[Updated December 15, 2015.]
This directory of online concerns offering indigenous, local, traditional, site- or people-specific music was started in 2006, before YouTube became the one-stop shop for all of the above, but we’ll keep banging away at it until the necessity of avoiding total obsolescence dictates otherwise.
Abkhaz dot org
Went looking for this one, given current events at press time (8/12/08), and because we’ve had Ossetians.com on hand below for some time. Choral music from this part of the world (with the exception of the glorious Georgian polyphonic singing) all seems pretty standard to these ears, which certainly isn’t a bad thing, and the same goes for the Abkhaz variety. But there are some really interesting contemporary recordings here of both recent composition and from traditional sources (referred to here as “words and music: people”) under the “Abkhazian Songs from Different Years” link. Singers with interesting and only barely schlocky accompaniments of harp and lute. A shame it’s taken armed conflict to make these revelations to us.
In the fall of 2013 I had the pleasure of visiting the North Country of New York State for the first time, as a guest of the TAUNY organization (Traditional Arts in Upstate New York). After a couple days of events in Potsdam and Canton, I took a memorable drive south through the Adirondacks listening to a CD that they’d produced called “Songs to Keep,” on which contemporary singers and players had arranged songs and tunes originally collected in the region by local historian Marjorie Lansing Porter in the ’40s and ’50s. There had been discussion in Canton about the typical institutional reticence about putting Porter’s whole collection up online (I reticence I understood not to be TAUNY’s), but Dave Ruch alerts us that in fact they’ve made a number of field recordings by Porter and others available on this excellent site, which in addition to audio—of fiddle tunes, occupational songs (mostly of lumbermen) and ballads, treacly Irish chestnuts, and a touch of minstrelsy—features song transcriptions, journal articles, and resources for teachers.
Great selection from across the Middle East and North Africa, including an extensive Rai section and all the heavy-hitters like Fairuz, Oum Khaltoum, Mohd. Abdel Wahab, and Farid Al Atrache filed, somewhat speciously, under “classical.” (The hugely popular Sabah Fakhri is here too, a man who I once saw perform in Morocco and who, disappointingly, bored me to tears. A British music journalist who caught up with me as I was sneaking out said memorably that Fakhri reminded him of a “singing bank manager.”)
There’s a torrent of horrifically terrible Albanian disco-pop online, but here is a quiet little corner of great traditional material tucked away behind the flood gates. It seems most of the material herein is the virile balladry of Northern Albania or Macedonia — vocalists accompanied by the cifteli lute and the one-stringed lahuta fiddle — as opposed to the mournful clarinet and violin-led kaba ensembles of the South, but it’s powerful stuff. A few of the artists you might recognize — Dervish Shaqa, Hashim Shala — from compilations; nearly all, however, were totally brand new to me. The artist index is under the heading “Oda Tim Shkupi” (Old Time Singers, perhaps??) over there on the right, beneath your man in the shades. The audio links are hosted by some Albanian news site, and some clicks will just take you to their home page, but don’t be dismayed: time spent finding the links that work make the trials worthwhile.
A site dedicated to the Sudanese Muslim scholar and activist Mahmud Muhammed Taha, who was executed in 1985 for his republican ideals and progressive teachings. (There was an interesting piece on him and his vision of a third way for Islam that appeared in the New Yorker in the fall of ’06.) Click on the “Quran & Inshad” link for an mp3 collection of mystical chant (inshad). The “Al-Yateemu” inshad, under the second Abdelkareem Ali Musa link, is so, so wonderful.
Alan Lomax Archive / Association for Cultural Equity
It’s a great pleasure to finally (May 1, 2012) list my long-time employer, the Alan Lomax Archive, here. For many years we’ve been laboring mightily to get the 17,400 or so digital audio files and 5000 photographic images cataloged, uploaded, and presented online, after nearly an equal amount of time spent digitizing them, and it’s finally come to pass. The ACE Online Archive spans Lomax’s recording career after he left the Library of Congress in 1944, so, just in case you go looking for Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, or Son House, they’re not here (or not here yet, at least). But what is here is the (nearly!) complete range of Lomax’s documentary activities from circa 1946 to 1991 — from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the Lesser Antilles, Morocco, Romania, music of various ethnic groups of the former Soviet Union, and, of course, the Southern United States, all streaming in their entirety. There is also a collection of Lomax’s assorted radio productions, made for the BBC, CBS, the Mutual Broadcasting System, and the Department of Health’s syphilis awareness initiative (!). Needless to say, there’s more here than I can begin to cover; I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the extent of it for nearly twelve years now, and it’s still boggling — that Lomax did all that he did, and that it’s as good as it all is. I hope you enjoy.
