival, stop by the One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage exhibit to meet the flute players. This week is also a great opportunity for you to convivir by not only observing, but also dancing with the flutists and sharing with them how you live, too.

Click on images to enlarge and view captions. All photos courtesy of Jessie M. Vallejo.


Jessie M. Vallejo is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation focuses on the Otavalan transverse flute tradition (called flauta or gaita). She began working with flutists from the Hatun Kotama Cultural Center and other nearby Kichwa communities in 2010. Apart from her research activities, Jessie has performed violin with indigenous ensembles and mariachi groups in northern Ecuador. At UCLA, she is co-director of Mariachi de Uclatlán and member of the Chinese Silk and Bamboo ensemble.

¡Kashnami Kawsanchik!

July 8, 2013

Tribute to Rafael Manríquez (1947-2013)
by Daniel Sheehy

With a heavy heart, Smithsonian Folkways laments the passing of Rafael Manríquez, beloved Smithsonian Folkways artist, guitarist, singer-songwriter, social activist, and champion of Chilean folk music. Born in Santiago, Chile, in 1947, Manríquez took up the guitar at age 15 and followed his passion for nueva canción, the musical movement that combined rural, urban, indigenous, mestizo, and pan-Latin American sounds with a commitment toward social change. Manríquez worked as a music journalist during one of the most momentous times in Chilean music history. As a reporter for the music magazine El Musiquero (1970-1973), he interviewed, reviewed, and wrote about key figures such as Víctor Jara, Inti-Illimani, Quilapayún, and Violeta Parra. It was the time of socialist president Salvador Allende, and performances by foreign artists from like-minded movements such as Cuba’s Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés were commonplace at musical events supported by the Allende regime.

Then came the fateful day of 11 September 1973, when the commander-in-chief of the Chilean army, Augusto Pinochet, led a coup d’état, overthrowing Allende and his government. Repression of leftist parties and ideologies followed, with thousands of people tortured and killed. Rafael chose self-exile, first to Ecuador, then to Berkeley, California, where he lived most of the rest of his life. He was a longtime fixture at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, where he taught guitar and Latin American folk music. By 1980, he and several others had formed Grupo Raíz, following the model of Chilean nueva canción groups. Grupo Raíz toured Europe, as well as North, Central, and South America, releasing three long-play recordings during their most active period, from 1980 to 1985. Two of these, Amaneceres (Daybreak, 1981) and América del Centro (The Center of America, 1984), were published on the Monitor label, which later became part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection. For Smithsonian Folkways, Rafael Manríquez produced and recorded ¡Que Viva el Canto! Songs of Chile (2008).

All of us at Smithsonian Folkways join Rafael Manríquez’s family, friends, and musical admirers in mourning the loss of a beloved compañero, accomplished musician, and true artist in the fullest sense of the word.

Click here for more information.

Daniel Sheehy is director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Tribute to Rafael Manríquez (1947-2013)

June 21, 2013

Now Available: ¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador
by Hatun Kotama

The Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series presents ¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador, featuring the music of the Hatun Kotama Cultural Center. Nestled between three Andean volcanoes in the arts-centric municipality of Otavalo, Hatun Kotama is a success story that defies globalization, steers tradition in a new direction, and revitalizes a musical practice that was once considered obsolete. Hatun Kotama performs in Kichwa, a Quechuan language designated by UNESCO as endangered.

Click Here to Purchase or Download a Free Track

The group’s upcoming residency at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, from July 3–7 in Washington D.C., will be their first-ever performances outside of Ecuador. The series is part of the “One World, Many Voices” Festival program focused on endangered languages and cultural heritage.

Evening Concerts:

Dates and Times for All Performances:
(Workshops all held at Voices of the World Stage)

  • July 3rd, 2:00 pm - Kichwa Music and Dance Workshop
  • July 4th, 1:15 pm - Kichwa Music and Dance Workshop
  • July 5th, 11:45 am - Kichwa Music and Dance Workshop
  • July 5th, 6:00 pm - Evening Concert - Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
  • July 6th, 12:30 pm - Kichwa Music and Dance Workshop
  • July 6th, 6:00 pm - Evening Concert - Voices of the World Stage
  • July 7th, 2:00 pm - Kichwa Music and Dance Workshop

***All Performances Free and Open to the Public***

The Hatun Kotama Cultural Center was founded in the early 2000s by Luis Enrique Cachiguango and several flute masters from the region. In an era when indigenous people of Ecuador denounced oppression and rallied for their rights, the center/school was seen as a means of self-affirmation and a way to preserve their heritage. Hatun Kotama’s flute students and masters, who range in age from 8 to 72, collaborated to produce this album, the first the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series dedicated to Ecuadorian music.

The music on ¡Así Kotama! draws from a pre-Incan musical practice commonly called gaita. In Otavalo, gaita refers to a specific type of side-blown flute historically used to summon rain and pray for prosperity during rituals, festivals, and rites of passage.

The songs on the album feature meditative, repeated phrase melodies on the flute and call-and-response vocals delivered with a shouted intensity and joviality. Certain songs are used at particular times of the year. For example, the middle section of the album features songs for Hatun Puncha, an agricultural festival marking the end of the corn and bean harvest in the summer. Other sounds, such as harmonica, conch shell, and sharp, repeated whistling, complement the vocals and flutes, which are often set to a pulsing, driving rhythm kept by dancers' footsteps. 

¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador is the 39th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

Now Available: <i>¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador </i>by Hatun Kotama

June 18, 2013

Free Concert by The Seldom Scene at 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

On Friday, June 28, The Seldom Scene, an influential D.C.-area bluegrass band that has played a significant role in popularizing the genre for over 40 years, will perform free at the 2013 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The concert is also a preview ofLongtime…Seldom Scene, the group’s first album with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (available in 2014).

Please RSVP here, invite your Facebook friends, and share this email with anyone you think might be interested

Who: The Seldom Scene
Where: Smithsonian Folklife Festival - National Mall in Washington D.C. (Smithsonian Metro stop), at the Danubia Stage (Hungarian Heritage program).
When: Friday, June 28, 6 - 7:15 pm
Admission: Free and open to the general public (seating is first-come, first-served under a tented stage)
What: 2013 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert in honor of Peter Seitel

VIDEO: Watch current and former members perform "Through the Bottom of the Glass"

The concert is presented annually in memory of Ralph Rinzler, the co-founder of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year’s concert honors former Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Director Peter Seitel.

The Seldom Scene began as a non-touring bluegrass band in 1971 in Bethesda, Maryland. Bluegrass reached a second peak in popularity in the early 1970s, and the progressive bluegrass style played by The Seldom Scene was particularly popular. Original Seldom Scene mandolin player, John Duffey, anchored the group with his stratospheric tenor, and the vocal blend of The Scene set a new standard attracting growing audiences to what had been niche music. Their weekly shows included bluegrass versions of country music, rock, and even classical pop. The band's popularity soon forced them to play more than once a week—but they continued to maintain their image as being seldom seen, and on several of their early album covers were photographed with the stage lights on only their feet, or with their backs to the camera.Currently, the band consists of Dudley Connell (guitar/ vocals), original member Ben Eldridge (banjo/guitar/vocals), Lou Reid (mandolin/guitar/ vocals), Fred Travers (dobro/ vocals), and Ronnie Simpkins (bass/ vocals).

Click here for more information.

The Ralph Rinzler Concert, featuring The Seldom Scene in honor of Peter Seitel

June 17, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways Wins Six Independent Music Awards

For the fifth consecutive year, Smithsonian Folkways has earned multiple Independent Music Awards as selected by a panel of judges:

  • Best Bluegrass Album: The Dust Busters with John Cohen - Old Man Below. Dust Busters mentor and Ramblers elder John Cohen joins Eli Smith, Walker Shepard, and Craig Judelman in this solidly grounded, future-looking album of classic melodies that makes the legacy of yesterday the sound of today.
  • Best Compilation Album: Woody Guthrie - Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection. This compilation is an in-depth commemorative collection of songs, photos and essays on one of America’s most treasured 20th-century icons.
  • Best Reissue Album: Louis Armstrong, Tyree Glenn, Tommy Gwaltney - Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours. Jazz icon Louis Armstrong turned a 1971 award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington DC into an impromptu performance captured on this recording.
  • Best Latin Song: "Volveré (I Will Return)" by La Sardina de Naiguatá on ¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music. This song is an example of Afro-Caribbean drumming traditions mixed with brass, electric bass, keyboard, and women’s chorus.
  • Best Album Packaging: Visual Dialogue - Woody Guthrie - Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection. 150-page large-format book with 3 CDs containing 57 tracks, including 21 previously unreleased performances and six never-before-heard original songs.
  • Best Swag (promotional material) Visual Dialogue - "Woody at 100 Limited-Edition T-Shirt" Designed by Fritz Klaetke, art director for Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection.

According to the International Music Awards, these projects are awarded for the totality of artistic excellence based on originality, musicianship, musicality, vocals, recording quality, and other categories.

Additionally, eleven Smithsonian Folkways entries were nominated as finalists for the 12th Independent Music Awards. Finalists are eligible for the Vox Populi, “voice of the people”, awards, determined by fan voting. Voting is open until midnight on Friday, July 19. Submit your votes by clicking on the links next to the nominations below and by giving each entry a 5 star rating (registration required).

Independent Music Awards

June 7, 2013

New Archival Release: Anthology of Indian Classical Music: A Tribute to Alain Daniélou

First released in 1955 by Ducretet-Thomson (EMI), this anthology is said to be the "first of this music to become available in the West in which the recorded pieces were not presented as 'folklore' but as 'serious' music." In 1997 it was digitally re-mastered and issued by AUVIDIS-NAÏVE as a 3-CD set in homage to Alain Daniélou (1907-1994), the prime mover of the legendary UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music. The set includes the first recordings published in the Western world of Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan. In addition to a short biography of Daniélou and his influence on Asian music and cultural heritage, liner notes include detailed explanations of the scales, rhythmic ideas, and instrumentation used in each song.

Click here to purchase an on-demand CD or digital download

This title, courtesy EMI France, is part of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music. The collection is being prepared for re-release by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to make the series publicly available again, along with more than a dozen never-released albums of musical traditions from around the globe.

In the July issue of Songlines Magazine, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger selected “Sandehamunu” performed by T. Visvanathan and T. Ranganathan for his “Top of the World” CD and playlist.

Anthology of Indian Classical Music: A Tribute to Alain Daniélou

May 31, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways Receives 2013 International Book Award

Smithsonian Folkways earned a 2013 International Book Award for Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology, in the category “Anthologies: Non-Fiction.” Awards were presented for titles published in 2011, 2012 and 2013. For more information, please visit the International Book Awards. Previously, the anthology earned “Best Compilation” in the 2011 Independent Music Awards and the Smithsonian Folkways Jazz Education Website earned a 2012 Web Award. Additional information about Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology can be found here.

Smithsonian Folkways Receives 2013 International Book Award

May 22, 2013

Sneak Preview: Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways
(Out August 6)

The history of the banjo stretches across a complex, international terrain, from West Africa and the Caribbean, to North America and around the world. On August 6, Smithsonian Folkways will release Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways, a 30-track compilation that captures the great versatility of the banjo and how it helped shape American musical identity, including the instrument’s vital role in the 1960s folk revival.

Listen to selections from Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways

The collection offers an introduction to some of the many faces behind the music of the banjo, such as a recording of a young Pete Seeger performing a rapid-fire banjo medley as well as Doc Watson’s 1976 rendition of “Rambling Hobo,” the first banjo tune Watson, better known for his guitar playing, ever learned. Other featured performers include Elizabeth Cotten, Bill Evans, Snuffy Jenkins, Bill Keith, Dink Roberts, Roni Stoneman, Tony Trischka, and Don Vappie.

Classic Banjo was compiled by ethnomusicologist Greg Adams and archivist Jeff Place from over 300 albums in the Smithsonian Folkways collection, and is the 22nd album in Smithsonian Folkways' acclaimed Classic series. Place, archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s Rinzler Archives, has produced more than 50 Smithsonian Folkways recordings, including the GRAMMY-winning Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection. Adams is also currently an archivist in the Rinzler Archives and has been playing banjo and studying its history since 1994, working closely with scholars, musicians, and collectors to raise awareness of the banjo’s broader multicultural significance.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, Classic Banjo explores the breadth and depth of a genre while the liner notes offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released Classic compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others.

Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways tracklist:

1. Fly Around My Blue-Eyed Girl / Cripple Creek / Ida Red / Old Joe Clark — Pete Seeger
2. Banging Breakdown — Hobart Smith
3. Johnson Boys — Frank Proffitt
4. Peachbottom Creek — Wade Ward
5. Coo Coo — Dink Roberts
6. Josh Thomas's Roustabout — Mike Seeger
7. Jaw Bone — Willie Chapman
8. Bright Sunny South — Dock Boggs
9. Coal Creek March — Pete Steele
10. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues — Josh Thomas
11. Walk Light Ladies — Rufus Crisp
12. Buck Creek Girls — Bill Cornett
13. Gut Bucket Blues — Don Vappie
14. Skylark / Roaring Mary — Mick Moloney
15. St. Anne's Reel / La Renfleuse Gorbeil — Ken Perlman
16. Smokey Mokes — Roger Sprung
17. Golden Bell Polka — A.L. Camp
18. Banjoland — Tony Trischka with Bill Evans
19. Sally Ann — Snuffy Jenkins
20. Lonesome Road Blues — Roni Stoneman
21. Fox Chase — Lee Sexton
22. Hop Along Lou — John Tyree
23. Cotton Eyed Joe — "Big Sweet" Lewis Hairston
24. Foggy Mountain Top — Ola Belle Reed
25. Rambling Hobo — Doc Watson
26. Old Rattler — John Snipes
27. Georgia Buck — Elizabeth Cotten
28. I Wish to the Lord I'd Never Been Born — Irvin Cook
29. Black Eye Susie — Roscoe Holcomb
30. Bluegrass Breakdown — Bill Keith with Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys

Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways

May 20, 2013

Now Available: Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways

Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways, the 21st album in the popular Classic Series, is now available in CD and digital download format.

Click here for a free download of “Low Down Blues” or to purchase Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways

Popularized in the late 19th century by German clockmaker Matthias Hohner, the harmonica has shaped the personality, sound, and form of American music like few other instruments. Although adopted by various genres, the instrument became an essential part of the blues, particularly benefitting those marginalized by race, class, or geography. By manipulating the instrument in ways never originally intended, blues harmonica players create an expressiveness similar to that of the guitar, the other instrument central to the blues form.

Compiled, produced, and annotated by Barry Lee Pearson and Jeff Place, Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways is the 21st album in the acclaimed Classic series. The 20-track set features harmonica luminaries such as Doctor Ross, Eddie Burns, Jazz Gillum, and Sonny Terry, and blues classics such as “Good Morning Little School Girl,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” and “One Way Out.”

The collection spans six decades and encompasses several stylistic categories and geographic regions — including jug band, Piedmont, and Midwestern styles. Classic Harmonica Blues also includes eight previously unreleased recordings from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival dating back as far as 1977.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, Classic Harmonica Blues explores the breadth and depth of a genre while the liner notes offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released Classic compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others. Pearson has contributed to seven previous Smithsonian Folkways recordings, most recently Classic Appalachian Blues, and Place has produced more than 50 recordings, including the GRAMMY-winning Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection.

Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways

May 2, 2013

Disappearing Musical Tradition Revitalized on ¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador - Sneak Preview

On July 2, the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series presents ¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador, featuring the music of the Hatun Kotama Cultural Center. Nestled between three Andean volcanoes in the arts-centric municipality of Otavalo, Hatun Kotama is a success story that defies globalization, steers tradition in a new direction, and revitalizes a musical practice that was once considered obsolete. Hatun Kotama performs in Kichwa, a Quechuan language designated by UNESCO as endangered.

The group’s upcoming residency at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, from July 3–7 in Washington D.C., will be their first-ever performances outside of Ecuador. The series is part of the “One World, Many Voices” Festival program focused on endangered languages and cultural heritage.

Listen to a preview of ¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador

The Hatun Kotama Cultural Center was founded in the early 2000s by Luis Enrique Cachiguango and several flute masters from the region. In an era when indigenous people of Ecuador denounced oppression and rallied for their rights, the center/school was seen as a means of self-affirmation and a way to preserve their heritage. Hatun Kotama’s flute students and masters, who range in age from 8 to 72, collaborated to produce this album, the first the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series dedicated to Ecuadorian music.

The music on ¡Así Kotama! draws from a pre-Incan musical practice commonly called gaita. In Otavalo, gaita refers to a specific type of side-blown flute historically used to summon rain and pray for prosperity during rituals, festivals, and rites of passage.

The songs on the album feature meditative, repeated phrase melodies on the flute and call-and-response vocals delivered with a shouted intensity and joviality. Certain songs are used at particular times of the year. For example, the middle section of the album features songs for Hatun Puncha, an agricultural festival marking the end of the corn and bean harvest in the summer. Other sounds, such as harmonica, conch shell, and sharp, repeated whistling, complement the vocals and flutes, which are often set to a pulsing, driving rhythm kept by dancers' footsteps.  

¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador is the 39th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

¡Así Kotama! The Flutes of Otavalo, Ecuador

May 1, 2013

Unreleased Material from Roberto Martínez Documents Civil Rights Struggle

New material released by Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage highlights a previously unreleased civil rights song by musician Roberto Martínez, founder of the M.O.R.E. record label. Inspired by the Black Panthers and Latin American revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and formed in 1969, Las Gorras Negras (The Black Berets) were a multi-ethnic group that fought for social transformation amidst Civil Rights movements in New Mexico. In 1972, after two of its members, Antonio Córdova and Rito Canales, were mysteriously murdered on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Roberto Martínez, leader of Nuevo Mexicano mariachi Los Reyes de Alburquerque (The Kings of Albuquerque) and corridista (ballad composer), composed “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales” in order to revise seemingly contrived reports of the incident and to honor the slain Black Berets.... Read More

Unreleased Material from Roberto Martínez Documents Civil Rights Struggle

April 26, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways nominated for an A2IM “LIBBY” award

Smithsonian Folkways is a finalist in the American Association of Independent Music Awards for Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection, designed by Fritz Klaetke, in the category “Most Creative Packaging or Bundled Product.” Woody at 100 recently received a GRAMMY award for “Best Boxed or Special Edition Packaging,” and received another nomination for “Best Historical Album.” The award ceremony for the “LIBBY” awards, hosted by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), will be June 20 in New York City and will “honor growing support and market share for independent artists and record labels.” For more information please visit the American Association of Independent Music. Additional information about Woody at 100 can be found here.

Smithsonian Folkways nominated for an A2IM “LIBBY” award

April 8, 2013

Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda Now Available

Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda is now available to purchase on CD or album download. This recording aims to overcome religious conflict and bring peace through song.  Written and performed by coffee farmers of the Peace Kawomera (Delicious Peace) Fair Trade cooperative in Mbale, Uganda, the album features uplifting, multi-lingual songs that teach cooperation through music.

Purchase CDs or Album Downloads of Delicious Peace

Jewish Ugandan coffee farmer and musician J. J. Keki founded Peace Kawomera after witnessing the attacks of September 11, 2001 firsthand during a trip to New York City.  Deeply moved, he felt compelled to bring different religions together in peace.  When Keki returned to Uganda, he walked from village to village, enlisting Jewish, Christian and Muslim farmers to join his Fair Trade cooperative. Today, over 1,000 farmers have joined Peace Kawomera.

GRAMMY-nominated Tufts University professor and Rabbi Jeffrey A. Summit recorded the album in various Ugandan locales from muddy coffee fields to local synagogues. Village guitar groups and women’s choirs sing to stress the transformative impact of Fair Trade prices and to encourage their neighbors to join the coffee cooperative.  They are accompanied by traditional instruments, such as embaire (xylophone with wooden keys), ngoma (drum), akadongo (lamellaphone, often referred to as a thumb piano), endingidi (one-string fiddle), and nsasi (shaker).

Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda

March 22, 2013

Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson Recordings Added to National Recording Registry

The Library of Congress has included Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley, 1960-1962 in the most recent additions to the National Recording Registry. Each year since 2002, 25 recordings have been added based on their “cultural, artistic and historic importance to the nation’s aural legacy.”

Born in 1895, Appalachian musician Clarence Ashley’s earlier recordings were rediscovered in the 1950s through Harry Smith’s influential Anthology of American Folk Music. Ralph Rinzler later recorded Ashley along with the young, virtuosic guitarist Arthel “Doc” Watson. These recordings helped introduce the world to Watson and played an important role in the folk revival of the 1960s.

This is Smithsonian Folkways’ sixth recording on the National Recording Registry, which now includes 375 entries.

Click here for the complete list of recordings added this year.

Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson Recordings Added to National Recording Registry

March 20, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways Earns 18 Nominations for the 12th Independent Music Awards

Eleven Smithsonian Folkways projects were selected as finalists in 18 categories for the 12th Independent Music Awards. The Smithsonian Folkways website was also nominated.

Finalists are also eligible for the Vox Populi awards as determined by fan voting. Click here to submit your votes right now. Voting is open through July 19, 2013.

Here is the complete list of Smithsonian Folkways Album/Song Finalists:

Independent Music Awards

March 15, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine — Sounds and Soundscapes

The latest issue of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine explores the extramusical sounds and soundscapes of the Smithsonian Folkways collection:

Cover Story: Tony Schwartz: Listening to the City - David Suisman
Sounding Off: Soundscapes: A Sound Commons for All Living Creatures - Jeff Todd Titon
Artist Spotlight: Henry Jacobs: Interview with the “Wizard of Oddsville”
Archive Spotlight: ‘Sounds of a Tropical Rain Forest in America’: When It Rains It Pours - Craig Eley

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine is a free, quarterly, online publication. To subscribe, simply join the email newsletter.

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine — Sounds and Soundscapes

February 25, 2013

Sneak Preview: Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways (available 5/21)

Popularized in the late 19th century by German clockmaker Matthias Hohner, the harmonica has shaped the personality, sound, and form of American music like few other instruments. Although adopted by various genres, the instrument became an essential part of the blues, particularly benefitting those marginalized by race, class, or geography. By manipulating the instrument in ways never originally intended, blues harmonica players create an expressiveness similar to that of the guitar, the other instrument central to the blues form.

Sneak Preview: Listen to selections from Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways

Compiled, produced, and annotated by Barry Lee Pearson and Jeff Place, Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways (out 5/21) is the 21st album in the acclaimed Classic series. The 20-track set features harmonica luminaries such as Doctor Ross, Eddie Burns, Jazz Gillum, and Sonny Terry, and blues classics such as “Good Morning Little School Girl,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” and “One Way Out.”

The collection spans six decades and encompasses several stylistic categories and geographic regions — including jug band, Piedmont, and Midwestern styles. Classic Harmonica Blues also includes eight previously unreleased recordings from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival dating back as far as 1977.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, Classic Harmonica Blues explores the breadth and depth of a genre while the liner notes offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released Classic compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others. Pearson has contributed to seven previous Smithsonian Folkways recordings, most recently Classic Appalachian Blues, and Place has produced more than 50 recordings, including the GRAMMY-winning Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection.