American Folklife Center
I was once told by a colleague at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress that it would take 120 years of forty-hour weeks of straight listening to make it through all the Center’s audio holdings. If that was hyperbolic, though, I’m sure it wasn’t by much — the depth and breadth of their collections truly boggle the mind, and for years the only ways you could get ears on them was to 1. visit the Library, 2. order a rather high-dollar tape transfer of the material, or 3. snag one of the very scarce 78-album or LP issues the Recording Lab produced (or the now-equally scarce CD reissues on Rounder). Now the internet has given the Center the opportunity to exhibit some of their collections in sound and vision, and their choices so far are phenomenal: recordings from the country’s first black folk music festival, at Georgia’s Fort Valley State College (make sure you check out the sublime and ancient banjo of Sidney Stripling); ballads, stories, and songs of canal-boat captain Pearl S. Nye, nearly two hundred fiddle tunes performed by the octogenarian Blue Ridge fiddler Henry Reed; a diversity of songs and dance tunes of Northern California’s immigrant communities, collected by the WPA in the ’30s; John A. Lomax’s massive “Southern States” tour of 1939 (here in its entirety); and Omaha Indian recordings spanning over 100 years from cylinder to multi-track tape in the Neptune Plaza. Now that’s some damn good allocation of federal funds.
Archive of Indian Music
“The Archive has been set up in collaboration with the Manipal University’s MCPH (Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities) which has generously helped the Archive in setting up and running its registered Office in Bangalore. AIM seeks to digitize and preserve for posterity the valuable slices of India’s cultural history and musical heritage. The Archive is a custodian of these treasures and makes these available for all through its different dissemination arms. Come, join us in this fascinating exploration of an era that has gone by, listen to some of the best voices and the most divine instruments of this country cutting across various genres — Hindustani classical, Carnatic classical, Theatre, Early cinema, Folk and the rest! Help us to bequeath this inheritance to our future generations!”
Asian Classical Mp3
An introduction to East and Southeast Asian classical traditions. Dr. Phong Nguyen’s dan tranh pieces are especially lovely.
Performances of Jain devotional singing, liturgical pieces and prayers.
Awesome Tapes From Africa
Indeed. A hodge-podge of Pan-African cassettes, some great, some not so great, but all, we suppose, are pretty awesome. Much obliged for their postings of music by Prince Nico Mbarga, Gnawi Mahmoud Guinia, and the sublime Oudaden, though those are only a fraction of what’s on file here.
Goodness gracious, an unbelievably huge site dedicated to African American sacred music in most of its commercial forms, from the early ’20s through at least the late ’70s. Like so much contemporary representation of black gospel outside of its native habitats (why is this so?), there’s no documentation of places, people, denominations, traditions past what you get on the label of the 45 or 78, or cover of the LP. But we’re growing tired of our preoccupation with these issues of elucidation vs. obscurity, at least at press time, so we’ll just strongly urge you to lose many hours (easily done) checking out the surfeit of riches here; from the familiar (Fisk Jubilee Singers 78s on Columbia; Dixie Hummingbirds 45s on Peacock) to all manner of rarities, including a particularly irresistible private press LP of instrumental praise disco (Michael Soward). Gorgeous photos, great audio quality — go get lost/found.