Classic Harmonica Blues tracklist:

1. Theme Song Doctor Ross, the Harmonica Boss
2. Heart in Sorrow Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
3. Take Your Fingers Off It Will Shade, Charlie Burse, and Gus Cannon
4. Nine Below Zero Eddie Burns
5. Bye Bye Bird Charlie Sayles
6. Gillum Blues Jazz Gillum
7. Crow Jane Blues Sonny Terry
8. Dog Days of August John Cephas and Phil Wiggins
9. Minglewood Blues John Sebastian and the J Band (with Annie Raines)
10. Good Morning Little School Girl Doctor Ross, the Harmonica Boss
11. Sweet Home Chicago Phil Wiggins and the Robert Johnson Tribute Band
12. One Way Out Eddie Burns
13. Boogie Baby Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
14. Low Down Blues Neal Pattman
15. Hooka Tooka Chambers Brothers
16. Train Piece Charlie Sayles
17. Chicago Breakdown Doctor Ross, the Harmonica Boss
18. I Feel So Good Warner Williams and Jay Summerour
19. Barbara Allen Blues Roscoe Holcomb
20. Custard Pie Sonny Terry and unknown washboard band

Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways

February 25, 2013

Now Available: Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways

Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways, the 20th album in the popular Classic Series, is now available in CD and digital download format.

Click here for a free download of “The Galway Rambler” or to purchase Classic Celtic Music

Few genres carry such a rich and deep history as Celtic music, which reflects centuries of culture of the British Isles and Ireland as well as their North American inheritors. Compiled by music historian and folklorist Richard Carlin, Classic Celtic Music delves into this diverse world of musical traditions, and is sure to delight both longtime fans of the genre and newcomers alike.

Carlin’s 23 selections span a wide spectrum of sounds from the Celtic regions, contrasting better-known early recordings with some of the best contemporary interpreters. Styles ranging from Sligo fiddle tunes to Northumbrian piping to sean-nós singing are represented in this enjoyable introduction to the Celtic music riches of the Smithsonian Folkways archives.

Some of the selections, like Margaret Dirrane’s “’Twas Early, Early in the Spring” and Joe Heaney’s “The Rocks of Bawn,” date to the mid-1950’s, while others were recorded in the latter part of the 20th century. The tracklist includes a hearty sample of field recordings as well as a previously unissued tune, “Derry Hornpipe, recorded at the 1983 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, ‘Classic Celtic Music’ explores the breadth and depth of a genre while the liner notes offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released critically acclaimed “Classic” compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others.

Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways

February 13, 2013

Sneak Preview: Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda

Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda, available April 9 on Smithsonian Folkways (pre-order here), aims to overcome religious conflict and bring peace through song.  Written and performed by coffee farmers of the Peace Kawomera (Delicious Peace) Fair Trade cooperative in Mbale, Uganda, the album features uplifting, multi-lingual songs that teach cooperation through music.

Listen to a sneak preview of Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda

Jewish Ugandan coffee farmer and musician J. J. Keki founded Peace Kawomera after witnessing the attacks of September 11, 2001 firsthand during a trip to New York City.  Deeply moved, he felt compelled to bring different religions together in peace.  When Keki returned to Uganda, he walked from village to village, enlisting Jewish, Christian and Muslim farmers to join his Fair Trade cooperative. Today, over 1,000 farmers have joined Peace Kawomera.

Click to watch videoWatch J.J. Keki explain the inspiration for Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda

GRAMMY-nominated Tufts University professor and Rabbi Jeffrey A. Summit recorded the album in various Ugandan locales from muddy coffee fields to local synagogues. Village guitar groups and women’s choirs sing to stress the transformative impact of Fair Trade prices and to encourage their neighbors to join the coffee cooperative.  They are accompanied by traditional instruments, such as embaire (xylophone with wooden keys), ngoma (drum), akadongo (lamellaphone, often referred to as a thumb piano), endingidi (one-string fiddle), and nsasi (shaker).

The performers combine various Ugandan languages and musical styles, occasionally adding Swahili, Arabic, Hebrew, and English. The people of Peace Kawomera come together to sing of the benefits of interfaith cooperation and, through music, teach new members how to produce great coffee.

Click to watch video Watch the Akuseka Takuwa Kongo Group perform "Let All Religions Come Together"

Keki says: “Use whatever you have to create peace! If you have music, use your music to create peace...We are using coffee to bring peace to the world.”

Read the liner notes by Jeffrey A. Summit to learn more about the album

Royalties from the sale of this recording support education for the children of the Peace Kawomera cooperative. Summit previously produced the 2005 GRAMMY nominated album Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda for Smithsonian Folkways.

Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” coffee is available through the Thanksgiving Coffee Company in Fort Bragg, California, at www.mirembekawomera.com. This project was made possible through the gracious and generous support of the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Perry and Martin Granoff Family Foundation, and Tufts University.

** On April 9, digital downloads and on-demand CDs can be purchased directly from Smithsonian Folkways. Full-album purchases include complete, original liner notes, color photographs and song translations as .PDF files. **

Sneak Preview: elicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda

February 11, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways Earns Two GRAMMY Awards for Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection and Quetzal’s Imaginaries

Two Smithsonian Folkways albums won at the 55th GRAMMY awards on Sunday, February 10. Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection, an in-depth commemorative collection on one of American’s most treasured 20th-century icons, won for best Boxed or Limited Edition Package. East L.A. group Quetzal won for best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album with Imaginaries, part of the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series of Latin music.

Fritz Klaetke, art director for Woody at 100, accepted the award and said, "I really want to thank Woody, whose lyrics today are even more powerful than when they were written."

Quetzal singer Martha Gonzalez, said “thank you to our community of East L.A. artists and Chicano rock musicians that came before us, and those that will come after us, it’s a great honor for us.”

These are the seventh GRAMMY award for Smithsonian Folkways. Previously, Los Texmaniacs (2009) and Nati Cano's Mariachi Los Camperos (2008) earned awards as part of the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions Series. Overall, the series includes 38 albums and has earned three GRAMMY awards, a 2007 LATIN GRAMMY, and nine GRAMMY and LATIN GRAMMY award nominations. Smithsonian Folkways earned two GRAMMYs in 1997 for the Anthology of American Folk Music and one in 2005 for cELLAbration: A Tribute to Ella Jenkins.

Woody at 100 was also nominated, but did not win, for the best historical album category. Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie, by Elizabeth Mitchell, and Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition, by Stephen Wade, were also nominated in the best children’s album and best album notes categories respectively.

Overall, Smithsonian Folkways has 25 GRAMMY award nominations (including award winners) since 1997, including 19 nominations since 2004. In addition, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artists Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, and Doc Watson are GRAMMY Association Lifetime Achievement Awards winners, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings contributed to the 1998 GRAMMY-winning album Folkways—A Vision Shared: A Tribute To Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly and the 1993 GRAMMY-nominated album Roots of Rhythm and Blues: A Tribute to the Robert Johnson Era.

Click here for a list of awards and nominations earned by Smithsonian Folkways' artists.

Smithsonian Folkways receives five GRAMMY nominations

January 28, 2013

Now Available: Get Moving with Ella Jenkins

Ella Jenkins is a pioneering music educator and children’s entertainer who wears the title given her by many of her fans, “The First Lady of Children’s Music,” with tremendous energy. Now in her 9th decade, she is still going strong with her 33rd title on Smithsonian Folkways, Get Moving with Ella Jenkins, now available on CD or digital download.

Purchase Get Moving with Ella Jenkins

Get Moving with Ella Jenkins is a collection of 15 recordings, including three previously unreleased on CD, featuring Ella’s core principles: rhythmic movement, careful listening, singing, and improvisation. She has been instrumental in integrating these developmentally important skills into early childhood music education. For example, the activities featured in Get Moving with Ella Jenkins help children reach the 60 minutes of play recommended by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of the “Let’s Move!” program to prevent childhood obesity.

Get Moving features classics such as “London Bridge Is Falling Down” and “Who Fed the Chickens?” and counting games like “And One and Two” and “One Potato, Two Potato.”

Watch Ella perform “Who Fed the Chickens?” from ‘Ella Jenkins Live at the Smithsonian’ (DVD)

Chicago-based Ella Jenkins has received many awards over her long career, including a 2004 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2005 cELLAbration, an album of Ella’s songs performed by Sweet Honey In The Rock, Riders in the Sky, Tom Paxton, Cathy & Marcy, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin and others, won the 2005 GRAMMY for best children’s album. She was the first woman and first children’s musician to receive the ASCAP Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and in 2009 earned a United States Artists award. She is believed to be one of the first African American women to have a TV show, when in the 1950s she hosted “The Totem Club,” a weekly children’s program broadcast in Chicago. Her “Me Too Series” films were featured numerous times on “Sesame Street,” and she has also appeared on “Barney and Friends” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Her 1966 album You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song is the best-selling title in the history of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and is part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

Parenting magazine has said that Jenkins’ “simple but irresistible songs, poems, and mini-language lessons... reflect the beauty of diverse cultures.”

“Ella Jenkins is a constant source of inspiration and a bottomless well of songs, ideas, and spirit. She is by far the most worldly performer that children’s music has ever known.”—Dan Zanes

Get Moving with Ella Jenkins

January 15, 2013

Roberto Martínez (1929-2013): Appreciating a Musical Life

Roberto Martínez (1929-2013) was a prominent musician, composer, and standard bearer of northern New Mexican-southern Coloradan musical tradition. He was born in the heartland of New Mexico’s 400-year-old Hispanic community, in the village of Mora, and he lived most of his life in Albuquerque with his wife Ramona and his musically talented children. Roberto was the mainstay of the prominent New Mexican ensemble Los Reyes de Albuquerque, the founder of the regional record label Minority Owned Record Enterprises (M.O.R.E.), and the author of regionally prominent corridos (narrative ballads) that instilled cultural pride and the struggle for social justice.  He performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on several occasions, he toured nationally with the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and he received the National Endowment for the Arts’ prestigious National Heritage Fellowship. Today, the M.O.R.E. collection is part of the Smithsonian Folkways family of historic record labels, part of the national museum’s permanent holdings.

Read an appreciation of Roberto Martínez by Smithsonian Folkways Director and Curator Daniel Sheehy.

January 14, 2013

Sneak Preview: Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways (Available 2/26)

Few genres carry such a rich and deep history as Celtic music, which reflects centuries of culture of the British Isles and Ireland as well as their North American inheritors. On February 26, Smithsonian Folkways will release the 20th compilation in its Classic series, Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways. Compiled by music historian and folklorist Richard Carlin, Classic Celtic Music delves into this diverse world of musical traditions, and is sure to delight both longtime fans of the genre and newcomers alike.

Sneak Preview: Listen to three selections from Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways

Carlin’s 23 selections span a wide spectrum of sounds from the Celtic regions, contrasting better-known early recordings with some of the best contemporary interpreters. Styles ranging from Sligo fiddle tunes to Northumbrian piping to sean-nós singing are represented in this enjoyable introduction to the Celtic music riches of the Smithsonian Folkways archives.

Some of the selections, like Margaret Dirrane’s “’Twas Early, Early in the Spring” and Joe Heaney’s “The Rocks of Bawn,” date to the mid-1950s, while others were recorded in the latter part of the 20th century. The tracklist includes a hearty sample of field recordings as well as a previously unissued tune, “Derry Hornpipe, recorded at the 1983 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC.

As with every compilation in the Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, Classic Celtic Music explores the breadth and depth of a genre while the liner notes offer insight into the cultural and historical contexts of each selection. During the last 10 years, Smithsonian Folkways has released critically acclaimed “Classic” compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music, among others.

Tracklist:

1. Love at the Endings / John McGrath’s Reel
Kevin Burke 2:21
2. As I Roved Out Sarah Makem 0:54
3. Border Spirit Billy Pigg 1:20
4. ’Twas Early, Early in the Spring Margaret Dirrane 1:51
5. De’il Among the Tailors Bob Hobkirk 1:43
6. The Rocks of Bawn Joe Heaney 3:20
7. Whiskey Island Polka Pat O’Malley and Frank Keating 1:32
8. D-tigeas Ó Deabhasa (Children's Game Song) Sorcha Ní Ghuairim 1:03
9. Trip O’er the Mountain Willie Clancy 2:39
10. The Strayaway Child / The Lark in the Morning Michael Gorman and Margaret Barry 2:54
11. The Queen of May Shirley Collins 1:48
12. The Bonny Bunch of Roses Patrick Clancy 4:44
13. The Galway Rambler Tom Byrne 1:16
14. The Mountain Road Denis Murphy 1:03
15. Bushes and Briars Isla Cameron 2:14
16. Tifty’s Annie Lucy Stewart 4:34
17. The Pearl Wedding / Nancy Taylor's Reel
Willie Taylor 2:38
18. Derry Hornpipe Joe Shannon and John McGreevy 4:23
19. With My Pit Boots On Louis Killen 1:46
20. The Young Sailor Cut Down in His Prime Harry Cox 1:54
21. Bonnie Kate /Jenny’s Chickens Jean Carignan 3:05
22. Glenlogie Ewan MacColl 5:12
23. Martin Wynne’s Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 Brian Conway, Pat Mangan, Felix Dolan 4:43 

Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways

December 6, 2012

Smithsonian Folkways receives five GRAMMY nominations: Woody Guthrie (2), Elizabeth Mitchell, Quetzal, and Stephen Wade

Smithsonian Folkways artists received five nominations for the 55th GRAMMY Awards! The winners will be announced by The Recording Academy on February 10, 2013. Click here for the complete list of nominees.

Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection, an in-depth boxed set released in honor of the influential folk singer/songwriter’s 100th birthday, earned two nominations. Guthrie also inspired Elizabeth Mitchell’s album Little Seed: Songs for Children By Woody Guthrie, which was nominated for Best Children’s Album. Imaginaries, recorded by East L.A.-based Quetzal as part of the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series of Latin American music, earned a nod for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album. Stephen Wade was nominated in the Best Album Notes category for his extensively researched essay accompanying Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition.

The nominations for Woody at 100 bring Woody Guthrie’s lifetime count to five, in addition to his 1998 GRAMMY Hall of Fame induction and his 2000 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award.  These are the first nominations for Elizabeth Mitchell, Quetzal, and Stephen Wade. The five nominations tie the previous high for Smithsonian Folkways (2005), and the nonprofit label now has 25 lifetime nominations.

Nomination List:

Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package:
Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection
Fritz Klaetke, art director (Woody Guthrie)

Best Historical Album:
Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection
Jeff Place & Robert Santelli, compilation producers; Pete Reiniger, mastering engineer (Woody Guthrie)

Best Children's Album:
Little Seed: Songs For Children By Woody Guthrie
Elizabeth Mitchell

Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album:
Imaginaries
Quetzal

Best Album Notes:
Banjo Diary: Lessons From Tradition
Stephen Wade, album notes writer (Stephen Wade)

Smithsonian Folkways receives five GRAMMY nominations

December 6, 2012

Sneak Preview: Ella Jenkins gets kids hopping, skipping, jumping and singing on Get Moving with Ella Jenkins (out Jan. 29)

Ella Jenkins is a pioneering music educator and children’s entertainer who wears the title given her by many of her fans, “The First Lady of Children’s Music,” with tremendous energy. Now in her 9th decade, she is still going strong with her 33rd title on Smithsonian Folkways, Get Moving with Ella Jenkins, available January 29, 2013.

Get Moving with Ella Jenkins is a collection of 15 recordings, including three previously unreleased on CD, featuring Ella’s core principles: rhythmic movement, careful listening, singing, and improvisation. She has been instrumental in integrating these developmentally important skills into early childhood music education. For example, the activities featured in Get Moving with Ella Jenkins help children reach the 60 minutes of play recommended by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of the “Let’s Move!” program to prevent childhood obesity.

Get Moving features classics such as “London Bridge Is Falling Down” and “Who Fed the Chickens?” and counting games like “And One and Two” and “One Potato, Two Potato.”

Listen to a sneak preview of ‘Get Moving with Ella Jenkins’

Watch Ella perform “Who Fed the Chickens?” from ‘Ella Jenkins Live at the Smithsonian’ (DVD)

Chicago-based Ella Jenkins has received many awards over her long career, including a2004GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2005, cELLAbration, an album of Ella’s songs performed by Sweet Honey In The Rock, Riders in the Sky, Tom Paxton, Cathy & Marcy, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin and others, won the 2005GRAMMY for best children’s album. She was the first woman and first children’s musician to receive theASCAP Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and in 2009 earned aUnited States Artists award. She is believed to be one of the first African American women to have a TV show, when in the 1950s she hosted “The Totem Club,” a weekly children’s program broadcast in Chicago. Her “Me Too Series” films were featured numerous times on “Sesame Street,” and she has also appeared on “Barney and Friends” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Her 1966 album You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song is the best-selling title in the history of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and is part of theLibrary of Congress National Recording Registry.

Parenting magazine has said that Jenkins’ “simple but irresistible songs, poems, and mini-language lessons... reflect the beauty of diverse cultures.”

“Ella Jenkins is a constant source of inspiration and a bottomless well of songs, ideas, and spirit. She is by far the most worldly performer that children’s music has ever known.”-- Dan Zanes

Get Moving with Ella Jenkins

December 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, Moses Asch!

Sunday, December 2, 2012 would have been the 107th birthday of Folkways Records founder Moses “Moe” Asch, who released 2,168 albums on the label (an average of one per week!)

Get a quick glimpse into Moe’s philosophy by watching the trailer for Worlds of Sound: The Ballad of Folkways.

Moses Asch

December 3, 2012

Free Holiday Shipping Through December 14

Thanks for making this another GREAT year for Smithsonian Folkways. Purchases of recordings and merchandise support our nonprofit mission.

Free Holiday Shipping!
All retail orders of $50 or more will automatically qualify forfree standard U.S. Postal Service shipping (U.S. only) through December 14.

Gift Certificates Available!

Give an electronic gift certificate from $10 to $250.

Free Holiday Shipping Through December 14

November 13, 2012

Flaco Jimenez and Max Baca (Los Texmaniacs)
to Release New Album in 2013

GRAMMY-winning conjunto musicians Flaco Jimenez and Max Baca of Los Texmaniacs have recorded and will release an album of duets on Smithsonian Folkways in 2013 (specific release date to be determined). The currently untitled release features two songs—“Cada vez que cae la tarde” and “Margarita, Margarita”—from their recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Both musicians have garnered praise for expanding the conjunto tradition to include influences from country and western, jazz, and rock. Jimenez received a 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowship and has performed with diverse musicians such as Bob Dylan, Dr. John, and Ry Cooder.  Baca’s Smithsonian Folkways album with Los Texmaniacs, Borders y Bailes, won the 2010 GRAMMY Award for best Tejano recording. The group’s second Smithsonian Folkways album, Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds, was released earlier this year.

Flaco Jimenez

October 22, 2012

Now Available: Blue Clouds by Elizabeth Mitchell
and You Are My Flower

Over the course of six beautiful albums in nearly 15 years, Elizabeth Mitchell has invited listeners to join her, husband Daniel Littleton, their daughter Storey, and other friends and relatives to become part of an extended musical family. On Blue Clouds, she raises her special kind of family-centric music to new heights by bringing clarity and beauty to a surprising range of songs.

Click here to purchase and get a free download of the title track “Blue Clouds”

Breathing contemporary heart into traditional folk songs, and transforming classic rock songs by David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, and others into folk songs, Mitchell continues to grow that family of listeners with each album and concert. And while the family has grown, with well over 100,000 of her records bringing comfort and joy,Blue Clouds still makes Mitchell’s audience feel like they are part of a small picnic jam session with her and her band You Are My Flower.

The recordings on Blue Clouds are illuminated by elegant and simple arrangements, with acoustic guitars, harmoniums, banjos, pianos, fiddles, glockenspiels, and gentle drums and bass creating a soulful atmosphere for Mitchell’s clear and loving voice. The songs range from new compositions (“Rollin’ Baby,” “Arm in Arm”) to traditional tunes (“Hop Up, My Ladies,” “Froggie Went a-Courtin’”), to several unexpected covers. Mitchell looks to her childhood memories of 1970s radio on road trips in the family station wagon, and the resulting versions of “Kooks” by David Bowie, “May This Be Love” by Jimi Hendrix, “Blue Sky” by The Allman Brothers Band, “Everyone” by Van Morrison, and “I Wish You Well” by Bill Withers display Mitchell’s care in presenting popular material in a family music context.

Further influence came from renowned children’s illustrator/writer Remy Charlip (1929-2012), whose 1969 book Arm in Arm provided artwork for the album package and lyrics for the song of the same title. Charlip also helped inspire the 2007 Caldecott Medal-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret (adapted for the Academy Award-winning film Hugo), written and illustrated by Brian Selznick (who also contributes to the liner notes in Blue Clouds). Selznick writes: “You listen to [Mitchell’s] voice and instantly feel like her friend.... The songs on this album seem like a patchwork of memories we’ve always shared.”

On an album full of moving performances, perhaps the most beautiful is “Circle of the Sun,” recorded in honor of Storey’s cousin, Destry, who tragically died at just four years old. “Blue Clouds,” the title track, was written by Daniel Littleton as a lullaby for Storey when she was only three and is a fitting way to close this loving collection.

Upcoming tour includes New York City (2 shows), Olivebridge, NY, Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, Portland, ME, and Atlanta, GA (2 shows).

For complete tour dates visit Elizabeth Mitchell’s official website: http://youaremyflower.org

Blue Clouds

September 11, 2012

Now Available: Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition
by Stephen Wade

Stephen Wade’s new album Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition, coinciding with the publication of his new book, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience (University of Illinois Press), is now available for purchase from folkways.si.edu in CD and digital download formats.

Purchase or Hear Selections from Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition

Innovative and often surprising,Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition explores knowledge older musicians have bequeathed to younger players. Inspired by past banjo masters of frailing and of two- and three-finger styles, Stephen Wade, accompanied by Mike Craver, Russ Hooper, Danny Knicely, James Leva, and Zan McLeod, mines new creative possibilities with pump organ, piano, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, Dobro, washboard, rhumba box, and bass. From ragtime to reels, lyric songs to mountain blues, from Irish American to African American, across moods spanning brooding to jubilant, sentimental to stark, the banjo and its many voices finds new vibrancy on these recordings.

The album emerges from decades of personal contact, of skills and repertories passed along by living example. For Stephen Wade, a musician who writes about music,Banjo Diary takes its inspiration from the earlier field recordings that form the core of The Beautiful Music All Around Us. “Find the people who know how to play this music,” his teacher instructed him years ago. Urged to explore this creativity in its home environments,Banjo Diary chronicles eighteen of those experiences in sound and accompanying notes and booklet photographs.

Called in 1979 “a wondrous artist” by Time magazine for his landmark stage show Banjo Dancing, Stephen Wade has continued on as a documentarian, recording artist, radio essayist, and scholar. Prospecting for American folklore wherever it thrives, his last project for Smithsonian Folkways involved one such find: multi-instrumentalist Hobart Smith. That work resulted in Wade’s critically acclaimed In Sacred Trust: The 1963 Fleming Brown Tapes (2005). Now,Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition extends its underlying message, telling of “an education written indelibly in a musician’s heart.”

For information about the book The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience, including an extensive events schedule, please click here.