BBC Radio 3’s World Music Archive
Praises to BBC Radio 3’s newly launched World Music Archive, which makes available a decade of site-specific programming from across the globe, compiled and presented by the indefatigable Andy Kershaw and Lucy Duran. Given the financial resources and massive international audience of which the BBC can boast – and those in an age when nearly every other like minded outlet is hemorraghing both – it’s no wonder that Radio 3 has consistently churned out some of the most well-wrought radio explorations into living vernacular music anywhere, in the spirit of mid-century folk-music programmers like Peter Kennedy and Alan Lomax, but far surpassing their geographical breadth. High points from Cape Verde, Algeria, Ugandan pit xylophones, Panamian cumbia; the 2003 North Korean special is especially worth an eerie listen. Ian Burrell, in an article on the archive’s launch in the Independent, wrote that “the BBC is under political pressure to reduce its online operations on the grounds that they damage its commercial rivals, but additional money was provided for this project, which is seen as having significant educational merit.” I see nary a whit of worthwhile competitive contributions from “commercial rivals,” and hope that – political pandering or not – that this one stays funded for a good, long time.
Site devoted to the studio manifestations of Andean music, featuring revival bands from Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina. No shortage of the kind of thing that litters the NYC subway system, but there are really satisfying things if you dig. The radical Chileans Inti-Illimani are here, as are some of the good groups featured on that series of “Musique Indien” Barclay LPs from the ’70s. A fair amount does sound pulled off LPs, including some great topical material from the renowned Bolivian singer Zulma Yugar. Trencito de los Andes’ “Italianomasicuna (Italian Guys)” is a real treasure, with the inclusion of a totally effective clarinet, some weird accompaniment substitutions from verse to verse, and what sounds like a very small child taking a refrain. Streams in Real Audio. Thanks to Mesa Mike for the tip.
Incredible site dedicated to hillbilly boogie, western swing, rockabilly, and Cajun stompers, with extensive bio- and discographical details and plenty of streaming audio with download options for every track. Definitely tons of material you’re not likely to hear anywhere else. Lovingly compiled and edited in the South of France (where else?).
A huge index of recordings of pieces in The Sacred Harp, featuring (mostly?) contemporary singers around the country. Some download, some stream, and fidelity varies widely, but the site’s an essential resource for both shape-note singers and listeners. Especially great for the multiple examples offered of particular songs: a favorite like “Present Joys,” for example, is represented by no less than 25 separate recordings.
British Library: Sounds
There’s no hope in giving ample introduction here to the massive cache of vernacular music that the British Library, god love them, have made available online. Laziness is the only obstacle to our parsing their geographical collections out here: commercial releases on 78-rpm records from sub-Saharan Africa (’40s and ’50s) and the Middle East (’30s through the ’60s); a dizzying international selection of cylinder-era material; and field recordings from across the world by the eminent collectors and weekend hobbyists, from India to the South Seas to Ireland and Britain. England is particularly well-represented: at last, most if not all of the late Peter Kennedy’s recordings are here for complete streaming, and this after many years of frothing over his “Folktrax” website. If this index were dedicated only to representing the riches accessible through the BL: Dayenu. It would have been enough.
Constantin Brailoiu Collection
Brailoiu was one of mid-century Europe’s foremost ethnomusicologists, hailing from Romania and an inheritor of the progressive school of Bartok and Kodály. His collections are now digitized and available on-line through Geneva’s Musée d’ethnographie’s Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire. It’s a breathtakingly massive collection, as these aren’t just recordings Brailoiu made – of which there are many from 1930s Eastern Europe – but also those he amassed from international archives, such as the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress; the BBC Recorded Programmes Library; and the African collections at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. That means that a great deal of material unavailable digitally from those repositories is available here. This tip came in from Hunter Robertson, whose French is to be trusted more confidently than ours, and he has given us some recommendations in the comments at the bottom of this page. But you can also browse by genre, instrument, country, and ethnic group, and there are many wonders to behold: Nepalese ballad cycles, a diversity of Sub-Saharan griots, the singing of Chilhowie, Virginia’s Horton Barker, commercial European 78s, it just goes on and on. Amazing.
Cajun Music MP3
From the ’20s to the present, with high-quality audio streams. While we’re especially partial to music of the 78-rpm era, there’s some excellent contemporary material available, especially that of Cory McCauley & His Evangeline Aces. Engaging and enthusiastic notes provided by host Neil Pommier, and if you’re feeling especially adventurous or are prone like us to that certain kind of discographical obscurantism that is satisfied by matrix numbers and personnel comparisons, spend some time with the “Recording Activity in New Orleans in the ’20s” link.