Stephen Wade
Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition

August 30, 2012

Sneak Preview: Blue Clouds by Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower (available October 22)

Over the course of six beautiful albums in nearly 15 years, Elizabeth Mitchell has invited listeners to join her, husband Daniel Littleton, their daughter Storey, and other friends and relatives to become part of an extended musical family. On Blue Clouds (out October 23), she raises her special kind of family-centric music to new heights by bringing clarity and beauty to a surprising range of songs.

Sneak Preview – Listen to Selections from Blue Clouds

Breathing contemporary heart into traditional folk songs, and transforming classic rock songs by David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, and others into folk songs, Mitchell continues to grow that family of listeners with each album and concert. And while the family has grown, with well over 100,000 of her records bringing comfort and joy,Blue Clouds still makes Mitchell’s audience feel like they are part of a small picnic jam session with her and her band You Are My Flower.

The recordings on Blue Clouds are illuminated by elegant and simple arrangements, with acoustic guitars, harmoniums, banjos, pianos, fiddles, glockenspiels, and gentle drums and bass creating a soulful atmosphere for Mitchell’s clear and loving voice. The songs range from new compositions (“Rollin’ Baby,” “Arm in Arm”) to traditional tunes (“Hop Up, My Ladies,” “Froggie Went a-Courtin’”), to several unexpected covers. Mitchell looks to her childhood memories of 1970s radio on road trips in the family station wagon, and the resulting versions of “Kooks” by David Bowie, “May This Be Love” by Jimi Hendrix, “Blue Sky” by The Allman Brothers Band, “Everyone” by Van Morrison, and “I Wish You Well” by Bill Withers display Mitchell’s care in presenting popular material in a family music context.

Further influence came from renowned children’s illustrator/writer Remy Charlip (1929-2012), whose 1969 book Arm in Arm provided artwork for the album package and lyrics for the song of the same title. Charlip also helped inspire the 2007 Caldecott Medal-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret (adapted for the Academy Award-winning film Hugo), written and illustrated by Brian Selznick (who also contributes to the liner notes in Blue Clouds). Selznick writes: “You listen to [Mitchell’s] voice and instantly feel like her friend…. The songs on this album seem like a patchwork of memories we’ve always shared.”

On an album full of moving performances, perhaps the most beautiful is “Circle of the Sun,” recorded in honor of Storey’s cousin, Destry, who tragically died at just four years old. “Blue Clouds,” the title track, was written by Daniel Littleton as a lullaby for Storey when she was only three and is a fitting way to close this loving collection.

Upcoming tour includes New York City (2 shows), Olivebridge, NY, Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, Portland, ME, and Atlanta, GA (2 shows).

For complete tour dates visit Elizabeth Mitchell’s official website: http://youaremyflower.org

Blue Clouds

August 30, 2012

Ralph Rinzler to Be Inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame

Ralph Rinzler, co-founder of the Festival of American Folklife, now the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, will be inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards Show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Thursday, September 27, 2012.

In 1976, Rinzler became director of the Smithsonian Office of Folklife Programs, now the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, where he continued to pursue the vision of Secretary of the Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley to “take the instruments out of their cases and let them sing.” The Smithsonian Institution named the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections in his honor in 1998. He was a positive risk-taker who engaged and included diverse cultural points of views and aspirations in his approach to public programming. He championed cultural diversity employment in Smithsonian curatorial and administrative decision-making, which has had an impact on cultural policy across the Smithsonian.

Rinzler is recognized for his groundbreaking work with famous musicians for Folkways Records, and he played with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Mary Travers; was David Grisman’s first teacher; helped Doc Watson tour nationally; and managed Bill Monroe. Rinzler was a member of the legendary Greenbriar Boys, played on recordings with Clarence Ashley and Joan Baez, and won a GRAMMY award for his work on Folkways, A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly. Later, Rinzler planned the acquisition of Folkways Records by the Smithsonian; and he subsequently produced Smithsonian Folkways albums on Clarence Ashley, Doc Watson, and Bill Monroe. The Ralph Rinzler Collection in the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s archives includes his field recordings that have been used to create a number of releases on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

The International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame is an institution devoted to the recognition of noteworthy individuals for outstanding contributions to bluegrass music, and is located in the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Read Ralph Rinzler’s biography.

Click here for more information on the International Bluegrass Music Association and Hall of Fame.

August 8, 2012

New Release: The Dust Busters Make Old-Time New on Old Man Below

Old Man Below is a collaboration between Brooklyn, New York-based folk trio The Dust Busters and their mentor, folk music legend John Cohen of The New Lost City Ramblers.

The 20-song collection features old-time American folk, jug band blues, fiddle tunes, and ballads passed down through earlier generations of folk musicians and learned from 1920s and ’30s recordings. John Cohen has helped guide The Dust Busters (all in their 20s) since the group formed in 2008 and began visiting Cohen’s home in Putnam Valley, New York, to jam, cook, and soak up as much of the music and its history as possible.

“The Dust Busters start where the New Lost City Ramblers left off, evoking the golden age of the 1920s and 1930s.” – John Cohen

“The words and music in these songs reveal human stories that anyone can relate to.”
–The Dust Busters’ Eli Smith

Listen to a sneak preview of Old Man Below

Watch a performance of “Two Soldiers” live from the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn, NY

Upcoming Tour Dates:

Thursday, September 6 at the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn, New York (Album Release Concert w/ John Cohen) (http://www.jalopy.biz/)

Saturday, September 22 at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York (Woody Guthrie tribute w/ John Cohen, Arlo Guthrie, Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Judy Collins, and many more) (http://www.woody100.com/concerts.htm)

About the Dust Busters
Originally hailing from New York City, Minnesota, and Seattle respectively, Eli Smith, Walker Shepard, and Craig Judelman met while performing with Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders (an influential ’60s-era New York City folk group) and formed The Dust Busters soon after. On ‘Old Man Below,’ the group’s third album following two self-released efforts, the musicians share lead vocals and a wide variety of instruments: fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin harmonica, pump organ, piano, “manjo,” “bantar,” jew’s harp, and fiddle sticks. The Dust Busters honor the sound and spirit of past generations of folk musicians by putting the music in a modern context.

The Dust Busters have appeared at numerous festivals and gatherings such as the Clifftop Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia; the Dock Boggs Festival in Norton, VA; the Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina; South by Southwest in Austin; and the Brooklyn Folk Festival in Brooklyn, NY. They have also appeared at venues including Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn; and the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, and have been guests on and the Wood Songs Old Time Radio Hour and Sound Check with John Schaefer (WNYC 93.9 FM).

In addition to performing with The Dust Busters, Eli Smith produces two New York City folk festivals annually (the Brooklyn Folk Festival in the spring and Washington Square Park Folk Festival in the fall) and is the host of the Down Home Radio Show, “a hardcore, unreconstructed, paleo-acoustic folk music podcast.”

About John Cohen
John Cohen, widely heralded as a master of American folk music, is primarily known as a founding member of The New Lost City Ramblers, one of the most important groups of the folk music revival that recorded dozens of albums for Folkways Records. In this role he is handing his expertise down to The Dust Busters and a brand new generation of old-time music enthusiasts.

Also a renowned photographer, filmmaker, and music collector, he was the subject of The Smithsonian Network’s recent documentary film, “Play On, John: A Life in Music.”

For more information please visit: http://thedustbusters.blogspot.com/

Old Man Below

August 6, 2012

Sneak Preview: Banjo Diary: Lessons From Tradition by Stephen Wade (available September 11)

On September 11, 2012, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will release Stephen Wade’s Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition. Its release coincides with the publication of his new book, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience (University of Illinois Press).

Sneak Preview – Listen to Selections from Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition:

Innovative and often surprising,Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition explores knowledge older musicians have bequeathed to younger players. Inspired by past banjo masters of frailing and of two- and three-finger styles, Stephen Wade, accompanied by Mike Craver, Russ Hooper, Danny Knicely, James Leva, and Zan McLeod, mines new creative possibilities with pump organ, piano, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, Dobro, washboard, rhumba box, and bass. From ragtime to reels, lyric songs to mountain blues, from Irish American to African American, across moods spanning brooding to jubilant, sentimental to stark, the banjo and its many voices finds new vibrancy on these recordings.

The album emerges from decades of personal contact, of skills and repertories passed along by living example. For Stephen Wade, a musician who writes about music,Banjo Diary takes its inspiration from the earlier field recordings that form the core of The Beautiful Music All Around Us. “Find the people who know how to play this music,” his teacher instructed him years ago. Urged to explore this creativity in its home environments,Banjo Diary chronicles eighteen of those experiences in sound and accompanying notes and booklet photographs.

Called in 1979 “a wondrous artist” by Time magazine for his landmark stage show Banjo Dancing, Stephen Wade has continued on as a documentarian, recording artist, radio essayist, and scholar. Prospecting for American folklore wherever it thrives, his last project for Smithsonian Folkways involved one such find: multi-instrumentalist Hobart Smith. That work resulted in Wade’s critically acclaimed In Sacred Trust: The 1963 Fleming Brown Tapes (2005).   Now,Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition extends its underlying message, telling of “an education written indelibly in a musician’s heart.”

For information about The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience (book), including an extensive events schedule starting in August, please visit: http://www.press.uillinois.edu/wordpress/?p=9518

Stephen Wade
Banjo Diary: Lessons From Tradition

July 27, 2012

Now Available: Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds by Los Texmaniacs

Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds, the new album from GRAMMY-Award winning conjunto group Los Texmaniacs, is now available from Smithsonian Folkways. The 18-song collection features a blend of polka, boleros, ballads, and Western swing, drawing from the rich tradition of Tex-Mex culture and signaling a new social relevance and creative expansion. This is their second album with Smithsonian Folkways following the GRAMMY-winning Borders y Bailes in 2009, and features renowned Western swing singer Ray Benson and fiddle player Jason Roberts from the group Asleep at the Wheel, as well as GRAMMY-winning fiddler Bobby Flores.

Free download of “Ana Mía (My Ana)”

Watch a video of “Por una mujer casada”

Purchase CDs or digital downloads

Max Baca, a virtuoso of the bajo sexto (a type of 12-string guitar), formed Los Texmaniacs in 1997 after his decade-long career with popular and innovative group the Texas Tornados. The San Antonio-based quartet Los Texmaniacs have performed for US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia/Kosovo, and have also played in China, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, acting as ambassadors of conjunto music and Texas culture worldwide. They also performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on three occasions.

GRAMMY Award-winning and highly respected artist Flaco Jiménez said of the group: “I think Max [Baca] is the top dog on the bajo sexto… and [Los Texmaniacs accordionist] David Farías is a superb player. We’re all on the same page. They’re a real tight band, man.”

Today’s social relevance of conjunto music came from its embrace of the button accordion–driven Tejano sound, adopted by the Chicano civil-rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s as a symbol of Mexican-American collective identity. The music that began as a localized social dance music at the turn of the 20th century became a means of social and cultural resistance to discriminatory practices and a cultural symbol for building a united community across regional divides among Mexican Americans. Conjunto music became part of the soundtrack to the struggle for farmworkers’ rights, opposition to the Vietnam War, and protests of urban Brown Berets. On June 22, Los Texmaniacs and special guest Mingo Saldívar will open for Kris Kristofferson at the United Farm Workers’ 50th anniversary celebration in San Jose, CA.
Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds is the 38th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

Now Available: Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds by Los Texmaniacs

July 9, 2012

Now Available: Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie

Elizabeth Mitchell's Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie, featuring re-imagined renditions of 13 kid-friendly Guthrie classics, is now available to purchase in CD or digital download format.

The only CD of Guthrie’s children’s songs coinciding with the Woody Guthrie Centennial, Little Seed pays tribute to the legendary songwriter's uncanny ability to inhabit both the perspective of a loving, protective parent and the voice of a freewheeling child. The album includes thoughtful versions of children’s songs “Riding in My Car,” “Grassy Grass Grass,” and “Bling Blang.” Mitchell also shares her version of “This Land Is Your Land,” Guthrie’s signature song that many people consider a second national anthem.

As always, she is joined on the recording by family (husband Daniel Littleton and daughter Storey) and friends, including Amy Helm, daughter of the late Levon Helm, pillars of the American acoustic music scene Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and Ruthy Ungar of Mike and Ruthy and formerly of the Mammals.

"Woody Guthrie’s songs for children are a gift to all of us. They are a part of me, part of my family," says Mitchell. "Thank you, Woody, for giving us this beautiful experience and so many others like it. We can feel this profound musical joy anytime, anywhere, with you in our spirits and your songs in our hearts."

Little Seed is her third Smithsonian Folkways album, following You Are My Little Bird (2006) and Sunny Day (2010), and features eight newly recorded tracks and five previously issued favorites.

Click here to purchase Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie

Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie

July 5, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Woody Guthrie!

July 14, 2012 would have been the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie, and in honor of the Woody Guthrie Centennial, Smithsonian Folkways presents an in-depth commemorative collection of songs, photos and essays on one of America’s most treasured 20th-century icons. Available July 10, Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection is a 150-page large-format book containing three CDs with 57 tracks, including Woody’s most important recordings such as the complete version of "This Land Is Your Land," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "Pastures of Plenty," "Hard Travelin’," "Jesus Christ," "I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore," and "Riding in My Car." The set also contains 21 previously unreleased performances and six never-before-heard original songs, including Woody’s first known — and recently discovered — recordings from 1939.

Click here to order or watch a mini-documentary video about the making of Woody at 100

Happy 100th Birthday Woody Guthrie!

June 22, 2012

Sneak Preview: Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds by Los Texmaniacs (available July 31)

On July 31, Smithsonian Folkways will release GRAMMY-Award winning conjunto group Los Texmaniacs' Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds. The 18-song album features a blend of polka, boleros, ballads, and Western swing, drawing from the rich tradition of Tex-Mex culture and signaling a new social relevance and creative expansion. This is their second album with Smithsonian Folkways following the GRAMMY-winning Borders y Bailes in 2009, and features renowned Western swing singer Ray Benson and fiddle player Jason Roberts from the group Asleep at the Wheel, as well as GRAMMY-winning fiddler Bobby Flores.

Listen to "Ay te dejo en San Antonio" and “Waltz Across Texas”.

Watch a video of “Por una mujer casada”.

Max Baca, a virtuoso of the bajo sexto (a type of 12-string guitar), formed Los Texmaniacs in 1997 after his decade-long career with popular and innovative group the Texas Tornados.  The San Antonio-based quartet Los Texmaniacs have performed for US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia/Kosovo, and have also played in China, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, acting as ambassadors of conjunto music and Texas culture worldwide. They also performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on three occasions.

GRAMMY Award-winning and highly respected artist Flaco Jiménez said of the group: “I think Max [Baca] is the top dog on the bajo sexto… and [Los Texmaniacs accordionist] David Farías is a superb player.  We’re all on the same page.  They’re a real tight band, man.” 

Today’s social relevance of conjunto music came from its embrace of the button accordion–driven Tejano sound, adopted by the Chicano civil-rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s as a symbol of Mexican-American collective identity. The music that began as a localized social dance music at the turn of the 20th century became a means of social and cultural resistance to discriminatory practices and a cultural symbol for building a united community across regional divides among Mexican Americans. Conjunto music became part of the soundtrack to the struggle for farmworkers’ rights, opposition to the Vietnam War, and protests of urban Brown Berets. On June 22, Los Texmaniacs and special guest Mingo Saldívar will open for Kris Kristofferson at the United Farm Workers’ 50th anniversary celebration in San Jose, CA.

Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds is the 38th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

Sneak Preview: <i>Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds</i> by Los Texmaniacs (available July 31)

June 19, 2012

Now Available: ¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music by La Sardina de Naiguatá

¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music by the group La Sardina de Naiguatá (The Sardine of Naiguatá) is the newest release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series of Latin American recordings. The album is the definitive statement from this pioneering 13-piece band led by visionary Ricardo Díaz. Díaz has pursued a 27-year quest to fuse traditional Venezuelan parranda music with more diverse and progressive instrumentation and has revolutionized and reinvigorated the genre.

Watch a mini-documentary on La Sardina de Naiguatá

Free download: "Volveré (I Will Return)"

Venezuela's Caribbean coastal town of Naiguatá is home to one of that country's most celebrated Carnival musical traditions. In the 1970's, Díaz augmented the local legacy of Afro-Caribbean drumming traditions with brass, electric bass, keyboard, and women's chorus to create La Sardina de Naiguatá, the musical group that drives the town's annual cycle of public celebrations, including Carnival, Corpus Christi, and St. John the Baptist. ¡Parranda! brings us the contemporary, joyous sounds of the pre-Christian rite of "burying the sardine" to promote an abundant harvest of fish and crops. More information

Now Available: ¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music by La Sardina de Naiguatá

June 14, 2012

Sneak Preview: Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie sung by Elizabeth Mitchell

On July 10, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will release Elizabeth Mitchell's Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie, featuring re-imagined renditions of 13 kid-friendly Guthrie classics.

The only CD of Guthrie’s children’s songs coinciding with the Woody Guthrie Centennial, Little Seed pays tribute to the legendary songwriter's uncanny ability to inhabit both the perspective of a loving, protective parent and the voice of a freewheeling child. The album includes thoughtful versions of children’s songs “Riding in My Car,” “Grassy Grass Grass,” and “Bling Blang.” Mitchell also shares her version of “This Land Is Your Land,” Guthrie’s signature song that many people consider a second national anthem.

Sneak Preview: Listen to “This Land Is Your Land” and “Bling Blang”

As always, she is joined on the recording by family (husband Daniel Littleton and daughter Storey) and friends, including Amy Helm, daughter of the late Levon Helm, pillars of the American acoustic music scene Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and Ruthy Ungar of Mike and Ruthy and formerly of the Mammals.

"Woody Guthrie’s songs for children are a gift to all of us. They are a part of me, part of my family," says Mitchell. "Thank you, Woody, for giving us this beautiful experience and so many others like it. We can feel this profound musical joy anytime, anywhere, with you in our spirits and your songs in our hearts."

Little Seed is her third Smithsonian Folkways album, following You Are My Little Bird (2006) and Sunny Day (2010), and features eight newly recorded tracks and five previously issued favorites. This summer’s tour dates include the Clearwater Festival in Croton-on-Hudson, NY, on June 17, the Wolf Trap Theatre near Washington, DC, on July 5–7, and the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, RI, on July 28–29 (hosting the kids’ tent).

TRACK LIST:

1. Riding in My Car
2. Bling Blang*
3. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8*
4. Why, Oh Why *
5. Sleep Eye *
6. Who’s My Pretty Baby?
7. Rattle My Rattle*
8. This Land Is Your Land*
9. Merry-Go-Round*
10. One Day Old
11. Little Sugar
12. Grassy Grass Grass
13. Little Seed*

*Previously Unreleased

Sneak Preview: <i>Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie</i> sung by Elizabeth Mitchell

May 30, 2012

Smithsonian Folkways remembers Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson (1923-2012)

Smithsonian Folkways remembers influential and inspirational folk singer and guitarist Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson (1923-2012), who passed away yesterday. Watson, who was first-recorded in the 1960s by the late Smithsonian Folklife director Ralph Rinzler, recorded four albums in the Smithsonian Folkways collection and appears on many compilations.

More information:
Smithsonian Folkways Discography
Hour-long “Sound Sessions” Podcast about Doc Watson
Video of “Deep River Blues”

Smithsonian Folkways remembers Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson (1923-2012)

May 29, 2012

Now Available: Music of Central Asia Vol. 10: Borderlands:
Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route

Smithsonian Folkways and the Aga Khan Music Initiative celebrate the tenth and final release of their award-winning "Music of Central Asia" series with the release of a groundbreaking CD/DVD set entitled Borderlands: Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route. Click here to purchase.

Watch a mini-documentary about the making of Borderlands (CFV10392)

Free Download: “Shadiana (Celebration)

Wu Man, an internationally renowned virtuoso of the pipa (a pear-shaped, short-necked lute dating back to the 7th century), and Central Asian master musicians embark on an unprecedented collaboration between Chinese classical, Uyghur, and Tajik tradition bearers.
The group explores the music from the Chinese borderlands of the Silk Route, a four thousand mile passage that for two millennia has connected regions stretching north and west from the Great Wall of China to the Mediterranean Sea.

Joining the Chinese-born, U.S.-based Wu Man are Abduvali Abdurashidov (sato-tanbur) and Sirojiddin Juraev (dutar) from Tajikistan, Ma Ersa (vocals) from the Gansu province of China, and Abdulla Majnun (diltar, dutar, tambur), Hesenjan Tursun (satar), Sanubar Tursun (dutar), and Yasin Yaqup (dap) from Xinjiang, the Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. These musicians represent cultures of the Silk Route through traditional performances, with music played on the pipa for the first time in over eight hundred years.

"The collaborations made my musical fantasy come true," says Wu Man. “I often imagined what it would be like if the pipa were mixed with instruments such as satar, tambur anddutar.”

The results—newly arranged traditional songs and original improvisations - make for an extraordinary listening experience, blending sounds from historically kindred musical worlds. The CD/DVD package includes a documentary film about the region, musicians, and recording process as well as an instrument glossary and detailed liner notes.

Born in China, Wu Man was trained at Beijing's Central Conservatory and has lived in the US since 1990. Her groundbreaking musical work with the pipa has led to starring roles in pieces by contemporary composers such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison and Evan Ziporyn performed by the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles.

Learn more about the Music of Central Asia Series
Watch an informational video on the Aga Khan Trust For Culture and Music Initiative
Learn more about Wu Man

Now Available: Music of Central Asia Vol. 10: Borderlands

May 24, 2012

Smithsonian Folkways nominated for an A2IM “Libbie” award

Smithsonian Folkways is a finalist for the inaugural Libera Awards for best record label with six or more employees. The award ceremony for the “Libbies”, hosted by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), will be June 21 in New York City and will “honor growing support and market share for independent artists and record labels.” The other nominees are Century Media Records, Concord
Music Group, Epitaph/Anti- Records, Glassnote Records, Jagjaguwar, and Sub Pop records. For more information please visit the American Association of Independent Music.

Smithsonian Folkways nominated for an A2IM “Libbie” award

May 17, 2012

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Spring 2012 - The Cover Art of Folkways

The Spring 2012 edition of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine delves into the “the look of the listen,” the album cover artwork that is a vital part of the collection.

Cover Story: The Look of the Listen: The Cover art of Folkways Records (a New Virtual Exhibition)

Artist Spotlight: Transparency as Authenticity? Ronald Clyne and his Folkways Cover Art

Archive Spotlight: Covering the Revolution: Paredon Records Album Art

Tools for Teaching: “The Look of the Listen” Lesson Plan

Video Spotlight: Elizabeth Cotten performs “Freight Train”

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine is the free, quarterly, online multimedia publication of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. To receive each edition via email, subscribe to our email newsletter on the left-side of the page or click here

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Spring 2012 - The Cover Art of Folkways

May 14, 2012

Smithsonian Folkways Wins Three Independent Music Awards

For the fourth consecutive year, Smithsonian Folkways won multiple Independent Music Awards as selected by a panel of judges.

In total, fifteen Smithsonian Folkways projects were selected as finalists for the 11th Independent Music Awards. Finalists are also eligible for the Vox Populi awards as determined by fan voting and voting is open until midnight Friday, July 20th. Click here to submit your votes! Here is the complete list of Smithsonian Folkways finalists:

Independent Music Awards

May 7, 2012

Sneak Preview: ¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music

Smithsonian Folkways will release ¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music by the group La Sardina de Naiguatá (The Sardine of Naiguatá) on June 19.  The collection, part of the Tradiciones/Traditions series, is the definitive statement from this pioneering 13-piece band led by visionary Ricardo Díaz. Díaz has pursued a 27-year quest to fuse traditional Venezuelan parranda music with more diverse and progressive instrumentation and has revolutionized and reinvigorated the genre.

Listen to a sneak preview of ¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music

Watch a mini-documentary on La Sardina de Naiguatá

Venezuela’s Caribbean coastal town of Naiguatá is home to one of that country’s most celebrated Carnival musical traditions. In the 1970’s, Díaz augmented the local legacy of Afro-Caribbean drumming traditions with brass, electric bass, keyboard, and women’s chorus to create La Sardina de Naiguatá, the musical group that drives the town’s annual cycle of public celebrations, including Carnival, Corpus Christi, and St. John the Baptist. ¡Parranda! brings us the contemporary, joyous sounds of the pre-Christian rite of “burying the sardine” to promote an abundant harvest of fish and crops.

¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music

April 25, 2012

Pre-Order: Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection

In honor of the Woody Guthrie Centennial, a year-long celebration of Woody’s 100th birthday, Smithsonian Folkways presents an in-depth commemorative collection of songs, photos and essays on one of America’s most treasured 20th-century icons.

Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection is a 150-page large-format book containing three CDs with 57 tracks, including Woody’s most important recordings such as the complete version of "This Land Is Your Land," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "Pastures of Plenty," "Hard Travelin’," "Jesus Christ," "I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore," and "Riding in My Car." The set also contains 21 previously unreleased performances and six never-before-heard original songs, including Woody’s first known — and recently discovered — recordings from 1939.

Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection will be available in stores on July 10, 2012, but you can pre-order a special package, including an instant album download, limited-edition poster, and T-shirt.

Click here to pre-order or to listen to a sneak-preview stream including the unreleased song "Big City Ways"

Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection

April 23, 2012

Now Available: Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours

Jazz icon Louis Armstrong, always the consummate entertainer, turned a 1971 award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington DC into an impromptu performance despite recent poor health. It was one of his last concerts before he passed away 5 months later. Joined by longtime band-mates Tyree Glenn and Tommy Gwaltney, Armstrong shows no signs of frailty while singing, and to everyone’s surprise, playing trumpet on classics including "Mack the Knife" and "Hello Dolly."

Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours is now available digitally for the first time and as on-demand CDs (with digital liner notes). Click here to purchase.

The recording, originally a limited vinyl release by the National Press Club in 1972, is being reissued as part of the Smithsonian’s celebration of the 11th annual Jazz Appreciation Month. Armstrong often signed letters "Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours," which makes for an apt title for the recording especially since his favorite recipes — everything from Louisiana Caviar to the Sazerac — are included in the liner notes, as they were in the original pressing.

The second half of the album finds Tyree Glenn and his band back at the National Press Club paying tribute to Louis shortly after his passing. Smithsonian Folkways will make the album available digitally (stream and download) for the first time while offering physical versions in print as on-demand CDs (with digital liner notes) available from folkways.si.edu.

The release will be commemorated with a ceremony and concert on Friday, April 27th, at the National Press Club. The event will begin at 1:00 p.m. and will consist of a press conference featuring officials from Smithsonian Folkways, the National Press Club, and the Louis Armstrong Foundation and a discussion with Q&A with musical experts. A reception will follow with the album played in its entirety.

Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours

April 23, 2012

Sneak Preview: Music of Central Asia Vol.10: Borderlands by Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route

On May 29, Smithsonian Folkways and the Aga Khan Music Initiative will celebrate the tenth and final release of their award-winning "Music of Central Asia" series, a groundbreaking CD/DVD set entitledBorderlands: Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route.

Sneak preview:
Listen to “Shadiana (Celebration)

Wu Man, an internationally renowned virtuoso of the pipa (a pear-shaped, short-necked lute dating back to the 7th century), and Central Asian master musicians embark on an unprecedented collaboration between Chinese classical, Uyghur, and Tajik tradition bearers.

The group explores the music from the Chinese borderlands of the Silk Route, a four thousand mile passage that for two millennia has connected regions stretching north and west from the Great Wall of China to the Mediterranean Sea.

Joining the Chinese-born, U.S.-based Wu Man are Abduvali Abdurashidov (sato-tanbur) and Sirojiddin Juraev (dutar) from Tajikistan, Ma Ersa (vocals) from the Gansu province of China, and Abdulla Majnun (diltar, dutar, tambur), Hesenjan Tursun (satar), Sanubar Tursun (dutar), and Yasin Yaqup (dap) from Xinjiang, the Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. These musicians represent cultures of the Silk Route through traditional performances, with music played on the pipa for the first time in over eight hundred years.

"The collaborations made my musical fantasy come true," says Wu Man. “I often imagined what it would be like if the pipa were mixed with instruments such as satar, tambur and dutar.”

The results - newly arranged traditional songs and original improvisations - make for an extraordinary listening experience, blending sounds from historically kindred musical worlds. The CD/DVD package includes a documentary film about the region, musicians, and recording process as well as an instrument glossary and detailed liner notes.

Born in China, Wu Man was trained at Beijing's Central Conservatory and has lived in the US since 1990. Her groundbreaking musical work with the pipa has led to starring roles in pieces by contemporary composers such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison and Evan Ziporyn performed by the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles.

Learn more about the Music of Central Asia Series

Watch an informational video on the Aga Khan Trust For Culture and Music Initiative

Learn more about Wu Man

Music of Central Asia Vol.10: Borderlands by Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route

April 17, 2012

New Release: Pete Seeger: The Complete Bowdoin College Concert, 1960

Pete Seeger: The Complete Bowdoin College Concert, 1960, recorded when Seeger was blacklisted from TV, radio, and most concert venues, is now available as a 2-CD set or digital download. Click here to order and get a free download of the classic "Penny's Farm".

This pristine live recording, featuring rousing performances and insightful commentary, is the first-ever complete release of one of his "community concerts" which were often unannounced and frequently protested.

Pete Seeger: The Complete Bowdoin College Concert, 1960

March 29, 2012

Sneak Preview: Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours

Jazz icon Louis Armstrong, always the consummate entertainer, turned a 1971 award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington DC into an impromptu performance despite recent poor health. It was one of his last concerts before he passed away 5 months later. Joined by longtime band-mates Tyree Glenn and Tommy Gwaltney, Armstrong shows no signs of frailty while singing, and to everyone’s surprise, playing trumpet on classics including "Mack the Knife" and "Hello Dolly."

Listen to “Hello Dolly”

The recording, originally a limited vinyl release by the National Press Club in 1972, will be available widely for the first time via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings on April 24th as part of the Smithsonian’s celebration of the 11th annual Jazz Appreciation Month. Armstrong often signed letters "Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours," which makes for an apt title for the recording especially since his favorite recipes — everything from Louisiana Caviar to the Sazerac — are included in the liner notes, as they were in the original pressing.

The second half of the album finds Tyree Glenn and his band back at the National Press Club paying tribute to Louis shortly after his passing. Smithsonian Folkways will make the album available digitally (stream and download) for the first time while offering physical versions in print as on-demand CDs (with digital liner notes) available from folkways.si.edu.

The release will be commemorated with a ceremony and concert on Friday, April 27th, at the National Press Club. The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. and will consist of a press conference featuring officials from Smithsonian Folkways, the National Press Club, and the Louis Armstrong Foundation and a discussion with Q&A with musical experts. A reception will follow with the album played in its entirety.

Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours

March 26, 2012

Now Available: Romancing the Past by Los Tres Reyes, "The Last of the Great Trios"

The romantic trio's signature sound is characterized by three suave male voices, backed by two, and sometimes three, guitars, singing romance-drenched lyrics in lush, three-part harmony. The style rocketed to pan-Latin popularity in the late 1940s and 1950s, and Trio Los Tres Reyes is the last of the big-name Mexican trios to continue performing with the majority of its original members.

"The trío romántico is synonymous with intimacy" - lead singer Bebo Cárdenas

Romancing the Past is a brand-new recording of Los Tres Reyes classics , such as "ódiame", and new additions to the repertoire, such as "El Lunar de María".

Romancing the Past is the 36th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

Click here to watch videos of the recording process and purchase a CD or digital download.

Romancing the Past

March 15, 2012

Smithsonian Folkways Earns 14 Independent Music Award Nominations

Smithsonian Folkways albums and songs were selected as finalists in 14 categories for the 11th Independent Music Awards. Finalists are also eligible for the Vox Populi awards as determined by fan voting and voting is open through July 20, 2012. Click here to submit your votes. Here is the complete list of Smithsonian Folkways Album/Song Finalists:

Independent Music Awards

March 6, 2012

Sneak Preview: Pete Seeger: The Complete Bowdoin College Concert, 1960

On April 17, Smithsonian Folkways will release Pete Seeger: The Complete Bowdoin College Concert, 1960, recorded when Seeger was blacklisted from TV, radio, and most concert venues. This pristine live recording, featuring rousing performances and insightful commentary, will be the first-ever complete release of one of his "community concerts" which were often unannounced and frequently protested.

Listen to “Penny’s Farm”

Pete Seeger: The Complete Bowdoin College Concert, 1960

February 28, 2012

New Release: Imaginaries by East L.A.'s Quetzal Now Available

The music of Quetzal is at once visceral and intellectual. It makes you move, it makes you sing, and it makes you think. Sometimes thought of as a rock band, its members draw from a much larger web of musical, cultural, and social engagement.

On Imaginaries, the group's first Smithsonian Folkways album and 5th overall, they creatively combine shades of East L.A.'s soundscape, traditional son jarocho of Veracruz, salsa, R&B, and more to express the political and social struggle for self-determination and self-representation, which ultimately is a struggle for dignity.

Get a Free Download of "Imaginaries" .

Imaginaries is the 35th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center. Quetzal will be performing in L.A. on March 2, at Fais Do Do. Visit www.quetzaleastla.com for all upcoming concerts.

Quetzal - Imaginaries

February 9, 2012

"Last of the Great Romantic Trios" Los Tres Reyes Keep Mexican Musical Golden Era Alive With Romancing The Past, Available March 27

The romantic trio's signature sound is characterized by three suave male voices, backed by two or three guitars, singing romance-drenched lyrics in lush, three-part harmony. The style rocketed to pan-Latin popularity in the late 1940s and 1950s, and Trio Los Tres Reyes is the last of the big-name Mexican trios to continue performing with the majority of its original members.

"The trío romántico is synonymous with intimacy" - lead singer Bebo Cárdenas

Romancing the Past is a brand-new recording of Los Tres Reyes classics , such as "ódiame", and new additions to the repertoire, such as "El Lunar de María".

Listen to the playful "El Lunar de María (Maria’s Mole)" and a re-recording of "ódiame (Hate Me)", the groups’ signature song.

Romancing the Past is the 36th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

Los Tres Reyes - Romancing the Past

February 2, 2012

Los Gauchos de Roldán Album Release Party at Embassy of Uruguay in Washington DC, February 23

On Thursday, February 23, from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM, Smithsonian Folkways celebrates its new album release, Los Gauchos de Roldán: Button Accordion and Bandoneón Music from Northern Uruguay together with the Uruguay Cultural Foundation for the Arts at the Embassy of Uruguay located at 1913 I (Eye) St. NW in Washington DC.

The event is free to the public and those interested in attending are asked to RSVP via email to cultural@uruwashi.org.

A group led by button accordionist José Curbelo, protégé of Uruguayan accordion master Walter Roldán (who is featured on the new album) will perform music from the album. Curbelo, an International Affairs student at The George Washington University and well-versed in this traditional style of Uruguayan dance music, is also the co-producer of the album. A short Smithsonian Folkways-produced documentary film on the making of the album will be presented, followed by a reception with light refreshments, raffle for Smithsonian Folkways prizes, and sale of CDs.

This Smithsonian Folkways album was also supported by Uruguay’s Fondo Nacional de Música (FONAM), and the Comisión del Bicentenario Uruguay. The Ministerio de Educación y Cultura of Uruguay has also declared the project of Cultural Interest.

Los Gauchos de Roldán: Button Accordion and Bandoneón Music from Northern Uruguay

January 31, 2012

New Release: Los Gauchos de Roldán: Button Accordion and Bandoneón Music from Northern Uruguay Now Available

Accordions and guitars have enlivened the social life of cattle-herding gaucho families of northern Uruguay since the mid 1800s. On Los Gauchos de Roldán, regional musical icon Walter Roldán pumps out time-honored polcas and chotis, Brazilian-tinged maxixas, and more on his button accordion as Chichí Vidiella adds the lush color of the bandoneón.

Bernardo Sanguinetti's guitar and Richardo Cunha's percussive, deep-pitched guitarrón immerse the melodies in a rich nest of rhythms and harmonies, which formerly-exiled singer-songwriter Numa Moraes treats us to five gems of his repertoire.

FREE DOWNLOAD
Please enjoy a free download of “Como mi suegra (Like My Mother-in-Law) - milonga”

Como mi suegra (Like My Mother-in-Law) - milongaMP3 FLAC

RELATED VIDEO
“Los Gauchos de Roldán” Share Down-Home Dance Music Tradition from Uruguay

RELATED FEATURE
Artist Spotlight - Los Gauchos de Roldán

Click here to purchase CDs or downloads

Los Gauchos de Roldán: Button Accordion and Bandoneón Music from Northern Uruguay

December 14, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways Will Release Imaginaries by Supercharged East LA Group Quetzal on February 28

Inspired by traditional son jarocho music of Veracruz, Mexico, and spiked with urban rhythms, rock and R&B, East LA Chicano group Quetzal will release Imaginaries, its 5th album and 1st for Smithsonian Folkways, on Feb. 28, 2012.

Listen to the title-track, "Imaginaries"

Quetzal, called "provocative, heartfelt and strikingly original" by the LA Times and founded by guitarist Quetzal Flores, rose from the ashes of uprisings in LA in 1992 as a vehicle for social commentary and activism

Imaginaries is the 35th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA. Quetzal will be performing in LA on January 6 @ Fais Do Do. West Coast tour dates for spring will be announced soon.

Quetzal

December 2, 2011

Happy Holidays and Free Shipping from Smithsonian Folkways

Enjoy the singing traditions of Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays with Songs to Make Winter Bright, a soundscape feature from Smithsonian Folkways.

Also consider supporting our nonprofit mission by purchasing a CD or download - all orders greater than $50 automatically qualify forfree standard shipping (U.S. only) until December 16th.

Christmas Songs of Portugal

December 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Moe! We dusted off your microphone...and it still works!

Friday, December 2, 2011, would have been the 106th birthday of Folkways Records founder Moses Asch, who released 2,168 albums on the label during his life (an average of one per week!).

Smithsonian Folkways sound production supervisor Pete Reiniger recently dusted off one of Moe’s studio microphones, a Western Electric "Birdcage" model (available from 1938 to 1949) that was likely used on many of the recordings in the small, one-room Folkways Records studio. We’re pleased to say that not only does it still work, but it sounds great!

Click here to listen to the poem "Yaku Taki", recorded with the Western Electric microphone!

One-Day Discount! Save 20% off retail price on any order from folkways.si.edu. Enter code Happy106Moe until December 2, 2011 only.

Moses Asch

December 1, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Fall 2011 - Dispatches from Latin America

The Fall 2011 edition of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine explores contemporary expressions of traditional music from Latin America:

  • Cover Story: What Makes a Good Smithsonian Folkways Recording? The Sound and Story of the Salvadoran Chanchona

  • Artist Spotlight: Los Gauchos de Roldán: Button Accordion and Bandoneón Music from Northern Uruguay

  • From the Field: The long, winding, and confusingly numbered road to La India Canela’s house

  • Tools for Teaching: Ritmo Embolada: An Introduction to Brazilian Rhythm

  • Video Spotlight: Colombian group Cimarrón pushes the frontiers of traditional música llanera

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine is the free, quarterly, online multimedia publication of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. To receive each edition via email, subscribe to our email newsletter on the left-side of the page or click here.

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Fall 2011 - Dispatches from Latin America

December 1, 2011

Anthology of American Folk Music Selected for GRAMMY Hall of Fame

The Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith and released in 1952 by Folkways Records, is one of twenty-five recordings in the class of 2012 inductions in the GRAMMY Hall of Fame. It is the second recording from the Smithsonian Folkways catalog in the GRAMMY Hall of Fame, joining "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie (originally released as a single on Asch Records in 1947).

Released at a time when the commercial recording industry had largely congealed into a few relatively homogeneous mass markets, the Anthology successfully answered a widespread need for fresh inspiration, aesthetic authority, and uncommon artistry in popular music. For more than half a century, the Anthology has profoundly influenced fans, ethnomusicologists, music historians, and cultural critics; it has inspired generations of popular musicians, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Jerry Garcia. It played a seminal role in the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, which has had lasting political, economic, and aesthetic impact on American culture. Many of the songs included in the Anthology have now become classics.

The Anthology of American Folk Music was commercially unavailable for many years before a 1997 CD reissue by Smithsonian Folkways that earned two GRAMMY awards.

For more information, please visit www.grammy.org.

Anthology of American Folk Music

October 26, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways to ReleaseLos Gauchos de Roldán: Button Accordion and Bandoneón Music from Northern Uruguay on January 31, 2012

On January 31st, 2012, Smithsonian Folkways shines a spotlight on the South American country of Uruguay with Los Gauchos de Roldán's new self-titled album. Though perhaps better known for its standout performance in the 2010 soccer World Cup, the small nation situated between Argentina and Brazil now shares its much-loved, yet little-known, down-home rural dance music.

Listen to "Como mí suegra" (Like My Mother-in-Law)

Watch a mini-documentary about Los Gauchos de Roldán

Accomplished accordionist Walter Roldán leads a group of masters of the traditional guitar and bandoneón in interpreting dance songs inherited from his father and grandmother. A diversity of rhythms - Brazilian maxixa, Uruguayan-style polca, and Afro-Creole milonga - bittersweet minor keys, and a "rustic tango" sensibility reflect the unique multi-cultural mix of the gaucho ranching homelands of northern Uruguay.

"We kept up the struggle not to forget that the two-row button accordion is part of our roots," says Roldán. "The majority of our grandparents and their relatives met at dances where the two-row button accordion was played. Then they fell in love and got married. That’s the way it was, and we keep up the fight."

Los Gauchos de Roldán

October 18, 2011

New Original Family Music From Chip Taylor & The Grandkids - Golden Kids Rules Now Available

When renowned musician and songwriter Chip Taylor ("Wild Thing" and "Angel of the Morning") became a grandfather, he directed his creative energy to writing new songs with and for his grandkids. Golden Kids Rules, available now Smithsonian Folkways, melds the husky, time-worn vocals and the musical instincts of a seasoned performer with the charming artistry of his three young grandchildren. The album overflows with love of family and the musical bonds that hold them together.

Watch Chip Taylor & The Grandkids discuss the making of the album

Download the song "Golden Kids Rules" free!

Chip Taylor and the Grandkids

October 17, 2011

Take a Behind the Scenes Tour of Smithsonian Folkways With Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead

Ever want to know what the Smithsonian Folkways offices look like? Or maybe meet some of the people that work to keep the non-profit mission going?

Click here to take a tour in style, with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead as your guide!

The Mickey Hart Collection from Smithsonian Folkways, a diverse, 25-album series, is now available for purchase as digital downloads for the first time as well as on-demand CDs.

Click here for more information and to download a free 10-song sampler for a limited time!

The Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead) Collection from Smithsonian Folkways

October 7, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways Presents The Mickey Hart Collection

The Mickey Hart Collection from Smithsonian Folkways, a diverse, 25-album series, is now available for purchase as digital downloads for the first time as well as on-demand CDs.

Click here for more information and to download a free 10-song sampler for a limited time!

The collection preserves and furthers the Grateful Dead percussionist’s endeavor to cross borders and expand musical horizons. The albums draw from "The World," a series Hart curated that incorporated his solo projects, other artists’ productions, and re-releases of out-of-print titles. Six of the twenty-five albums form the "Endangered Music Project," a collaboration between Mickey Hart and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which presents recordings from musical traditions at risk.

The Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead) Collection from Smithsonian Folkways

September 29, 2011

Music of Central Asia Series Wins 2011 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award

Congratulations to Professor Theodore Levin, who has won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his liner notes to volumes 7, 8 and 9 of the Music of Central Asia series, a co-production of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and the Aga Khan Music Initiative. The ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards honor outstanding print, broadcast and new media coverage of music.

"The story of the modern renaissance of Central Asian music is a compelling one, and Ted Levin tells it well," said Smithsonian Folkways Director Daniel Sheehy. "He is an authoritative, engaging writer, and his work nicely complements the extraordinary music and musicians he describes."

Each album in the award-winning series features full-color booklets with extensive liner notes, an instrument glossary, and a DVD with a documentary film about the music and performers. Borderlands, the 10th and final volume of the series scheduled for release in 2012, features pipa virtuoso Wu Man and master musicians from the Silk Route.

Music of Central Asia Vol. 7: In the Shrine of the Heart: Popular Classics from Bukhara and Beyond
Music of Central Asia Vol. 8: Rainbow Kronos Quartet with Alim & Fargana Qasimov and Homayun Sakhi
Music of Central Asia Vol. 9: In the Footsteps of Babur: Musical Encounters from the Lands of the Mughals

September 20, 2011

Four Smithsonian Folkways Collaborators Earn NEA National Heritage Fellowship Awards

Of the nine recipients of the 2011 NEA National Heritage Fellowships, four have been collaborators with Smithsonian Folkways.

They are folkloristJim Griffith, Hawaiian slack key guitarist Ledward Kaapana, Piedmont songster Warner Williams, and Bulgarian saxophonist Yuri Yunakov. The National Endowment for the Arts recognizes these artists for their significant contributions to the preservation of American folk cultures.

Jim Griffith is the recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellowship for his life-long work and research on the traditions of US-Mexican border cultures. He produced the 2002 album Heroes and Horses: Corridos from the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands.

A specialist of the Hawaiian ukulele and the slack key guitar, Ledward Kaapana has been performing solo and in groups for over 40 years. He performs on the albums Musics of Hawai’i and Folk Masters: Great Performances Recorded Live at the Barns of Wolf Trap.

Maryland guitarist and songster Warner Williams is being honored for his creative achievements to the Piedmont blues, which incorporates, among other genres, fiddle tunes, ragtime, and gospel. He the 2004 Smithsonian Folkways album Blues Highway with long-time partner Jay Summerour.

Saxaphonist Yuri Yunakov performs Bulgarian Roma music and is featured on the 2001 album New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs.

Heroes and Horses: Corridos from the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands
Musics of Hawai'i
Blues Highway
New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs

September 13, 2011

¡Soy Salvadoreño! Now Available

¡Soy Salvadoreño! Chanchona Music from Eastern El Salvador

August 18, 2011

David "Honeyboy" Edwards (1915-2011)

Smithsonian Folkways remembers award-winning blues legend David "Honeyboy" Edwards (1915-2011), who passed away August 29. His music embodied the continuity from blues’ Delta roots to electric Chicago blues. Honeyboy's string-snapping guitar riffs and soulful voice harkened back to his friends and teachers Charley Patton, Big Joe Williams, Tommy Johnson, and Robert Johnson, who first forged the blues in Delta jooks and at country suppers during the Depression.