Another North African music site, this one divvying up the space between Moroccan and Algerian chaabi, Algerian rai, and Amazigh music. As Agraw.com above, there’s plenty awfulness, but the rai selection is well-appointed with the stars for those guiltily pleasurable moments. Luaka Bop’s great compilation of Djur Djura is available, and a few really satisfying tunes from Omar Boutmazought, among much else.
Carnatic Music Krithi Audio Archive
The intention is distance-learning for students and enthuasists of Carnatic (South Indian) classical vocal music, but it’s also an enjoyable site for the mostly unaffiliated or unfamiliar. Your host is Shivkumar Kalyanaraman, who sings most of the ragas found herein, and who walks you through the poetry (sahitya) and rhythms (talas) of each.
Say what you will about Chabad (I’ve had my own share of being accosted on the street by lulav-and-etrog bearing Chabadniks during Sukkot, and I don’t look much Jewish), they’ve done quite a service to the internet-listening public with the Jewish Music section of Chabad.org. Although all of the links to Shabbat melodies and music for the “Jewish home” seem to require an extinct plug-in, 14 (perhaps 16 if you purchase them?) volumes of Hasidic niggunim are available, sung a cappella or with (mostly) tasteful accompaniment provided by accordions, fiddles, pianos, the occasional woodwind (…) and even at one point the coconutty sound of a horse’s trot (…!). Accompanying commentary gives the usage for each nigun – mostly for the High Holidays or Shabbas – or offers descriptions such as a “serious and moving melody;” a melody “expressive of deep yearning for spiritual elevation.”
Digital Library of Appalachia
This huge and utterly wonderful research site is a cooperative venture between the 12 colleges that make up the Appalachian College Association, making the digital holdings of 34 libraries, museums, and archives available on-line. A sizeable portion of those holdings, of course, are aural, and the DLA has tens of thousands of audio tracks available for streaming. And it feels like it. More ballads, fiddle tunes, banjo breakdowns, and clips from vintage radio and concert appearances than of which you can easily conceive, many of which are performed by folks you’ve never heard of if you weren’t making the rounds of Southern mountain folk festivals in the 1970s. Which of course means that there are some incredible gems here, as well as plenty mediocrities, so start with a search for a tune or song you like and see what pops up. Many of my favorites are here, with previously unreleased material on offer: E. C. Ball, Cas Wallin, Spencer Moore, Tommy Jarrell. Some great, if rough, tunes from Sam McNeil (late of the Floyd County Ramblers) were happy finds. Definitely spend some time browsing the old-time and gospel radio recordings, originally broadcast by some of the heavy-hitters on the Virginia dial in the 1940s: WDBJ (Roanoke), WPAQ (Mt. Airy), WBOB (Galax). And plenty of Piedmont and black Appalachian blues and dance tunes, as well as native American performances, provide a more complete picture of the region than what most outlets tend to paint.
Dismuke’s Virtual Talking Machine
Quote: “This site is devoted to vintage music from the early decades of the 20th Century. It is my hope that this site will help further the creation of a new generation of enthusiasts for an exciting, vibrant and, sadly, all but forgotten era of American popular culture.” Some familiar – Isham Jones, Kay Kyser, Tommy Dorsey – and some not-so-familiar pop tunes from the ’20s and ’30s. Keep your eyes peeled for the rare New Orleans platter, like Lil Armstrong’s New Orleans Bootblacks doing “Mixed Salad.” The Acoustical Recording section provides some real gems, with 19-Oughty ragtime from the likes of the Zon-O-Phone Orchestra and the banjo star Vess Osman. Site doesn’t look like it’s been updated in a couple years, but what’s a couple years to tunes from the teens?