Listen to "Big Fat Mama" from his 2001 Smithsonian Folkways album Mississippi Delta Bluesman.


Honeyboy Edwards: Mississippi Delta Bluesman

August 18, 2011

Four Smithsonian Folkways Albums Win Fan-Voted Independent Music Awards!

In addition to the official awards determined by a panel of judges, the Independent Music Awards conducts the "Vox Pop Awards" as voted by fans. Four Smithsonian Folkways albums won 2011 Vox Pop Awards, in addition to four judged awards. Here are the 2011 IMA Vox Pop winners:

Music Video, Long Form
Merchandise Design
Independent Music Awards

August 8, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways to ReleaseGolden Kids Rules by Chip Taylor & the Grandkids on October 18

When renowned musician and songwriter Chip Taylor ("Wild Thing" and "Angel of the Morning") became a grandfather, he directed his creative energy to writing new songs with and for his grandkids.Golden Kids Rules, available October 18 from Smithsonian Folkways, melds the husky, time-worn vocals and the musical instincts of a seasoned performer with the charming artistry of his three young grandchildren. The album overflows with love of family and the musical bonds that hold them together.

Listen to the song "Golden Kids Rules"

Chip Taylor and the Grandkids

August 8, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways to Release¡Soy Salvadoreño! Chanchona Music from Eastern El Salvador by Los Hermanos Lovo on September 13

On September 13, two days before Salvadoran independence day, Smithsonian Folkways will release¡Soy Salvadoreño!, an album of chanchona music by the El Salvadoran expatriate family-band Los Hermanos Lovo. The collection, comprised of Salvadoran standards, borrowed songs from other genres, and two original compositions, stands as a true representation of the musical style that's become synonymous with the group’s homeland.

Listen to "Las Tres Fronteras"


¡Soy Salvadoreño! is the 33rd release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.

Los Hermanos Lovo feature dual-violin melodies and dance-inducing cumbia rhythms. Listeners will also hear the signature lobo ("wolf") howls and dance to the fast-paced merengue rhythms.

Los Hermanos Lovo

August 8, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Summer 2011 - Music From Afghanistan

The Summer 2011 edition of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine examines the music from Afghanistan and aims to increase our understanding about the culture of a land that in these times is featured daily in our print and broadcast media

Also featured:

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine is the free, quarterly, online multimedia publication of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Summer 2011

July 19, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways to ReleaseThe Mickey Hart Collection on October 11

On October 11, 2011, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will releaseThe Mickey Hart Collection to preserve and further the Grateful Dead percussionist’s endeavor to cross borders and expand musical horizons. Smithsonian Folkways will make many of Mickey Hart’s music projects available digitally (stream and download) for the first time while keeping physical versions in print as on-demand CDs.

Click here to listen to 25 tracks (one from each album in the initial collection).

The Mickey Hart Collection begins with 25 albums drawn from "The World," a series Hart curated that incorporated his solo projects, other artists’ productions, and re-releases of out-of-print titles. Six of the twenty-five albums form the "Endangered Music Project," a collaboration between Mickey Hart and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which presents recordings from musical traditions at risk. Both "The World" and "The Endangered Music Project" were previously distributed by Rykodisc from 1988 to 2002.

The Mickey Hart Collection offers a wide variety of music from virtually every corner of the globe, recorded in a diverse range of locations from the Nubian Desert to the Papua New Guinea rainforest.

"Music is our talking book, our portal to the spirit world. I hope you will enjoy these audio snapshots of my musical journey," Hart says. "It's an honor to have my recordings at Smithsonian Folkways alongside the greatest songcatchers of our time."

For more information aboutThe Mickey Hart Collection, including the complete list of recordings and audio samples, please visit mickeyhart.net/thecollection

June 27, 2011

¡Cimarrón! Joropo Music from the Plains of Colombia Now Available - Free Download!

¡Cimarrón! Joropo Music from the Plains of Colombia, the new "full-throttle" album by the GRAMMY-nominated ensemble Grupo Cimarrón, is now available on CD and Download from folkways.si.edu.

Click here to download "Cimarroneando"

The ensemble is known for their explosive música llanera (plains music) and fast-paced, triple-meter joropo, some of the most exciting music of Latin America. Through their powerful, moody, and unbridled sound, they live up to the meaning of their name Cimarrón: "wild bull".

Free Concert on the National Mall in Washington, DC - Saturday, July 2, 6pm Grupo Cimarrón will make its third Smithsonian Folklife Festival appearance, performing the powerful, unbridled music.

Cimarrón

June 22, 2011

Are You Smarter Than a Curator?

Smithsonian Folkways director Daniel Sheehy challenges you to theFolklife Edition of the "Are You Smarter Than a Curator?" quiz!

This free, five-question quiz will challenge your knowledge of culture and music, and for every question you get right,10 cents will be donated to Smithsonian Folkways. Plus, U.S. residents will receive a FREE STICKER for taking the quiz.

"Are You Smarter Than a Curator?" is an ongoing initiative to help inform the public about the Smithsonian's mission and work. The nonprofit mission of Smithsonian Folkway is to support cultural diversity and understanding through sound recordings.

Please share this with your friends and support our mission 10 cents at a time!

Are You Smarter Than a Curator?
Are You Smarter Than a Curator?

May 25, 2011

New Album Grupo Cimarrón Coming July 26

¡Cimarrón! Joropo Music from the Plains of Colombia, the new "full-throttle" album by the GRAMMY-nominated ensemble Grupo Cimarrón, will be in stores July 26. The album will be available for advance purchase at the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (see below) and via folkways.si.edu in June. This is the group's second release for Smithsonian Folkways

Listen to "Cimarroneando"


The ensemble is known for their explosive música llanera (plains music) and fast-paced, triple-meter joropo, some of the most exciting music of Latin America. Through their powerful, moody, and unbridled sound, they live up to the meaning of their name Cimarrón: "wild bull".

Free Concert on the National Mall in Washington, DC - Saturday, July 2, 6pm Grupo Cimarrón will make its third Smithsonian Folklife Festival appearance, performing the powerful, unbridled music.

Cimarrón

May 23, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Spring 2011 - Asian American Music

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and the Spring 2011 edition of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine takes a deeper look at the influential 1973 album A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America.

The album, recorded by three young activists in New York City, reflects the experiences of the first generation to identify with the term and concept “Asian American” – a pan-ethnic association formulated upon a shared history of discrimination. Read more...

Also featured:

  • Recording Spotlight: Dan Milner discussed the process of recording 19th-century ballads heard on the new album Civil War Naval Songs
  • Archive Spotlight: Watch newly digitized footage of pioneering woman of bluegrass Hazel Dickens (1935-2011) performing at the 1978 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
  • Tools for Teaching: Learn and teach about jazz with a new interactive education website
  • Video Spotlight: An introduction to jazz music with music curator John Edward Hasse

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine is the free, quarterly, online multimedia publication of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Spring 2011

May 23, 2011

Three Free Folkways Evening Concerts!

The 45th Smithsonian Folklife Festival, a free event on the National Mall held June 30 - July 4 and July 7-11 in Washington D.C., features programs on Colombia, The Peace Corps, and Rhythm & Blues.

There will be three free evening concerts featuring Smithsonian Folkways artists as part of the 2011 Festival:

  • Saturday, July 2, 6pm Cimarrón will make its third Festival appearance, performing the powerful, unbridled music from the upcoming album ¡Cimarrón! Joropo Music from the Plains of Colombia (available by June 28 at folkways.si.edu).


  • Saturday, July 9, 6pm – Ayombe will perform songs from the award-winning album ¡Ayombe! The Heart of Colombia's Música Vallenata.


  • Saturday, July 9, 6pm – 2011 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert featuring Elizabeth Mitchell, Suni Paz, and Chip Taylor and the Grandkids

    This evening of family-friendly music is a tribute to Kate Rinzler. Elizabeth Mitchell recorded two acclaimed albums for Smithsonian Folkways and will make her Festival debut with Suni Paz, singing songs in English and Spanish. Chip Taylor and the Grandkids performs songs from the upcoming album Golden Kids Rules.


2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

April 13, 2011

Learn about Jazz With New Educational Website

April is the 10th anniversary of Jazz Appreciation Month, and Smithsonian Folkways is joining in the celebration with the Smithsonian Folkways Jazz Education Website.

The Smithsonian Folkways Jazz Education Website is a new online exhibition that serves as a perfect introduction to jazz music at home or in the classroom, featuring:

  • Interactive music mixer

  • Multi-media history of jazz timeline

  • Interactive jazz map

  • Jazz discussion board
Jazz Education Web Site

April 5, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways remembers singer-songwriter Harley Allen (1956-2011)

Smithsonian Folkways remembers country and bluegrass singer-songwriter Harley Allen (1956-2011). Allen recorded several albums with his brothers in the 1970's and 80's as "The Allen Brothers", and also recorded with his father, bluegrass legend, Harley "Red" Allen. He also released a number of solo albums for Folkways Records, including Across the Blueridge Mountains and Suzanne with Mike Lilly.

Known more recently for his songwriting, Allen's compositions were recorded by popular singers Alan Jackson, John Michael Montgomery, Blake Shelton, and Gary Allan. In 2002, he won two GRAMMY awards for backing-vocals on "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow", from the soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

Harley Allen

April 5, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways Now Accepts PayPal

We are pleased to announce that Smithsonian Folkways now accepts PayPal as an alternative payment method.

The next time you’re browsing our collection of recordings from around the world you'll enjoy the option of paying with the safety and convenience of your PayPal account.

Acceptance Mark

April 5, 2011

Two Collections of Civil War Songs Now Available

Two new collections of Civil War Songs, released to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, are now availble: A Treasury of Civil War Songs by Tom Glazer and Civil War Naval Song by Dan Milner with guests. One song from each album is available as a free download for a limited time!

Reissued for the first time since its 1973 release, A Treasury of Civil War Songs revisits 25 of the Civil War’s most enduring folk songs, including "John Brown’s Body" and "The Battle Cry of Freedom" along with lesser known material that truly helps to embrace the spirit and travail of the times.

Conceived, researched, produced and performed by renowned folk singer Dan Milner, Civil War Navy Songs is a newly recorded collection of 12 period wartime ballads and hymns. Each performance on the record is done using instruments from the era to help preserve the songs’ integrity and tone—with Milner trading off vocal duties with David Coffin and Jeff Davis as the immigrant, the Yankee and the rebel, respectively. The battles touched on here included Mobile Bay, Hampton Roads and the sinking of the Alabama.

Click here to listen to an hour-long playlist of more Civil War-era songs and sounds from Smithsonian Folkways.

Civil War Naval Songs
A Treasury of Civil War Songs

April 1, 2011

Four Smithsonian Folkways Albums Win Independent Music Awards

For the third consecutive year, Smithsonian Folkways has won multiple Independent Music Awards as selected by a panel of judges.

Music of Central Asia Vol. 9: In the Footsteps of Babur: Musical Encounters from the Lands of the Mughals, an album from the leading exponents of Central Asia's rich and diverse musical heritage, earned the award for "Best Word Traditional Song".

Music of Central Asia Vol. 8: Rainbow - A bold collaboration between America's premier new music quartet, Azerbaijan's best-loved traditional singer and Afghanistan's leading rubab player, earned the award for "Best Music Video, Long Form".

Rising Sun Melodies, by Ola Belle Reed, earned the "Best Reissue Album", and Classic Appalachian Blues, a distinctive regional blend of European and African styles and sounds born at the cultural crossroads of railroad camps, mines, and rural settlements, earned the "Best Album Compilation" award.

In total, eighteen Smithsonian Folkways projects were selected as finalists for the 10th Independent Music Awards. Finalists are also eligible for the Vox Populi awards as determined by fan voting and voting is open through July 11th,2011. Click here to submit your votes. Here is the complete list of Smithsonian Folkways finalists:

Independent Music Awards

April 5, 2011

Music of Central Asia Vol. 8: Rainbow Nominated for 2011 Songlines Music Award

Music of Central Asia Vol. 8: Rainbow has been nominated as a finalist for a 2011 Songlines Music Award in the "cross-cultural collaboration category. The album features The Kronos Quartet from San Francisco with Alim & Fargana Qasimov from Azerbaijan and Homayun Sakhi from Afghanistan. Click here to hear an excerpt.

Music of Central Asia Vol. 8: Rainbow

March 29, 2011

JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology - In Stores Today

JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology

March 22, 2011

Smithsonian Marks 10th Anniversary of Jazz Appreciation Month

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will mark the 10th annual Jazz Appreciation Month in April with a monthlong celebration of jazz featuring performances, talks, tours and family-oriented events. This year’s programming will examine the legacies of women in jazz

Among the celebration events is the March 29th Smithsonian Folkways release of JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology, which features many legendary women including Mary Lou Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday among its 111-tracks of influential performances

Please visit smithsonianjazz.org for a complete list of programs and events, including performances by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

2011 Jazz Appreciation Month

March 16, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways remembers folk singer and promoter Jack Hardy (1947-2011)

Smithsonian Folkways remembers folk singer and promoter Jack Hardy (1947-2011), who co-founded Fast Folk Musical Magazine (now available via Smithsonian Folkways). Fast Folk supported new and emerging songwriters through a monthly magazine and record release. Hardy was also the founder of the Cornelia Street Songwriter Exchange in Greenwich Village. In addition, to his own excellent albums, Hardy was a mentor to such writers as Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, Steve Forbert, Shawn Colvin and Lucy Kaplansky. The Fast Folk collection, which includes 98 albums, was acquired by Smithsonian Folkways in 2000.

Fast Folk

March 14, 2011

Two Albums of Civil War Songs Available April 5th

On April 5, Smithsonian Folkways will release two albums to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War: A Treasury of Civil War Songs by Tom Glazer and Civil War Naval Song by Dan Milner with guests.

Reissued for the first time since its 1973 release, A Treasury of Civil War Songs revisits 25 of the Civil War’s most enduring folk songs, including "John Brown’s Body" and "The Battle Cry of Freedom" along with lesser known material that truly helps to embrace the spirit and travail of the times. Culled from both Confederate and Union sources, A Treasury of Civil War Songs is a vivid testament to America’s past as written by the men and women who lived it.

Listen to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"


Conceived, researched, produced and performed by renowned folk singer Dan Milner, Civil War Navy Songs is a newly recorded collection of 12 period wartime ballads and hymns. Each performance on the record is done using instruments from the era to help preserve the songs’ integrity and tone—with Milner trading off vocal duties with David Coffin and Jeff Davis as the immigrant, the Yankee and the rebel, respectively. The battles touched on here included Mobile Bay, Hampton Roads and the sinking of the Alabama. The record itself is a milestone and stands as the first ever dedicated to the Civil War at sea.

Listen to "The Monitor & Merrimac"


Civil War Naval Songs
A Treasury of Civil War Songs

March 8th, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways Earns 18 Independent Music Award Nominations

Eighteen Smithsonian Folkways albums and songs were selected as finalists for the 10th Independent Music Awards. Finalists are eligible for the Vox Populi awards as determined by fan voting and voting is open through July 11th,2011. Click here to submit your votes. The complete list of Smithsonian Folkways Album/Song Finalists:

Independent Music Awards

February 3, 2011

A Life of Song from Ella Jenkins Now Available, New Video

A Life of Song, the new album by Ella Jenkins, is now available on CD or digital download format. Also, Watch this new video entitled "We Love You Ella!"

In A Life of Song, Ella Jenkins, "The First Lady of Children’s Music," offers stories and songs that speak to her youthful years as an African American child in a multi-cultural world. Her career of more than a half century earned her the first Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY award for a children’s music artist, and her dozens of recordings teach us to learn from one another while taking pride in our own heritage. This African American Legacy recording of Ella singing with children from the Cool Classics after-school program spotlights her own heritage while showing her delight for the traditions of others.

Ella Jenkins - A Life of Song

January 25, 2011

Ella Jenkins to Receive Two Awards, Confirms Two Chicago Appearances

Ella Jenkins, the First Lady of Children's Music, will be honored with two upcoming awards. On February 26th, Ella will receive a "Living Legend Award" for her service to humantiy as part of a gala ceremony in Ashton, Md that is free and open to the public. Civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis and Frazier & Virginia Mathis from the aid organization Global Vessels will also be honored. For more information, please visit www.livinglegendsawards.org.

On April 1st, 2011, Urban Gateways will honor Ella as part of their 50th Anniversary Gala event in Chigago, Il. For more details, please visit www.urbangatweays.org.

Ella has also announced two upcoming Chicago-area concerts. On Sunday, February 6th, Ella will perform at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Click here for details. On Sunday, February 20th, Ella will perform at the Wonder Works Childrens Museum. Click here for details.

On February 22, the African American Legacy Series, a joint production of Smithsonian Folkways and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture will release A Life of Song from musician and educator Ella Jenkins, known as "The First Lady of Children's Music."

Ella Jenkins - A Life of Song

January 6, 2011

New Ella Jenkins Album A Life of Song Available February 22

On February 22, the African American Legacy Series, a joint production of Smithsonian Folkways and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture will release A Life of Song from musician and educator Ella Jenkins, known as "The First Lady of Children's Music."

On A Life of Song, her 29th release for Folkways since 1957, Jenkins offers stories and songs that speak to her years growing up as an African American child in multicultural Chicago. Children from Chicago's Donoghue Elementary and Horace Greeley Elementary schools join her in call-and-response singing on well-known songs including "Pick a Bale of Cotton" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," a world that in Jenkins' version includes Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Sacajawea, and John F. Kennedy. The album's 21 tracks also include songs from Ella's 1920s Chicago childhood such as "One Two Three O'Leary," which in this rendition is sung both in English and Spanish. 13 songs from 'A Life of Song' were recorded by Ella for the first time for this release.

The album is part of the 2011 Smithsonian celebration of Black History Month.

To learn more about Ella Jenkins, please listen to thisnew episode of Sound Sessions from Smithsonian Folkways featuring an hour-long interview with the legendary artist.

Ella Jenkins - A Life of Song

December 14, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways wins MITX Interactive Award

Smithsonian Folkways and Visual Dialogue recently won the 2010 Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) Interactive Award in the Nonprofit and Government category.

December 6, 2010

JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology - In Stores March 29, 2011, Pre-Order Available Now

JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology, the new 111-track, 6-CD, 200-page compendium of the great American musical invention, traces the turning points of this 20th-century tale through its legendary innovators and notable styles.

JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology will be available in stores March 29, 2011 but you can pre-order directly from Smithsonian Folkways, with an option to add an exclusive JAZZ poster and t-shirt. Click here to pre-order.

*Note: pre-orders will ship in March, 2011*

Take the Smithsonian Jazz Challenge!

Visit the popular quiz-site Sporcle.com to see how many songs from JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology you can recognize. There is a25-song version and the full111-song ultimate challenge.

JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology

December 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, Moe Asch! - Free Song Download

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 would have been the 105th birthday of Folkways Records founder Moses Asch, who released 2,168 albums on Folkways Records during his life (an average of one per week!).

Please join us in wishing Moe a happy birthday, and enjoy as our gift a free download of "Talkin’ Moe Asch’", written and performed by California-based "singer songfighter" Ross Altman.

One-Day Discount! Save 20% off retail price on any order from folkways.si.edu. Enter code Happy105Moe now until Thursday, December 2, 2010 only.

Moses Asch

November 30, 2010

Happy Holidays and Free Shipping from Smithsonian Folkways

Enjoy the singing traditions of Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays with Songs to Make Winter Bright, a soundscape feature from Smithsonian Folkways.

Also consider supporting our nonprofit mission by purchasing a CD or download - all orders greater than $50 automatically qualify forfree standard shipping (U.S. only) until December 16th.

Christmas Songs of Portugal

November 19, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #25 - Love - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #25 - Love, which has a simple theme - love songs from around the world.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

November 9, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #24 - Struggle and Protest - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #24 - Struggle and Protest, which highlights Moses Asch's advocacy for underdogs who spoke up for themselves through song.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

October 27, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Fall 2010 - Remembering Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Icon

The fall issue of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine features a retrospective on the life and career of Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981), 100 years after her birth.

Also featured:

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine is the free, quarterly, online multimedia publication of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Fall 2010 a tribute to Mary Lou Williams

October 26, 2010

Elizabeth Mitchell's Sunny Day wins three awards and is featured on NPR

Sunny Day, the new album from Elizabeth Mitchell with family and friends, recently won three awards. It earned the National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) Gold Award, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Best Audio Award, and was named one of Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products of 2010.

Click here to listen to a recent interview and performace by Elizabeth Mitchell on NPR's All Things Considered

Sunny Day by Elizabeth Mitchell

October 19, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #23 - Piano - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #23 - Piano, which features some of the very best jazz and blues pianists of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

October 4, 2010

Make a hula hoop with Storey Littleton

Storey, Elizabeth Mitchell's nine year-old daughter, demonstrates how to make a home-made hula hoop with the help of family and friends.
Click here to watch the video!

September 30, 2010

Design your own Sunny Day Mask!

The album cover for Sunny Day, the new children's music album from Elizabeth Mitchell, shows two young women wearing handmade masks.

Now you can create your own Sunny Day mask and share your designs on Flickr!

Click here to design your own mask

This is a great activity for kids of all ages, and a few lucky entrants will be chosen at random to win prizes, including autographed Sunny Day CDs, posters,and even a handmade mask created by band member (and Elizabeth's daughter) Storey!

Sunny Day by Elizabeth Mitchell

September 30, 2010

Sunny Day from Elizabeth Mitchell Now Available

Sunny Day, the new album by Elizabeth Mitchell, is now available on CD or digital download format.

A true family affair, Sunny Day features performances with Mitchell's husband and musical partner,Daniel Littleton, their nine-year-old daughterStorey, and additional family and friends, including special guestsLevon Helm, Dan Zanes, Jon Langford, and the Children of Agape choir of South Africa.

Sunny Day by Elizabeth Mitchell

September 8, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways is saddened to report the death of Irwin Silber on September 8th 2010. Silber was co-founder of Paredon Records with Barbara Dane, longtime collaborator with Folkways founder Moses Asch and constant friend to the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

August 23, 2010

Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology featured in Smithsonian Magazine

The September issue of Smithsonian Magazine features aprofile of John Edward Hasse, music curator at the National Museum of American History. Hasse is a member of the international panel of experts working on the upcoming Smithsonian Folkways box setJazz: the Smithsonian Anthology that reconceives, updates, and expands the 1973 Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz.

To be notified about ordering information for Jazz: the Smithsonian Anthology, please subscribe to the free Smithsonian Folkways email newsletter on the left side of the page. You may also click here to join.

July 29, 2010

Sneak Preview of Sunny Day from Elizabeth Mitchell

On October 5th, Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower will release Sunny Day, a new album of handmade music for folks of all ages. Stay tuned for more information about this album, but in the meantime enjoy this sneak peek:

Sunny Day by Elizabeth Mitchell

July 28, 2010

Rising Sun Melodies: the Influential Life and Music ofOla Belle Reed - Free Download

Ola Belle Reed (1946-2002) was a trailblazing force for women in bluegrass music, an Appalachian woman of hard-earned talent and generous ways who delivered honest music sung from the heart.Rising Sun Melodies, a new collection of her most influential songs alongside previously unreleased life performances, illustrates that time and again.

Her songs "I've Endured," "High on the Mountain," "My Epitaph," and many others, now oft-covered standards in jam sessions and on recordings of far more-recognized performers, forge real-life experiences into music steeled with determination, family tradition, and commanding presence.

Click here for more information on the new album, including a video interview with family and friends and a free download of "Look Down That Lonesome Road."

Rising Sun Melodies

July 27, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways presents the Classic Sounds of New Orleans - Free Download

From street parades to nightclubs, from church houses to dance halls, music has been essential to the unique culture of New Orleans, and Smithsonian Folkways honors the Crescent City's heritage with Classic Sounds of New Orleans, available now.

Click here for more information and two free song downloads from this newest addition to the Classic Series from Smithsonian Folkways.

Classic Sounds of New Orleans

July 8, 2010

Clarence "Tom" Ashley inducted into Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame

Smithsonian Folkways recording artist Clarence "Tom" Ashley was recently inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, located in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Ashley, an American folk singer and banjo player, was inducted in the "Pioneer Artist Category", and joins Smithsonian Folkways recording artists Ola Belle Reed, Mike Seeger, and Doc Watson, and Smithsonian folklorist Ralph Rinzler as inductees.

Clarence "Tom" Ashley was born in Bristol, Tennessee, in 1895. He acquired the nickname "Tom" from his grandfather, and for many years people thought that Clarence and Tom were two different people. Ashley began performing as a banjo player and singer at the age of 16, traveling for many years throughout Appalachia as a member of a medicine show. He recorded several original songs during the 1920's. Two of his recordings, "The Coo-Coo Bird" and "The House Carpenter", are included in Smithsonian Folkways' Anthology of American Folk Music. An injury to his hand and changing economic conditions caused Ashley to abandon his career in the 1940's.

In 1960, a chance meeting with Ralph Rinzler at the Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove, NC, resulted in the revitalization of his career and the exposure of his music to a new generation of listeners. Beginning in 1960, Ashley recorded two important albums with Doc Watson on Folkways Records. These albums have been reissued by Smithsonian Folkways as a single collection entitled Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley: The Original Folkways Recordings, 1960-1962. Ashley also recorded an album of his songs in 1966 with Tex Isley. This collection, entitled Clarence Ashley and Tex Isley is also available from Smithsonian Folkways. Ashley died in 1967.

For more information about Smithsonian Folkways recordings by Clarence "Tom" Ashley, click here.

Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley, 1960-1962

June 23, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Summer 2010 featuring Grassroots Music from the United States

The summer issue of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine features an in-depth look at blues music from the Appalachian region, including a spotlight on the career of John Jackson. Also featured:

  • Archive Spotlight: Pete Seeger sings the National Anthem of the United States.
  • Tools for Teaching: Doc Watson demonstrates fingerpicking guitar on the song "Deep River Blues."

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine is an online-only, multimedia publication of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Summer 2010 featuring Grassroots Music from the United States

June 16, 2010

Two Free Smithsonian Folkways Concerts in Washington, DC!

On June 27th and July 3rd, Smithsonian Folkways will present two free concerts on the National Mall in Washington D.C. as part of the 2010 Smithsonian Folklife Festival!

On Saturday, July 3rd, the 2010 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert featurespioneering women of bluegrass Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard and singer, scholar, and activistBernice Johnson Reagon. The concert will honor Folkways Records founder Moses Asch (1905-1986), for whom Dickens, Gerrard, and Reagon recorded several albums. The concert will be at the "Asian Fusions" stage from 6-8 p.m.

On Sunday, June 27th, Smithsonian Folkways presents an evening of Latin American music featuringChanchona Los Hermanos Lovo andLos Reyes de Albuquerque.

Los Hermanos Lovo, based in Leesburg, VA, play Cumbia dance-music from El Salvador that will be featured on an upcoming Smithsonian Folkways album. Los Reyes de Albuquerque perform a variety of traditional genres such as corridos, polkas, and canción ranchera from northern New Mexico. The group has entertained audiences with traditional music for more than 50 years and their co-founder, Roberto Martínez Sr., recently donated his life's work, Minority Owned Record Enterprises (M.O.R.E.) to the Smithsonian Folkways collection. The concert willl take place at the El Salón de México Stage from 6-8 pm.

Both concerts are free and open to the public. Please visit festival.si.edu for more information.

Bernice Johnson Reagon
Pioneering Women of Bluegrass
Los Reyes de Albuquerque

June 14, 2010

John Jackson's Rappahannock Blues Now Available - Free Song Download!

Rappahanock Blues, a new collection of live recordings by songster John Jackson (1924-2002), is now available. Click here for more information and to access a free song download of "Frankie and Johnny for a limited time.

The album is the latest addition to Smithsonian Folkways' African American Legacy Recordings series, co-produced with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Rappahannock Blues

May 12th, 2010

"Rappahannock Blues" by John Jackson - available June 15th

Smithsonian Folkways will release "Rappahannock Blues," a 20-track album by John Jackson, on June 15. Jackson (1924-2002) was the most important black Appalachian musician to come to broad public attention during the mid-1960s. The album is the latest addition to Smithsonian Folkways' African American Legacy Recordings series, co-produced with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Raised in a large, musical farm family in Rappahannock County, Virginia, Jackson got his first guitar, bought by his oldest sister Mary for $3.75 from a catalog, when he was nine. He learned a wide-ranging stock of songs from his father, his aunt Etta and from 78-rpm recordings by the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, but after a fight at a house party in 1946, didn't touch an instrument for nearly 20 years.

Rediscovered at a gas station by folklorist Chuck Perdue, Jackson was quickly recorded by Arhoolie in 1964, laying down 90 songs in 12 hours in his first session. For the next three decades, he enthralled audiences with his vintage style and repertoire, though he worked day jobs his entire career, including a long-stint as a gravedigger and cemetery caretaker.

Although black Appalachian music never received the attention given to the transition from Delta blues to Chicago blues and then to rock and roll, in the mountains a shared black and white string band tradition served as the basis for American roots music, ranging from bluegrass to regional rockabilly. Emphasizing that shared heritage, Jackson toured Asia in 1984 with Ricky Skaggs, Buck White and Jerry Douglas. Two years later, he was designated a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Culled from hundreds of live concert recordings in the Smithsonian Folkways archives, the twenty tracks of 'Rappahannock Blues,' which include Blind Blake's "Too Tight Rag," "West Coast Rag" and "Diddy Wah Diddy," Mississippi John Hurt's "Candy Man," and "Red River Blues," recorded by Josh White as "Blood Red River" and by Blind Boy Fuller as "Bye Bye Baby," highlight John Jackson the way he said he most wanted to be remembered - as a bluesman. All but two of the tracks are previously unreleased.

The release of "Rappahannock Blues" will be celebrated at the "2010 Tinner Hill Blues Festival - A Tribute to John Jackson", June 10-13, 2010 in Falls Church, VA (Washington DC area). For more information, visit www.tinnerhill.org

Rappahannock Blues

May 8th, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #22 - Rainbow - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #22 - Rainbow, which asks "what means a rainbow?"

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

April 28th, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine - Spring 2010: Rainbow: Chronicle of a Collaboration

The spring issue of Smithsonian Folkways Magazine chronicles the cross-cultural collaborations that resulted in Rainbow, Volume 8 of the Music of Central Asia Series.

Read about how Azerbaijani singers Alim and Fargana Qasimov, Afghan rubâb player Homayun Sakhi, and American group Kronos Quartet moved beyond superficial grooves towards a deeper music connection.

The Music of Central Asia series, a co-produciton of Smithsonian Folkways and the Aga Khan Music Initiative, currently features nine CD/DVD sets.

Sounds of Mariachi

April 28th, 2010

New Release: The Sounds of Mariachi Instructional DVD

GRAMMY-winner Nati Cano, alongside an accomplished collection of musicians and educators, teaches mariachi technique, performance, and lore in this first-ever mariachi ensemble instructional DVD.

Watch a sample

Sounds of Mariachi

April 28th, 2010

New Book Honors Folkways Graphic Artist

Ronald Clyne at Folkways is a new 64-page anthology dedicated to the artist who was largely responsible for the label's striking visual appearance. Featuring more than 200 examples of Clyne's work and an extensive essay, this booklet from United Editions is available in the U.S. exclusively at folkways.si.edu.

Ronald Clyne at Folkways

April 28th, 2010

"Listen Up" Hats

Pick up a Smithsonian Folkways baseball hat for yourself or a friend and save 20% through May 7th with code LISTENUPHAT.

''Listen Up'' Hats

April 13th, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways nominated for 2010 Webby Award - Vote Now

Folkways.si.edu, the Smithsonian Folkways web site, is one of five nominees in the "Cultural Institutions" category of the 14th annual webby awards. The Webby award-winners are selected by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.

The nomination also includes eligibility in the same category for the "People's Voice Awards", which is selected by the general public. The winner of both awards will be announced May 4th. Folkways.si.edu was designed in partnership with Visual Dialogue, a Boston-based design firm also responsible for many Smithsonian Folkways album packages.

Smithsonian Folkways joins the National Museum of Natural History, nominated for "The Ocean Hall Portal," as nominees from the Smithsonian Institution.

Vote for Smithsonian Folkways in the People's Voice awards!

Webby Nominee

April 12th, 2010

Who Owns Music?

Join Smithsonian Folkways associate director, D.A. Sonneborn, Ph.D., as he discusses the legal and ethical question of "Who Owns Music" at this two-part online conference of problem solving with Smithsonian Experts.

- Visit the conference web site for more information on this lecture.

At these virtual lectures, where participants can ask questions and interact with speakers from their own computers, Smithsonian historians and researchers exchange ideas of a broad range of subjects, from music and culture to science and American history.

- Learn about other sessions included at this conference

Each session will be recorded and posted after it takes place for on-demand access. Register for free here.

April 7th, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #21 - Children's Music - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #21 - Children's Music, an exploration of the huge collection of children's music on Smithsonian Folkways, including music from around the world, music for and from children at play, at school, and even in the workplace.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

April 5th, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways remembers Tom Wisner (1930-2010)

Tom Wisner, the "Bard of the Chesapeake Bay" who recorded 2 albums for Folkways Records, passed away on April 2nd at age 79. Working as a musician, teacher and biologist, Wisner dedicated his life to preserving and recording the waterways culture in and around the Bay area.

He used songs about the Chesapeake Bay environment to raise awareness for the natural life and culture surrounding the Bay waters. Wisner also devoted much of his time working with local elementary school students, creating art projects and musicals about protecting the water life of the region.

Jeff Place, Smithsonian Folkways archivist, comments on Wisner's contributions to the Smithsonian Folkways collection and early collaborations with Moses Asch: "When Tom Wisner from Southern Maryland visited Folkways Records owner Moses Asch in New York City in 1979, Asch was immediately impressed by the passion in Wisner's music, how it really told the story of one particular region of the United States. Asch was totally supportive of Wisner and released two albums, both written, recorded, and designed by Tom. Wisner personified the phrase, ‘think globally, act locally'. He was a man dedicated to his beliefs who lived a humble life in a small house by the Patuxent River. He was beloved among neighbors, watermen, and Governors. His spirit will be missed."

Click here for information on Tom Wisner's recordings for Smithsonian Folkways

Cesapeake Born - Tom and Mark Wisner

March 25th, 2010

Vinyl Now Available at Folkways.si.edu

In 1950, Moses Asch issued the first Folkways albums in the vinyl LP format. Sixty years later, Smithsonian Folkways now offers vinyl on folkways.si.edu, including a mix of older releases plus several newly printed reissues. The reissues feature the same quality packaging and complete liner notes as the originals.

Click here to see the complete list of available vinyl.

Dock Boggs

March 18th, 2010

Music of Central Asia Vols. 7-9 Now Available: Stream Full Albums Through April 6th!

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and the Aga Khan Music Initiative present the latest installments of the unprecedented, comprehensive, and GRAMMY-nominated "Music of Central Asia" series.

The three new CD/DVD sets feature master Central Asian musicians performing in traditional ensembles as well as new collaborations with, among others, the Kronos Quartet from the United States and santurist Rahul Sharma from India.

The CD/DVDs will be available in stores March 30th, but are available now from folkways.si.edu. In addition, listeners maystream all three albums in their entirety through April 6th.

Music of Central Asia

March 15th, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #20 - Pete Did That? - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #20 - Pete Did That?, an exploration of the vast variety of Pete Seeger's musical interests, and subscribe to the podcast here.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

March 3rd, 2010

From Afghanistan to Azerbaijan — via San Francisco: Three New Central Asian Music CD/DVDs

On March 30th, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and the Aga Khan Music Initiative will release the latest installment, Vols. 7-9, of the unprecedented, comprehensive, and GRAMMY-nominated "Music of Central Asia" series.

  • In the Shrine of the Heart: Popular Classics from Bukhara and Beyond (Vol. 7)
  • Rainbow: Kronos Quartet with Alim and Fargana Qasimov and Homayun Sakhi (Vol. 8)
  • In the Footsteps of Babur: Musical Encounters from the Lands of the Mughals (Vol. 9)

These sets of CD-DVDs reflect the profound musical diversity of Central Asia. Each disc features full-color booklets with extensive liner notes, an instrument glossary and a DVD with a documentary film about the music and performers.

Please subscribe to the Smithsonian Folkways email newsletter to find out about soon-to-be-announced exclusive offers from folkways.si.edu, and become a fan of the Music of Central Asia Series on Facebook.

Music of Central Asia Vol. 7: In the Shrine of the Heart: Popular Classics from Bukhara and Beyond

Generations of Uzbek and Tajik singer-songwriters bequeathed a remarkable legacy of lyrical ballads, devotional songs and instrumental pieces to the gifted master-musicians who perform on In the Shrine of the Heart (Vol. 7). Rooted in the sophisticated urban song traditions of Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Qoqand, and Khiva, these popular classics come alive in superbly recorded new performances. The lyrics are drawn from a vast corpus of classical poetry and other forms of verse written in Persian and a variety of Turkic languages and dialects between the 10th and 20th centuries, and are set to new melodies.

Music of Central Asia Vol. 8: Rainbow: Kronos Quartet with Alim and Fargana Qasimov and Homayun Sakhi

Rainbow (Vol. 8) consists of two bold collaborations with the Kronos Quartet, America's premier new-music quartet, with each reaching across continents and cultures, and across musical categories and conventions. The first is the Kronos Quartet's collaboration with renowned rubab player Homayun Sakhi on Rainbow, his composition for rubab, string quartet, and percussion. Not a composer who notates his compositions, Sakhi composed and recorded the rubab part on his own instrument, and realized the string quartet sounds on a Casio synthesizer. These recordings were given to long time Kronos Quartet collaborator and award-winning concert pianist, composer, arranger and musical festival founder Stephen Prutsman, who transcribed the piece and wrote it out in Western music notation. Sakhi and the Kronos Quartet recorded the composition at Skywalker Ranch, outside San Francisco.

The other collaboration is with the Alim Qasimov Ensemble on five Azerbaijani popular song arrangements. With the help of performer-composer-arranger Jacob Garchik, Kronos and the Qasimov ensemble were able to take Azerbaijan arrangement's that Qasimov had turned into quasi-improvisations, and turn them back into arrangements. These songs were enthusiastically received during a world premiere at London's Barbican Centre during Ramadan Nights, and recorded the day after the concert.

On March 14th the Kronos Quartet will perform at Carnegie Hall with Qasimov and Sakhi in the Quartet's Music Without Borders showcase in support of Rainbow.

Music of Central Asia Vol. 9: In the Footsteps of Babur: Musical Encounters from the Lands of the Mughals

On In the Footsteps of Babur (Vol. 9) five brilliant instrumentalists illuminate the musical legacy of the Mughal Empire, founded five centuries ago by Emperor Babur. The album is an exploration of the common ground of musical styles, sensibilities and instruments from Central Asia, Afghanistan and North India. The CD features raga, or classical Indian music, played on Afghan rubab, tabla and santur. as well as popular and folk music genres. The musicians, the individual tracks and the album as a whole reflect the artistic synthesis characteristic of both the Mughal Empire and today's globalized world.

Music of Central Asia

February 16th, 2010

New Release: Classic Appalachian Blues from Smithsonian Folkways — Free Download

Classic Appalachian Blues from Smithsonian Folkways, a 21-track collection drawn from the Smithsonian Folkways archives and performances at the Smithsonian Folklife festival, is now available. Click here for a free download from the collection, which is the 18th release overall and the fourth blues release in the Classic series from Smithsonian Folkways.

Classic Appalachian Blues from Smithsonian Folkways

February 4th, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #19 - It Came from Canada - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #19 - It Came from Canada and subscribe to the podcast here.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

February 1st, 2010

Los Texmaniacs Win GRAMMY Award For Best Tejano Album

Congratulations to Los Texmaniacs for winning the 2009 GRAMMY award for Best Tejano Album for Borders y Bailes. This is the group's first GRAMMY win. The Texas-Mexican conjunto band, armed "with an assortment of Tex-Mex beats infectious enough to get even the most sedentary crowd moving" (Washington Post), produced an album that breathes new life into the century-old music of the Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Los Texmaniacs, whose members Max Baca and David Farias have each previously been awarded a GRAMMY with other groups, recorded Borders Y Bailes in San Antonio, Texas after appearing at the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. "Oh, my God. We did it," said bandleader Max Baca about the win, "This is hip music that everybody in the world can relate to, with the traditional conjunto elements.

This is the fifth GRAMMY award for Smithsonian Folkways, and the second year in a row the nonprofit record label has won an award after Nati Cano's Mariachi Los Camperos earned the 2008 Best Regional Mexican Album award. The Tradiciones/Traditions Series of Latino Music from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (of which Borders y Bailes is a part), now numbers 30 albums and has earned two GRAMMY awards, a 2007 LATIN GRAMMY, and seven GRAMMY and LATIN GRAMMY award nominations.

Overall, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has received 20 GRAMMY award nominations (including award winners) since 1997, including 14 nominations since 2004. In addition, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artists Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, and Doc Watson have been awarded GRAMMY Association Lifetime Acheivement Awards, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings contributed to the 1998 GRAMMY-winning album Folkways -- A Vision Shared: A Tribute To Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly and the 1993 GRAMMY-nominated album Roots of Rhythm and Blues: A Tribute to the Robert Johnson Era.

Borders y Bailes

January 26th, 2010

Two Smithsonian Folkways Albums Win an Independent Music Award

For the second consecutive year, two Smithsonian Folkways albums have won an Independent Music Award as selected by a panel of judges. ¡Y Que Viva Venezuela! Maestros del Joropo Oriental, an all-star recording by Venezuela's masters of a rediscovered musical tradition, earned the Best Latin Album award and Blodeugerdd: Song of the Flowers - An Anthology of Welsh Music and Song, a beautiful collection of contemporary Welsh folk music, earned the Best Traditional World album.

Eleven additional Smithsonian Folkways albums or songs were finalists, and both winners and finalists are eligible for the Vox Populi awards as determined by fan voting. Voting is open through June 25th, 2010. Click here to submit your votes. The complete list of Smithsonian Folkways Album/Song Finalists (*indicates IMA Award Winner):

In addition, two Smithsonian Folkways projects won design awards. American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 1-5, a box set of Pete Seeger's recordings for Folkways Records, won the Best Album Packaging award and a poster of Lead Belly designed by Matt Kelly from the firm One Lucky Guitar won the Best Band/Venue Poster award.

Independent Music Awards

January 25th, 2010

The Music of Haiti

Smithsonian Folkways would like to echo the call to support the relief efforts in Haiti. Please visit www.haiti.org for a list of ways you can help.

Through Smithsonian Folkways recordings ranging from the 1940s to the 1990s and a 2004 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program, we have learned that despite (and often in response to) the challenges they continue to face, Haitians create powerful artistic expressions in music, painting, crafts, sculpture, and architecture. Haiti is one of the richest nations in terms of its culture and its people. We invite you to listen to a one-hour playlist of Haitian music in the Smithsonian Folkways collection.

Click to hear music of Haiti

January 22nd, 2010

Go Vinyl with Go Waggaloo

Go Waggaloo, the new children's album from Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family, has earned critical acclaim from the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Montreal Gazette among dozens of other outlets.

  • See Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family on tour with Arlo Guthrie this Spring and a special Valentine's Day benefit concert for Haiti in Pittsfield, MA.
  • Save 20% off retail price through January 31 on the limited-edition vinyl version of Go Waggaloo, which includes a coupon for the full-album download, at folkways.si.edu with code GOWAGVINYL.
Go Waggaloo

January 21st, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine: Winter 2010, featuring Roberto Martínez, Sam Gesser, and Uganda

Read about Roberto Martínez, co-founder of the group Los Reyes del Alburquerque and founder of M.O.R.E. (Minority Owned Record Enterprises), a record label dedicated to preserving the violin-driven Nuevo Mexicano-styled mariachi he and his family championed. We are proud to announce that the M.O.R.E. recordings are now part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection, with three albums available for purchase and more to come.

The Winter edition of the online-only, multi-media Smithsonian Folkways Magazine also includes:

Smithsonian Folkways Magazine

January 20th, 2010

Three concerts to celebrate Tom Wisner

Three concerts in Maryland will celebrate the life and work of Tom Wisner, "The Bard of the Chesapeake", who recorded two albums of original songs for Folkways Records.

The concerts are a CD-release party for "Follow On The Water: A Celebration of the Bay's Life in Story and Song" and will be held at the Calvert Marine Museum on Friday, January 29 (sold out), at the Annapolis Maritime Museum on Saturday, January 30, and at The Avalon Theatre in Easton, MD on Sunday, January 31. Tom, who has battled lung cancer for the past year, has dedicated his life to chronicling the rich traditions of the regional Maryland waterways and will be joined on stage by Frank Schwartz, Teresa Whitaker, Mac Walter, and John Cronin.

Chesapeake Born by Tom and Mark Wisner

January 14th, 2010

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #18 - Jazz - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #18 - Jazz and subscribe to the podcast here.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

January 12th, 2010

Ella Jenkins and Rahim AlHaj Receive United States Artists Fellowships

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artists Ella Jenkins, the 'First Lady of Children's Music,' and Rahim AlHaj, "one of the top oud players in the world" (SF Chronicle), were recently awarded two of the 50 prestigious USA Fellowships presented by United States Artists, the respected public charity and grant-making organization dedicated to arts advocacy, and support and funding of America's finest living artists.

"The United States Artists Fellowship is one of the most prestigious awards in the world of the arts," says Smithsonian Folkways curator and director Daniel Sheehy. "It is fitting indeed that the 'First Lady of Children's Music' Ella Jenkins and American-based Iraqi oud player, composer and cultural ambassador extraordinaire Rahim AlHaj figure prominently among this year's honorees. Our hats go off to Ella and Rahim as well as to all the 2009 USA Fellows."

Jenkins first began creating songs for children as a volunteer at a recreation center and in subsequent education jobs. She also was one of the first to record on Moe Asch's Folkways Records, which later became Smithsonian Folkways, and has recorded 29 albums since 1959. She has received numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2004 GRAMMYs. Jenkins said she is "very surprised and pleased about the USA Fellowship. It was great to meet the other recipients and also very nice to see an appreciation of children's music."