A curious site of sacred and classical music coming from what seems to be, how you say, a very good place: stressing, and we quote, a “positive music repertoire.” MP3 libraries of white and black material from the 20s through the present, with the most popular of the black quartets of the ’40s and ’50s (Soul Stirrers, Swan Silvertones, Selah Jubilee Singers) representing the latter and some of our personal favorites the former: three sides of the sublime Alfred G. Karnes are here (the singing evangelist from Corbin, Kentucky, who was on hand for Ralph Peer and the “birth of country music” in Bristol, 1927) and the Kentucky duo McVay and Johnson’s thrilling “Ain’t Gonna Lay My Armor Down.” Distinctions are made between “blue grass” [sic] and “mountain gospel,” with the latter meaning old-time; find the Monroes and the Stanleys in the bluegrass section. Also, perhaps more interesting, collections of classical music on 78 from India (with an emphasis on the temple tradition of dhrupad Northern classical singing, as opposed to the contemporary khayal), Iran, China, some Oum Khalsoum bits and some very worthwhile, cylinder-era Arab recordings. Strange, small section of “positive jazz” too, bearing a photo of Jelly Roll Morton and Hot Peppers but not providing any. If Jelly Roll ain’t positive, what in goodness’ name are Bird and Django doing here?
Professional audio-sweetener labors to restore and re-present rare international traditional/vernacular 78s for your enjoyment and edification. Look often, and listen immediately, as there doesn’t seem to be enough bandwidth to keep the restored tracks up in perpetuity – and once they’re gone, god knows if you’ll ever encounter them again, especially with such pleasing fidelity. A noble pursuit and a killer site, functioning well as an on-line addendum to the mission of the Secret Museum of the Air (below, if you’re unfamiliar).
Outfitted like that one site with all the videos, Farsitube also has a prodigious music section, with tunes running the gamut from classical, folk, rock (from killer psych to the chintziest and most vapid of ’80s material), to contemporary pop. You just have to jump in and start clicking, as the artists are listed in alphabetical indexes. My advice is to find what you like at Iranian.com (below) and come listen to it here, as the quality is considerably better.
This is a generous service from the Florida State Archives & Library, offering a considerable diversity of music from their Folklife Festival archives. Complete festival performances from 1954 to 1979 are available for streaming, plus hi-res images of those years’ programs, and there are many, many gems therein. There are famous folks, to be sure – Bill Monroe, Jean Ritchie, Doc Watson, Etta Baker, and Johnny Shines (with chirping bird accompaniment) – but go instead with the dulcet harmonizing of the Amigo Male Singers, the revelatory gut-bucket diddley-bow (which he called a yackety-board) of Moses Williams, and a fairly recent guitar-accompanied snack-food (and vegetable) cry from Tom Walton, who hawked hot dogs and french fries at a baseball stadium in White Springs. He shows that the street cries heard on those old Sam Charters records from New Orleans and Tony Schwartz broadcasts from New York didn’t die out so easily. (And not just living a strange decontextual afterlife in the live show of Chris Smither.) A fair amount of Mexican and smatterings of Vietnamese, Greek, and South Asian music are also available. Every state should take Florida’s lead of devoting resources and bandwidth to projects as valuable as this.
“A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures.” A much-needed and much-appreciated site streaming free folklorically inclined videos, dealing with music, dance, art and craft, and topical issues. Far too much great content to list here, so we’ll give a plug for Martha E. King’s 2005 portrait of the ballad tradition of the Sodom Laurel, Madison County, North Carolina, of which Cas Wallin, a singer we hold most dear, was a standard-bearer. That film is “The Madison County Project.”
Yes, here’s the great Bulgarian mp3 site we knew existed somewhere. Nothing to it: a list of albums of compilations and solo artists, all of which are very satisfying to the ears. (Especially after the time we just spent digging at Bulgarvoice.com, above.) The Bulgarian Folklore Masters comps are wonderful, and there is familiar material here too: a full album of the famous Phillip Kutev Ensemble and of course two records of the Mystere des Voix Bulgares. If you like something you hear and want more information, or perhaps even to buy the thing (as the mp3s aren’t of terribly high fidelity), check out the useful Vox Bulgarica site, as there isn’t a whole lot of info here at Gaida. Great site, though, especially with the lovely rotating pastoral photos on the homepage.
Gamelan Nyai Saraswati
Live recordings of the Gamelan Nyai Saraswati of the Department of Music, UNC Chapel Hill.