AlHaj, a virtuoso oud (a pear-shaped string instrument) player, combines Iraqi musical traditions with contemporary influences. Raised in Baghdad, AlHaj graduated from the Institute of Music there in 1990. He became involved in revolutionary activities and was imprisoned twice by the Baathist regime. In 1991, he escaped to Jordan and then Syria, and, in 2000, he emigrated to the U.S. AlHaj has released several recordings and has worked with diverse musicians, including USA Rasmuson Fellow Bill Frisell, Kronos Quartet, and classical Indian musicians. He was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2008 for his Smithsonian Folkways album 'When the Soul Is Settled: Music of Iraq.' His March 2009 release, Ancient Sounds (UR Music), a duet recording with Amjad Ali Khan, was nominated for a 2010 GRAMMY in the Best Traditional World Music Recording category.

Jenkins is the USA Collins Fellow, while AlHaj is the USA Ford Fellow.

This is not the first time a Smithsonian Folkways artist has won a USA Fellowship. Nati Cano, a driving force in North American mariachi for more than 40 years with his standout group Los Camperos, won a fellowship in 2006. He has recorded three albums for Smithsonian Folkways, with his most recent album 'Amor, Dolor y Lágrimas: Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano' nominated for the Best Regional Mexican Album GRAMMY in 2009. Preeminent Cajun musician Michael Doucet, who released his solo album 'From Now On' on Smithsonian Folkways in 2008, won a fellowship in 2007.

United States Artists (USA) is a grant-making, artist-advocacy organization dedicated to supporting America's finest artists working across diverse disciplines. In an act of unprecedented private investment in individual artists and the creative potential of America, USA launched in September 2005 with $22 million in seed funding provided by a coalition of leading foundations - Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential, and Rasmuson. This initial investment enables the organization to pilot the USA Fellows program, awarding unrestricted $50,000 grants to 50 artists each year.

December 27th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #17 - The Letter J - Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #17 - The Letter J and subscribe to the podcast here. Shortly before he died in 1987, Moses Asch was interviewed by the Today Show on NBC. At that time, he justified his policy of never withdrawing a record title from the complete two thousand plus collection by saying: "would you take the letter J out of the dictionary merely because it is used less frequently than the letter S?" This program covers songs, music from countries, artists, instruments and sounds which all begin with the letter J.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

December 15th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways Electronic Gift Certificates Now Available

Can't decide which album to give as a gift this year? Give a Smithsonian Folkways electronic gift certificate and let your friend or family member decide.

As a reminder, all retail orders of $50 or more at Folkways.si.edu automatically qualify for free standard first-class shipping (U.S. only) through December 16th.

Smithsonian Folkways Gift Certificates

December 10th, 2009

Thirteen Albums and Songs Named Independent Music Award Finalists

Thirteen Smithsonian Folkways albums and songs were selected as Finalists for the 9thIndependent Music Awards. Click here to listen to and vote for your favorite albums on the Independent Music Awards web site

December 10th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #16 - Work Songs Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #16 - Work Songs and subscribe to the podcast here. Harold Courlander is an important figure in the history of Folkways as the early guiding spirit for what he and Folkways Records founder Moses Asch called the "Ethnic Series", which is the vast catalogue of what we now call world music. This episode featuresthe album Courlander put together in 1956 that documents the sensibilities he brought to this work in the immediate post-War period.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

December 2nd, 2009

Borders y Bailes by Los Texmaniacs Nominated for a Grammy Award!

Congratulations to Los Texmaniacs for their 2009 Grammy nomination for Best Tejano Album for the album Borders y Bailes.

Borders y Bailes

December 2nd, 2009

Happy Birthday, Moe Asch! - Free Song Download

December 2nd, 2009 would have been the104th birthday of Folkways Records founder Moses Asch, and 2009 marks the 70th anniversary of his first foray into the record business.

Please join us in wishing Moe a happy birthday, and enjoy as our gift a free download of one of Moses Asch's first recordings as well as a free stream of the Worlds of Sound Sampler, a 26-track companion to the book Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways. The download and stream will be available through Thursday, December 3rd only!

Moses Asch

December 1st, 2009

Free Shipping On Orders $50 or More Through Dec. 16th

Retail orders from Folkways.SI.EDU of $50 or more will automatically qualify for free shipping for customers that select United States Postal Service First Class Mail through December 16th. This offer applies to domestic orders only.

Recommended Cutoff Dates for Holiday Delivery by 12/24

USPS International Air Mail—December 4

FedEx Int'l Economy—December 11

USPS Domestic 1st Class—December 16

FedEx Express Saver—December 21

Fedex Overnight—December 23

November 30th, 2009

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and Smithsonian Folkways remember Bess Lomax Hawes (1921-2009)

"I have always had the unshakable belief that every single human being has some knowledge of important elements of beauty and substance, whether everybody else knows them or not."

- Bess Lomax Hawes, from her autobiography Sing It Pretty

Bess Lomax Hawes, a leader in the establishment of public folklore programs throughout the United States, died Friday, November 27th in Portland, Oregon, at the age of 88. Ms. Hawes was born in 1921 in Austin, Texas, and was the youngest child of American folklorist John A. Lomax. She joined her father and brother Alan as a researcher at the Library of Congress, where they directed the Archive of American Folk Song from 1935 to 1948. From 1941 to 1952 she was a singer and instrumentalist with the Almanac Singers, a pioneering group in the Folk Revival. Folkways Records released their album Talking Union, and Ms. Hawes is also featured on Folkways Records' Woody Guthrie Sings Folk Songs and Songs of the Spanish Civil War Vol. 1. During this period she also became known for co-writing the song "Charlie on the MTA," notably recorded by the Kingston Trio.

In 1975 Ms. Hawes relocated from California to Washington, DC, to work on the 1976 Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife. Additionally, she was a key collaborator with Ralph Rinzler in shaping the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival. In 1977, she became Director of the Folk Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts, where she remained until retiring in 1992. During her tenure she helped found the National Heritage Fellowship awards in 1982. While at the NEA, Ms. Hawes also helped create state-based folklore programs across the country. In 2000, the NEA began giving the Bess Lomax Hawes Award to recognize a person who has worked towards the preservation of folklore.

Following her retirement, Ms. Hawes was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton and has continued to speak and consult internationally on issues of folklore, public policy, and cultural continuity. Bess is survived by her three children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

November 24th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #15 - Time Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #15 - Time and subscribe to the podcast here. This episode mines the Smithsonian Folkways catalogue for songs about clocks and time, at least Western conceptions of time. Starting with a little bluegrass reflection on clocks and then moving onto all sorts of songs with references to time or time keeping, it's a timely program.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

November 13th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #14 - Talking About the Blues Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #14 - Talking About the Blues and subscribe to the podcast here. The idea comes from the Folkways album "This is the Blues." It features Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee. The album was built around a radio show produced by the great Studs Terkel of Chicago's WFMT and was recorded on May 7th, 1957.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

November 2nd, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #13 - Sacco and Vanzetti Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #13 - Sacco and Vanzetti and subscribe to the podcast here. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian anarchists, were executed unjustly in 1927 for armed robbery and murder of two pay-clerks in Massachusetts. The case caused quite a stir at the time as for many the conviction was not for murder, but for being anarchists and immigrants. They were pardoned in 1977 by Governor Michael Dukakis. In 1947, twenty years after the execution, Moses Asch commissioned an album of original songs penned and sung by Woody Guthrie about the trial, an album Woody himself believed was his most important work.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

October 30th, 2009

Celebrate Halloween with Smithsonian Folkways

Get in the Halloween spirit with spooky song suggestions from Smithsonian Folkways and Around the Mall: Scenes and Sightings from the Smithsonian Museums and Beyond . Featuring music about witches, skeletons, and other Halloween characters these albums are sure to provide sounds of the season. Read about the albums here.

October 26th, 2009

Listen to Go Waggaloo Free until November 3rd!

In addition to a free download of the song "'Cuz We're Cousins", you can now stream Go Waggaloo, the new family album from Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family, in its entirety free until November 3rd. The album features original songs, traditional favorites, and three songs written by Sarah Lee's grandfather Woody Guthrie put to music for the first time.

What does Go Waggaloo mean anyway? Visit the Smithsonian Folkways Facebook page to find out!

Stream Go Waggaloo

October 26th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways Documentary Playing Now on Smithsonian Channel

Worlds of Sound: The Ballad of Folkways is a new one-hour documentary about Moses Asch and the 60-year history of Smithsonian Folkways. Tune your TV to Smithsonian Channel to watch or record for later.

From Smithsonian Channel:
"His name was Moses Asch, and he set out to catalog the sounds of the world. In the process, he changed the way people thought of folk music, and modern life in general. This is the story of his iconoclastic Folkways Records, America's most influential grassroots record label."

Worlds of Sound: The Ballad of Folkways

October 13th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #12 - Days of the Week Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #12 - Days of the Week and subscribe to the podcast here.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

September 30th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #11 - Black and White Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #11 - Black and White and subscribe to the podcast here.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

September 28th, 2009

Go Waggaloo, the new album from Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family now available from www.folkways.si.edu

Go Waggaloo, the new children's music album from Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family, will be available in stores October 27th, but it is available now at www.folkways.si.edu

Go Waggaloo from Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family

September 28th, 2009

Folkways Magazine Fall 2009: Songs By and For Children

The fall issue of Folkways Magazine explores the history and variety of children's music, a profile of The New Lost City Ramblers, a field report from the Dominican Republic, and a profile of the Woody Guthrie Papers.

Email newsletter subscribers automatically receive notification of new editions of Folkways Magazine, the online, multimedia magazine from Smithsonian Folkways. To receive our newsletter, just enter your email address where indicated to "Join Our Email List" on the left-hand side of the page.

Folkways Magazine Fall 2009

September 28th, 2009

Watch Trailer for Smithsonian Folkways Documentary on Smithsonian Channel

Mark your calendar: Worlds of Sound: The Ballad of Folkways, a new one-hour documentary about the unique story of Smithsonian Folkways, will premiere on Smithsonian Channel HD starting Sunday, October 25th, at 11 p.m. with repeat showings every day for a week at various times.

Smithsonian Channel

September 15th, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #10 - Tony Schwartz Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #10 - Tony Schwartz and subscribe to the podcast here.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

August 31st, 2009

Smithsonian Global Sound® web site re-directs to www.folkways.si.edu

Starting August 31st, all of the content and features of Smithsonian Global Sound (www.smithsonianglobalsound.org), an educational initiative launched by Smithsonian Folkways in 2005, will be available at the Smithsonian Folkways web site (www.folkways.si.edu), and the Smithsonian Global Sound web site will re-direct to www.folkways.si.edu. This change best serves the users of both websites so that the recordings are available for sample and purchase (on CD or digital download) from a single online destination. Users of www.smithsonianglobalsound.org can use the same login and password at www.folkways.si.edu.

In addition to offering recordings from Smithsonian Folkways and partner archives, the Smithsonian Folkways web site also features all the educational tools, videos, radio streams and podcasts, and feature articles previously found on the Smithsonian Global Sound web site. New features are added frequently, most notably in the new online multimedia Smithsonian Folkways Magazine.

Going forward, Smithsonian Folkways continues to partner with archives worldwide to increase global, digital access. In addition, universities and other institutions may subscribe (via Alexander Street Press) to Music Online/Smithsonian Global Sound® for Libraries for unlimited, full-length streaming of the entire Smithsonian Folkways collection. Please click here for more information.

August 31st, 2009

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #9 - Going to the Dogs Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Listen to Program #9 - Going to the Dogs and subscribe to the podcast here.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On

August 21st, 2009

Go Waggaloo by Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family Coming This Fall

"It's no small feat to create a record that will hold the attention of someone who is not used to listening to records. If you do it right, it's a treasure. This is that."
— Arlo Guthrie

On October 27, Smithsonian Folkways will release Go Waggaloo, a 13-track disc of children's music from Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family featuring her husband Johnny Irion, their two daughters, and a host of other family and friends including her father Arlo Guthrie,Pete Seeger, and Pete's grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger.

FULL LENGTH STREAM
Please enjoy this free preview from Go Waggaloo.
Cuz We're Cousins

Guthrie presents thoughtful yet playful recordings of traditional songs and new compositions, including three songs featuring lyrics by her grandfather Woody Guthrie from the Smithsonian Folkways archives never before put to music and eight songs written by Sarah Lee and family. This is Sarah Lee Guthrie's first children's recording and her first recording for Smithsonian Folkways, home of 42 albums featuring Woody Guthrie and more than 200 children's recordingsby Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, Lead Belly and many others.

Go Waggaloo continues the Guthrie family chain of song-making first forged by Sarah's grandfather, Woody Guthrie (whose drawings are featured on the album cover and booklet). With song notes written by Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, a touching introduction from Arlo Guthrie, and notes from children's music expert Stefan Shepherd, Go Waggaloo bridges generations of music lovers by combining traditional folk music with contemporary lyrics and instrumentation. Listening to Go Waggaloo one can hear a drum machine, songs about Xboxes© and DVDs, and a spur of the moment song recorded on a cell phone by the Guthrie family on a road trip.

A special pre-order for visitors to www.folkways.si.edu will be available in September. Please subscribe to the monthly Smithsonian Folkways email newsletter to receive information about the special pre-order, other Smithsonian Folkways news, free downloads, trivia contests, and other special discounts.

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family: Go Waggaloo

Archived News (click for details)

August 14th, 2009 New Box Set From Influential Folk Revival Pioneers The New Lost City Ramblers Available August 25th

On August 25, 2009 Smithsonian Folkways will release the New Lost City Ramblers' 50 Years: Where Do You Come From? Where Do You Go?, a 3-disc box set from a trio whose reverence for and dedication to the geniuses of the American folk music tradition put them at the vanguard of the burgeoning folk revival movement in America during the late 1950s. The box set will be available in independent record shops, online retailers, digital download providers, and in both physical format and digital download format from www.folkways.si.edu.

The New York area-born members of the Ramblers - Mike Seeger, John Cohen and Tom Paley, who was eventually replaced by Tracy Schwarz — have a longstanding relationship with Smithsonian Folkways. Two of the albums in '50 Years' were previously released Ramblers albums, and the third is a newly compiled disc of Ramblers tracks and field recordings of traditional Southern and Appalachian musicians whose work the Ramblers set out to preserve, promote and emulate in both underground and popular forums across America.

Volume I, "The Early Years," features recordings from 1958 to 1962; Volume II, "Out Standing in Their Field," features recordings from 1963 to 1973 and Volume III, "Where Do You Come From? Where Do You Go?," is a new compilation that provides an in-depth look at the Ramblers' impressive career over the course of several decades.

Featuring artists including Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb, Elizabeth Cotten, Reverend Gary Davis, Tom Ashley and many others, '50 Years: Where Do You Come From? Where Do You Go?' is a celebration of the New Lost City Ramblers' 50th anniversary and their landmark field recordings and stellar renditions of classic folk tunes.

50 Years: Where Do You Come From? Where Do You Go? contains three and a half hours of music, 81 songs, including six previously unreleased tracks, 88 pages of booklet liner notes from folk music writers Jon Pankake and Ray Allen, Professor of Music and director of the American Studies program at Brooklyn College. As the album title implies, these recordings embody the Ramblers' mission to not only learn as much as possible about American folk music, but to help define its place in American music history. '50 Years' can be listened to as a classic folk story within a folk story. Equipped with reel-to-reel tape recorders, these men led a grassroots campaign to catalog the music immortalized in this box set.

On August 7th, Mike Seeger, traditional music advocate and founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, passed away at the age of 75. Please click here for a profile of Mike Seeger, including video and audio samples.

August 12th, 2009 Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #8 Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Episode #8 features Broadside Magazine - click here to download or subscribe to the podcast.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On
August 8th, 2009 Smithsonian Folkways remembers traditional music preserver, performer, and teacher Mike Seeger (1933-2009)
"Old-time rural music remains at the center of my life. It's a tactile, emotional, aural pleasure — the words are my Shakespeare and my mysteries, the music is my Bach, my pastime, and it makes me want to dance...Classic, timeless qualities in this music endure. For me, there ain't no way out but nature, and I'll make the most of it."
— Mike Seeger
(from the liner notes to the 1997 album There Ain't No Way Out by The New Lost City Ramblers)

Mike Seeger, who devoted his life to documenting, teaching, keeping alive, and carrying forth the sounds of traditional music of the American South, died from cancer August 7th at the age of 75. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist and singer, Seeger's 50-plus-year career included recordings as a solo performer, as a founding member of the influential group The New Lost City Ramblers, and as a documenter of many of the finest 20th-century performers of the genre including Dock Boggs, Elizabeth Cotten, and Kilby Snow.

We invite all fans of Mike to share thoughts, memories, and stories on the Smithsonian Folkways official Facebook page or email them to SmithsonianFolkways@si.edu. Selected submissions will be posted on www.folkways.si.edu

Seeger's career highlights include producing the first long-playing bluegrass album, American Banjo: Three-Finger and Scruggs Style, earning six GRAMMY nominations (including nominations for Smithsonian Folkways albums Southern Banjo Sounds and 1997's There Ain't No Way Out with The New Lost City Ramblers), and earning the 2009 Bess Lomax Hawes Award from the National Endowment for the Arts among many other awards and grants. In all, Mike Seeger contributed to 75 Smithsonian Folkways albums, most recently a box set available August 25th, 2009 celebrating the 50th anniversary of The New Lost City Ramblers, and numerous Smithsonian Folklife Festivals as a researcher, presenter, and performer, including the first-ever festival in 1967. Mike Seeger will be remembered as tireless preserver, performer, and teacher of traditional music.

Please click here for a profile of Mike Seeger, including video and audio samples.

July 30th, 2009 Smithsonian Folkways T-Shirts Now Available

By popular request, Smithsonian Folkways T-shirts are now available at
folkways.si.edu!

Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger fans should consider the most popular shirt at the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which features Woody's guitar on the front and Pete's banjo on the back.

In addition, the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program Las Américas: Un Mundo Musical inspired two shirts — "¡Oye!" and "Mi Música".

T-shirt purchases support the nonprofit mission of Smithsonian Folkways and help spread the word when you wear them.

July 27th, 2009 Nine Smithsonian Folkways songs named to 100 Most Essential Folk Songs list

Nine tracks from the Smithsonian Folkways collection were recently featured on Folk Alley's "100 Most Essential Folk Songs" list, including songs from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Elizabeth Cotten. Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" was awarded the list's top spot. The list also includes twenty three songs from Smithsonian Folkways collection that are performed by other artists, such as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" by Pete Seeger (as performed by the Kingston Trio) and "Goodnight Irene" by Lead Belly (as performed by the Weavers).

Smithsonian Folkways Songs on Folk Alley's list of 100 Most Essential Folk Songs:

01. "This Land Is Your Land" — Woody Guthrie
04. "If I Had a Hammer" — Pete Seeger
08. "We Shall Overcome" — Pete Seeger
30. "Pastures of Plenty" — Woody Guthrie
36. "Freight Train" — Elizabeth Cotten
41. "Changes" — Phil Ochs
45. "Little Boxes" — Malvina Reynolds
64. "Deportee" — Woody Guthrie
68. "The Crucifixion" — Phil Ochs
93. "Hobo's Lullaby" — Woody Guthrie

July 17th, 2009 Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On Episode #7 Now Available on Podcast

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio series hosted by Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, features the original recordings of Folkways Records' vast catalogue. Episode #7 features the Songs of Animals - click here to download or subscribe to the podcast.

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On
June 23rd, 2009 Read about the expanding universe of Música Latina and more in Folkways Magazine - Summer 2009

Explore the second edition of Folkways Magazine, which examines the expanding universe of Música Latina, profiles new Smithsonian Folkways artist Los Texmaniacs, re-discovers an album of Welsh music from 1954, and much more.

June 23rd, 2009 Borders y Bailes from Los Texmaniacs now available with free stream

Borders y Bailes, the new album from Folklife Festival favorites Los Texmaniacs, features traditional conjunto elements with flashes of rock and blues. Watch Max Baca and Los Texmaniacs sing "Marina", the opening song from the album. Los Texmaniacs are particpants in the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Borders y Bailes from Los Texmaniacs
June 23rd, 2009 ¡Y Que Viva Venezuela! Maestros del Joropo Oriental now available with free stream

¡Y Que Viva Venezuela! Maestros del Joropo Oriental, a new recording from the Tradiciones/Traditions series, features the string-driven, highly improvised music of eatern Venezuela. Maestros del Joropo Oriental are participants at the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

¡Y Que Viva Venezuela! Maestros del Joropo Oriental
June 23rd, 2009 Blodeugerdd: Song of the Flowers - An Anthology of Welsh Music and Song now available with free stream

Blodeugerdd: Song of the Flowers - An Anthology of Welsh Music and Song highlights music from a country as ancient as it is forward-looking. Recorded in a 15th-century building, the album features a garland of intimate musical interpretations by leading keepers of Welsh music today (including six featured performers at the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival).

Blodeugerdd: Song of the Flowers - An Anthology of Welsh Music and Song
June 23rd, 2009 A Voice Ringing O'er the Gale! The Oratory of Frederick Douglass Read by Ossie Davis now available with free download

A Voice Ringing O'er the Gale! The Oratory of Frederick Douglass Read by Ossie Davis is a re-issue of 1972 recordings that, more than a century after Douglass' death, continue to capture our hearts and our minds.

A Voice Ringing O'er the Gale! The Oratory of Frederick Douglass Read by Ossie Davis
June 9th, 2009 Upcoming Releases as Part of 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

In conjunction with the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held June 24th - July 5th on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Folkways will release four albums:

A Voice Ringing O'er the Gale! The Oratory of Frederick Douglass Read by Ossie Davis as part of the Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture Festival program.

Borders y Bailes from Los Texmaniacs and ¡Y Que Viva Venezuela! Maestros del Joropo Oriental as part of the Las Américas: Un Mundo Musical Festival program.

Blodeugerdd - Song of the Flowers: An Anthology of Welsh Music and Song as part of the Wales Smithsonian Cymru Festival program.

Join the monthly Smithsonian Folkways mailing list for more information on these albums when they are available, and we'll see you at the Folklife Festival!

June 9th, 2009 Sounds to Grow On Podcast Now Available

Smithsonian Folkways: Sounds to Grow On, the 26-part radio program hosted by Michael Asch, is now available as a podcast on iTunes and via www.folkways.si.edu. Click here to access the podcast, which will be updated twice per month.

June 5th, 2009 ¡Ayombe! The Heart of Colombia's Música Vallenata wins an Independent Music Fan Award

¡Ayombe! The Heart of Colombia's Música Vallenata, the 2008 album featuring some of the best accordion players and singers in Colombia, won an Independent Music Award for the fan-favorite Latin Album of 2008.

¡Ayombe! The Heart of Colombia's Música Vallenata
May 28th, 2009 Videos Featuring Master Paraguayan Harpists, Now Available

Watch two videos featuring master Paraguayan harpists. Marcelo Rojas and Martin Portillo perform a "dueling harp" version of the classic "Pájaro campana" and Oscar Maldonado discusses harp construction while Marcelo Rojas and Nicolás Caballero perform.

May 28th, 2009 Mike Seeger to Receive 2009 NEA Award

Mike Seeger, who has performed on, produced, or recorded 74 Smithsonian Folkways albums, will receive the 2009 Bess Lomax Hawes Award for significant contributions to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage from the National Endowment of the Arts. Congratulations Mike!

May 19th, 2009 Maiteí América: Harps of Paraguay, the Newest Album in the Tradiciones/Traditions Series, Now Available

Paraguayan harp music is unique, and stands out as a favorite for harpists the world over - not least for its driving rhythms, compelling melodies and rich ornamentation. "Greetings, America," Maiteí América in the Guaraní Indian language, boasts three generations of Paraguay's best harpists spinning out classic compositions steeped in over four centuries of history.

Maitei America: Harps of Paraguay
May 5th, 2009 Sing Along With Pete!

"Sometimes the most eloquent song I can sing is 'Wimoweh', with no words at all. Just melody, rhythm, and great bass harmony."
— Pete Seeger

April 21, 2009 Smithsonian Folkways Launches New Website and Online Magazine

Smithsonian Folkways, the non-profit record label of the U.S. national museum, has upgraded www.folkways.si.edu and has launchedFolkways Magazine, a quarterly, multimedia online magazine bringing you the people and stories behind the recordings of Smithsonian Folkways.

The new web site includes:

  • Improved navigation and search
  • Single-click downloads including album artwork and liner notes
  • Your choice of 256K MP3 or lossless FLAC format

The premiere edition of Folkways Magazine includes a feature article onPete Seeger, still standing tall at age 90, an interview with Grammy-award winningNati Cano from Los Camperos de Nati Cano, and much more.

We hope you are enjoying the continued improvements of www.folkways.si.edu — stay in touch by joining our monthly newsletter and find us on Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.

April 21, 2009 Pete Seeger: American Favorite Ballads Vol. 1-5 Box Set Now Available With Two Free Downloads and Two Bonus Tracks

Pete Seeger's life, music, and legacy encapsulate nearly a century of American history and culture. He has immersed himself in folk music and used it, like Johnny Appleseed, to "plant the seeds of a better tomorrow in the homes across our land."

This box set contains 139 songs for nearly 6 hours of music across 5 CDs, each with its own booklet of extensive notes. The digital download version includestwo additional, previously unreleased bonus songs. Twofree digital downloads, "Buffalo Gals" and "Oh Mary Don't You Weep", are available for a limited time. Click here for more information.

American Favorite Ballads Vol. 1-5
April 21, 2009 Son de Mi Tierra, the New Son Jarocho Album by Son De Madera Now Available

Son JarochoThe improvisatory, string-driven music of Veracruz, Mexico has enjoyed several decades of major resurgence. This "back-to-the-future" recording allies elder farmer and rancher musicians with the next generation of forward-looking innovators who comprise the group Son de Madera. Click here for more information.

Son de Mi Tierra
April 16, 2009 Pete Seeger: American Favorite Ballads Vol. 1-5 Box Set Will Be Released April 21st

Pete Seeger: American Favorite Ballads Vol. 1-5 Box Set, a collection of nearly 6 hours of classic songs, will be released on April 21st at www.folkways.si.edu and other retail outlets. Check back soon for a special announcement including free downloads, but in the meantime, please enjoy this previously unreleased video of music performance and interviews with Pete Seeger.

March 17, 2009 Classic Protest Songs from Smithsonian Folkways is now available on CD and DRM-free Digital Download

War, social injustice, personal plaints, and calls for action have long fueled musical creation and performance. In Classic Protest Songs, Mark Gustafson and Jeff Place tap the historic Smithsonian audio collections to compile 22 songs favored by leaders of antiwar, civil rights, industrial labor, farm worker, and other struggles to air their grievances. Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Janis Ian, Big Bill Broonzy, Pete Seeger, Barbara Dane, Guy Carawan, Phil Ochs, and other marquee artists let their voices ring out with calls for peace and justice.

Classic Protest Songs from Smithsonian Folkways
March 17, 2009 John Cephas Memorial

Family, friends, musical colleagues and admirers of bluesman John Cephas will gather in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, March 29, 2009 to honor the memory of the Piedmont blues master through a sharing of remembrances and a musical tribute. The memorial gathering will take place from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium, located at 10th and Constitution, NW, Washington, D.C., 20506.

March 5, 2009 John Cephas, 1930-2009

Piedmont blues guitarist and vocalist John Cephas passed away March 4th at his home in Woodford, Virginia. Cephas, a 1989 National Heritage Fellowship Award recipient, recorded the album Richmond Blues in 2008 with his longtime musical partner Phil Wiggins as part of the African American Legacy Recording Series.

Cephas & Wiggins teamed up in 1977 after meeting at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and were named W.C Handy Blues Entertainers of the Year in 1987. Cephas, who once said "blues music is truth", served on the Executive Committee of the National Council for the Traditional Arts and was a founder of the Washington D.C. Blues Society.

February 19, 2009 Snooks Eaglin, 1936-2009

Singer and guitarist Snooks Eaglin passed away February 18th in New Orleans. His Smithsonian Folkways album New Orleans Street Singer was originally released in 1959 and reissued in 2005 with 7 previously unreleased tracks. Recorded by folklorist Harry Oster after he heard Eaglin performing on the streets of the French Quarter, New Orleans Street Singer was selected for the book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die.

Eaglin, also known as "the human jukebox" for his wide and varied repertoire including electric blues, rock, jazz, and country, lost his sight as a child before teaching himself to play guitar. He went on to play and record with many other New Orleans musicians, including Professor Longhair, the Wild Magnolias, and Alan Toussaint. In recent years he was a regular performer at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

February 9, 2009 Mariachi Los Camperos De Nati Cano Wins Grammy Award

Mariachi's Los Camperos de Nati Cano won a Grammy Award February 8th, 2009 in the Best Regional Mexican Album category for Amor, Dolor y Lágrimas: Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano. This is the first Grammy Award for Los Camperos de Nati Cano (though Nati Cano performed on Linda Ronstadt's grammy-winning recordings Canciones de Mi Padre and Mas Canciones) and the third Grammy Award for a Smithsonian Folkways album, joining 2005's cELLAbration! A Tribute to Ella Jenkins and 1997's Anthology of American Folk Music.

Congratulations as well to Michael Doucet who won for Best Zydeco or Cajun Album for Live at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: BeauSoleil & Michael Doucet. Michael Doucet's Smithsonian Folkways album From Now On was nominated in the same category. Pete Seeger also won for Best Traditional Folk album for At 89 and Tom Paxton, who appears on five Smithsonian Folkways recordings, received a lifetime achievement award.

January 27, 2009 Congratulations to IMA Winners Tony Trischka and the Paschall Brothers

Two Smithsonian Folkways releases were named winners at the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards. Tony Trischka's Territory won for Best Americana Album and the Paschall Brothers' On the Right Road Now won for Best Gospel Album.

January 15, 2009 Irish Pirate Ballads and Other Songs of the Sea Now Available

Irish Pirate Ballads and Other Songs of the Sea an exceptional collection of authentic maritime songs sung by celebrated vocalist and author Dan Milner, is now available from Smithsonian Folkways. Featuring an impressive array of guest musicians and singers, including Joanie Madden of Cherish the Ladies, John Doyle of Solas, Tim Collins of the renowned Kilfenora Ceili Band, All-Ireland champion fiddler Brian Conway, Robbie O'Connell and Susan McKeown, Irish Pirate Ballads captures centuries of tradition and the revelry, mischief, tales of love and caution that characterize nautical life. Click here to learn more.

January 12, 2009 White House Workers: Traditions and Memories DVD Now Available

White House Workers: Traditions and Memories explores the dedication, skills, and sacrifices of residence staff whose extraordinary service has helped the White House fulfill its multiple roles as a family residence, seat of government, ceremonial center, historic building, and museum. Features the 32-minute film Workers at the White House for the first time on DVD, plus more than 2 hours of additional material. Please click here for more information.

December 16, 2008 Grammy Nominations and Independent Music Award Finalists

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings received two2008 Grammy nominations, with Mariachi's Los Camperos de Nati Cano's Amor, Dolor y Lágrimas: Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano nominated for the Best Regional Mexican Album and Michael Doucet's From Now On nominated for the Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album. This is the fifth time in six years the label has been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards in a single year, with a total of thirteen nominations in the last five years. The award show takes place February 9th, 2009.

In addition, five Smithsonian Folkways were selected as Finalists for the 8thIndependent Music Awards. Click here to listen to and vote for your favorite albums on the Independent Music Awards web site

December 2, 2008 Happy Birthday Moe! Free Song Download on December 2nd

Download for free On My Way to See Moe Asch by Champion Jack Dupree as a happy birthday wish to Folkways founder Moses Asch, who would have turned 103 today!

November 18, 2008 Listen to Worlds of Sound author Richard Carlin on three archived radio programs

Richard Carlin recently appeared on three radio programs (NPR's Talk of the Nation (also featuring Mike Seeger), WNYC's Sound Check, and WYPR's Tapestry of the Times) to discuss the new book Worlds of Sound: the Story of Smithsonian Folkways and sample-cuts from the Worlds of Sound Sampler CD that comes with every copy ordered from Smithsonian Folkways. Each show is archived for future listening, and you can post your own "Folkways moment" on the web site for each show. Click here for more information.

November 14, 2008 Nine Smithsonian Folkways Albums Named to "Recordings to Hear Before You Die" List

Nine Smithsonian Folkways albums were selected in the new book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, a Listener's Life List released in August by Workman Publishing. Written by frequent National Public Radio contributor Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die features music from all genres, and the Smithsonian Folkways selections (just under one percent of the total!) are equally as diverse:

Smithsonian Folkways recording artists Big Bill Broonzy, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Guthrie, Dave Van Ronk, and Pete Seeger were also selected for albums they released on other labels. Please visit www.1000recordings.com to submit comments about the Smithsonian Folkways selections, as the albums with the most comments will be featured on the site!

October 21, 2008 "Honk-Hiss-Tweet-GGGGGGGGGG and Other Children's Favorites by Tom Glazer now available.

Tom Glazer's uncanny ability to "speak to children as saints speak to birds," as touted by the New York Times, rings loud and clear in this signature collection of live performances by this legendary children's artist. His own delightfully silly "On Top of Spaghetti" and "Honk-Hiss-Tweet-GGGGGGGGGG" stand as eternal favorites alongside "The Bus Song," "This Old Man," "Jimmy Crack Corn," and many more of these two dozen newly compiled and remastered classic tracks. Please click here for more information.

October 14, 2008 Worlds Of Sound: The Story Of Smithsonian Folkways is Available Now With a Free Music Sampler CD

Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways, a behind-the-scenes look at the "little label that could", is now available nationwide. If you order directly from folkways.si.edu, you will also receive an exclusive 26-track Worlds of Sound Sampler CD free for a limited time while supplies last. Please click here for more information.

October 9, 2008 Nobel Voices for Disarmament: 1901?2001 free for a limited time, download free lesson plan.

Nobel Voices for DisarmamentIntroduced and narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, producer and United Nations Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas, Nobel Voices honors the achievements of the last century's Nobel Peace Prize winners in disarmament and arms control and those who have been inspired by their work. Click here to stream the album free and download a free lesson plan.

September 25, 2008 Worlds Of Sound: The Story Of Smithsonian Folkways is Available now for Pre-Order With a Free Music Sampler Cd

Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways, a behind-the-scenes look at the "little label that could", is now available for pre-order and each order will include an exclusive 26-track Worlds of Sound Sampler CD free for a limited time while supplies last. Please click here for more information.

September 23, 2008 ¡Que Viva el Canto! Songs of Chile released

¡Que Viva el Canto!Veteran musician Rafael Manríquez, paired with an array of Chilean musician notables, crafts a stunning portrait of Chilean folk music and captures the stylistic evolution of the genre from the mid-20th century to the present. Influenced by the extraordinary work of performer-researchers Margot Loyola, Violeta Parra and Gabriela Pizarro, who documented the musical traditions of the Chilean countryside during the 1960s, Manríquez pays tribute to his homeland with songs that epitomize its rich, albeit tumultuous, cultural heritage. Ultimately, ¡Que Viva el Canto! aims to offer a new rendition of Chilean folk music that bridges the past and the present.

September 12, 2008 Worlds of Sound: the Story of Smithsonian Folkways, Available October 14th 2008, is a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the "Little Label That Could"

Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1949. Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways will be available for purchase from this web site soon, and will include an exclusive 26-track Worlds of Sound Music Sampler free for a limited time. Please sign-up to our monthly newsletter to find out when it will be available and click here for more information.

September 8, 2008 Blues Routes: Heroes and Tricksters On Sale in September

Blues RoutesThis compilation of live blues performances in a variety of styles is just$9.99 on CD format and $5.99 as a digital download through September, 2008. Blues Routes features 17 tracks from a wide range of artists, including Cephas & Wiggins, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, Etta Baker, the Georgia Sea Island Singers, and more. Click here to purchase the album.

September 5, 2008 Cephas & Wiggins in Billboard, Wall Street Journal

Richmond Blues, the new Smithsonian Folkways album by Cephas & Wiggins, entered the Billboard Blues Chart last week at #14 and was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article on the Piedmont blues style. Click here to read the article and click here for more information on Richmond Blues.

August 26, 2008 Nobel Voices for Disarmament: 1901–2001 Released

Nobel VoicesAlfred Nobel created the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901 to honor such advocacy. In this collection of archival and new spoken word recordings, Nobel laureates and other proponents of peace remind us of their profound efforts on behalf of world peace. Click here for more information.

August 6, 2008 Rahim Alhaj Profiled on CNN

Grammy-nominated oud master Rahim Alhaj was the subject of a feature video on CNN in conjunction with his July 31st, 2008 performance at the Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Alhaj, with percussionist Souhail Kaspar, released When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq on Smithsonian Folkways and earned a 2008 Grammy nomination in the traditional world music category. Click here to watch the CNN profile, featuring both interview and performance footage.

June 24, 2008 Música Del Pueblo: A Virtual Exhibition of Latino Roots Music and Culture in the United States and Latin America

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has partnered with Smithsonian Folkways and the Smithsonian Latino Center to create a Flash-based virtual exhibition featuring a diverse range of Latin American and Latino musics. Música del Pueblo draws its content from many sources: research and documentation from the Nuestra Música: Music in Latino Culture programs from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival; research and recordings from the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Tradiciones/Traditions series of música latina CDs; and new documentation of music done partnering with community organizations and researchers around the United States. The exhibition includes twenty four high-quality video features arranged by thematic categories. Content includes Puerto Rican bomba, plena, and jíbaro music, South Texas conjunto, Mexican mariachi music, Mexican huasteco, jarocho, and Michoacán Tierra Caliente son, Afro Cuban sacred music, Colombian vallenato, Dominican merengue típico, Salvadoran chanchona music, corridos, Guatemalan marimba music, Chilean nueva canción, and Latino hip-hop. These videos are accompanied by brief essays and links to related content in other sections of the Música del Pueblo web site and on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

June 8, 2008 Smithsonian Folkways Launches New Web Site

We hope you are enjoying the new Smithsonian Folkways web site, which is an effort to provide greater access to the more than 3,000 recordings that make up the collection. Browse our new releases, staff picks, best sellers, or the more than 40 genres represented. Try our enhanced advanced search, listen to song samples, and when you find recordings you'd like to purchase, you can choose between CD or Digital Download format.

May 30th, 2008 Discover Música Vallenata in Free Film Screening and in Smithsonian Magazine

Join the Smithsonian Latino Center, the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Smithsonian Channel and the Embassy of Colombia for a free screening of The Accordion Kings, a new documentary film about vallenato, the soulful music of Colombia's Caribbean coast. Following a brief discussion of the film, José Vásquez, Pangue Maestre, Ivo Díaz, and Daniel Castilla will perform a special concert of música vallenata featured in the film and on the new recording ¡Ayombe!:The Heart of Colombia's Música Vallenata, available now from Smithsonian Folkways. The event will begin at 6pm on Friday, June 6th, at the Baird Auditorium in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Click here for more information.

In addition, June's edition of Smithsonian Magazine features a profile of vallenato, video clips from The Accordion Kings, and an audio stream of "Matilde Lina", one of the songs from ¡Ayombe!:The Heart of Colombia's Música Vallenata. Click here for the profile and video clips, and click here for the audio stream of "Matilde Lina".

May 14, 2008 Two Folkways Records Added to the National Recording Registry

Two recordings from the Folkways collections were included in the 2007 National Recording Registry: You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song recorded by legendary children's music artist Ella Jenkins in 1966 and Freight Train recorded by folk songwriter and guitarist Elizabeth Cotten in 1959 (reissued in 1989). The National Recording Registry was established in 2000 in the Library of Congress to maintain and preserve sound recordings and collections of sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. Read more about the Registry and these Folkways artists here.

May 7, 2008 Smithsonian and University of Alberta Join to Conserve Folkways' Cover Material

When the Smithsonian Institution acquired Folkways Records from the estate of its founder, Moses Asch, in 1987, it received all of the company's business papers and files in addition to a complete catalog of its recordings. Among these materials were more than 2,000 envelope files, called "job bags," containing photographs, artwork, cover text and other production materials for each of Folkways' distinctive album covers.

Now, researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada are collaborating with Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage archivists and Smithsonian Folkways staff to document and preserve the contents of these job bags. Smithsonian Folkways recordings are available for digital download from Smithsonian Global Sound. Read more here.

April 1, 2008 In Memory of Sam Gesser (1930-2008)

We learned from a friend at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal that Sam Gesser passed away this morning in Montreal General Hospital, Quebec, Canada. Sam visited Folkways founder Moses Asch in 1951 and asked why there was no Canadian material in the Folkways Records catalogue. Asch said he was waiting for Gesser to provide it. Between 1951 and 1963 Gesser produced nearly 100 records of Canadian music traditions, introduced many others to Asch and became the first Folkways distributor for Canada. He is a member of the Order of Canada, has been honored with other awards, including a 2005 certificate from Smithsonian, a 2007 lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and late last year the very first Resonance Award, established by the Canadian Museum of Civilization to honour outstanding lifetime contributions to Canada's musical heritage. More about Sam Gesser.

March 31, 2008 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Announces Availability of Digitized Artifacts From Yahoo! Time Capsule

On Wednesday, March 26, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will obtain access to a Yahoo! Time Capsule of more than 150,000 digitized artifacts from Yahoo! and may make it available for future study by the academic community under an agreement with Yahoo!. Beginning today, the Yahoo! Time Capsule will be accessible to scholars and others associated with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings by appointment from the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

March 29, 2008 La India Canela in the NPR Studio

Dominican accordionist La India Canela visits the USA and NPR to discuss her new Smithsonian Folkways album, Merengue Típico from the Dominican Repbulic and to perform in the studios. Listen here.

January 18, 2008 Classic African American Gospel on NPR Weekend Edition

Kip Lornell, compiler of Classic African American Gospel from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (to be released on January 29, 2008), discusses this history of African American gospel and plays music from the upcoming release. Listen here.

December 8, 2007 Two Grammy Nominations for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq by Rahim Alhaj and Singing for Life: Songs of Hope, Healing, and HIV/AIDS in Uganda both nominated for Best Traditional World Music Album.

November 13, 2007 2007 Latin Grammy Win for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Congratulations to Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto from Colombia for winning a 2007 Latin GRAMMY for Best Folk album for Un Fuego de Sangre Pura. With Un Fuego de Sangre Pura (A Fire of Pure Blood), the roots of the cumbia thrive in the music of Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto from Colombia's violence-torn Caribbean hinterlands. The sounds of long-tubed gaita flutes, unique drums, and maraca stoke the fire of the cumbia and of other regional dances-the fast-paced puya and porro, the cadential gaita corrida, and the bullerengue. Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, the senior statesmen of their tradition, are an animated emblem of Colombian nationhood and a resilient fountainhead for some of Latin America's favorite dance rhythms.

June 25, 2007 Help Document the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

For the first time in Smithsonian history, the Smithsonian Photography Initiative and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage have invited visitors to add to the rich history of photo documentation of the Festival. To see a selection of these photos alongside photos taken by Smithsonian volunteers and staff, click on the link below. Upload your photos for inclusion in the exhibiton.

View slideshows of photos by Smithsonian staff, volunteers, and visitors
Upload your photos

March 14, 2007 Ella Jenkins Celebrates 50 Years as a Folkways Artist, Catalogue Now Available Digitally

The First Lady of Children's Music, Ella Jenkins, recorded her first album, Call and Response, for Folkways Records in 1957. For the past 50 years, she has been an integral part of the Folkways and Smithsonian Folkways catalogue and mission.

Today, three and sometimes four generations of fans still sing along with Miss Ella. And a whole new generation of children can learn the groundbreaking songs of Ella Jenkins on Smithsonian Global Sound, where, for the first time, the entire catalogue of Ella Jenkins's songs is available for digital downloading.

February 26, 2007 Folkways Artist Mark Spoelstra Passes Away

Mark Spoelstra (1940-2007) was a major figure in the folk music scenes in Greenwich Village and Cambridge, Massachusetts during the 1960s. He recorded a live record at Cambridge's Club 47 in 1963.

Born in Kansas City, Spoelstra was raised in California. He remembered moving to New York, where he started out playing for tips in coffee houses, playing at various clubs as a duo with Bob Dylan. On one such occasion, Gil Turner saw him playing with Dylan and brought him to the attention of Broadside Magazine, which began to publish his songs. Folkways Records subsequently released Mark's first two albums, Songs of Mark Spoelstra and the Live at Club 47 album. Folkways also released a rare 45 single of Mark (accompanied by the Two Timers). He went on to record for Elektra, Fantasy, Columbia and Origin Jazz Library. Among his well known compositions were "White Winged Dove" and "5 and 20 Questions."

Mark moved back to California in the late 1960s and joined the band Frontier Constabulary with Mitch Greenhill. In the early 1970s, he moved to Palo Alto, California and began to study the bible and from 1974-1979, Mark used his music as part of a music ministry. He continued to perform both religious and secular music. His last album was released in 2001. His final years were spent living with his family in the Sierra Mountains.

February 2, 2007 Eric Von Schmidt Dies at Age 75

Erik von Schmidt was an American singer-songwriter associated with the folk and blues revival of the 1960s. He was a prominent figure in the East Coast folk scene, influencing heavily the work of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and many others. He recorded Rolf Cahn and Erik von Schmidt for Folkways Records with his friend Rolf Cahn in 1961 and won a 1997 GRAMMY Award for his work on the liner notes to the Smithsonian Folkways reissue of The Anthology of American Folk Music. Smithsonian Folkways honors his passion for American folk and blues and his comitment to sharing the music with others.

December 5, 2006 Music of Central Asia Nominated for a 2007 Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music

Smithsonian Folkways recording Music of Central Asia vol. 2: Invisible Face of the Beloved: Classical Music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks, by Academy of Maqam was nominated for a 2007 GRAMMY Award in the Best Traditional World Music category. Amid the mosques and minarets of Samarkand and Bukhara, generations of vocalists set the mystical, Sufi-inspired verse of Hafiz and other classical poets to lyrical melodies, creating a spiritual art music of great refinement and sublime beauty called Shashmaqâm, confirming its important place among the great art music traditions of Euasia. Music of Central Asia is a co-production of the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia, a program of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The aim of the series is to present leading exponents of Central Asia's rich and diverse musical heritage to listeners outside the region.

Chris Taillie, Shore Fire Media
32 Court Street, 16th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone 718-522-7171 x12
Fax 718-522-7242
ctaillie@shorefire.com

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