Robert Garfias Collection
Most enthusiasts of “ethnic” musics have encountered the name Robert Garfias somewhere or another – the UC-Irvine anthropology professor spent several decades making field recordings around the world (East Asia, South Asia, Mexico, Turkey), producing ethnograpic films, and writing about traditional music in liner notes and scholarly journals. More recently he’s been making his tapes available through his website, with the hopes of providing access to his entire collection in time, although he admits he “may never complete this.” For now, though, there is plenty of material to spend time with, including an extensive collection of video clips of performances shot around the globe. Make sure you check out the Inuit “fun dance” from King Island, Alaska, the Korean kayagum sanjo clips from the mid ’60s, and the intimate Hamza El Din performances shot in 1970. Audio-wise, there are the phenomenal ensembles of Sein Chit Ti and Golden Peacock, performing in the tradition of the Burmese court, and the ragas of the Nathamuri brass band of Madras, in Southern India, among others. There’s a gallery of still photos, too, including a couple especially fetching shots of Tommy Jarrell in a tacky striped jacket and string tie.
We’re including this site, although the audio seems to be disconnected. Hopefully that won’t last long. So much great stuff here, from calls to prayer to Koranic recitation to many varities of Sufi trance practice. “Arabic comedy” too, though we can’t vouch for it.
What was a site of “scratchy old Chinese records” has diversified and is now devoted to “scratchy old records you’re never heard” from East Asia and Southeast Asia: primarily Chinese, but also Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Burmese, and Cambodian. Many beautiful images of those records’ labels and related ephemera too.
Trans-Levant music site with a plurality of contemporary pop, but there’s worthwhile stuff to be found, usually identifiable by the artist headshots. Good with Moroccan “folkloric” groups like Lemchaheb, Imghrane, Amidat Rma, and Oudaden; classic crooners can be found too under their respective country listings.
The focus is on post-war country-and-western, honky tonk, and hillbilly bop — musics this listener doesn’t have tons of truck with — but the preponderance of posts feature releases by regional and local labels, making for plenty of interesting listening.
Hmong Music for the Internet
Huge clearing-house of Hmong music of nearly every variety, with, admittedly, a strong reliance on bad pop. There have been a number of compilations over the years featuring traditional Hmong song and music (most recently, Sublime Frequencies released some lovely Hmong material on their Ethnic Minority Music of North Vietnam CD), and seek those out if it’s the brass, the bamboo, or the bowed two-string you’re looking for. But these folks are beginning a cassette-digitization drive – see “Hmong Classic Cassette” – and our forays into those gleanings turned up some pretty great stuff. Sure, not without plenty synth and even some canned seagull effects, but satisfying nonetheless. (“Classic,” by the way, seems to mean mid-1990s. If anyone can find the older stuff herein, let us know.)
A digital hillbilly goldmine of banjo-hyper-collector Jim Bollman’s stacks of 78s. Extensive catalogs of the stars – Fiddlin’ John Carson, Jimmie Rodgers, the various and sundry Skillet Licker incarnations – as well as great records from the cream of the obscure, such as Dr. Smith’s Champion Hoss Hair Pullers and Luke Highnight and His Ozark Strutters (though, sadly, their “There’s No Hell In Georgia” is not included here). The link above takes you to the artist page, though there is also a title search option. Donations accepted; indeed, encouraged.
Max Hunter Folk Song Collection
“The Max Hunter Collection is an archive of almost 1600 Ozark Mountain folk songs, recorded between 1956 and 1976. A traveling salesman from Springfield, Missouri, Hunter took his reel-to-reel tape recorder into the hills and backwoods of the Ozarks, preserving the heritage of the region by recording the songs and stories of many generations of Ozark history. As important as the songs themselves are the voices of the Missouri and Arkansas folks who shared their talents and recollections with Hunter. Designed to give increased public access to this unique and invaluable resource, this site is a joint project of the Missouri State University Department of Music and the Springfield-Greene County Library in Springfield, Missouri, where the permanent collection is housed.” —Collection editor Dr. Michael F. Murray, Missouri State University
International Research Center for Traditional Polyphony
Tipped off to this UNESCO-supported institute through a NYT piece about the resurgence of Georgian polyphonic singing. We say above that we are opposed to including sites that don’t offer complete music samples, but this collection is too exciting to exclude (and their sample lengths are fairly generous). While their field of interest is global – a map plots the distribution of various polyphonic styles across the globe – their database is comprised only of Georgian examples, but it’s quite a swath of genres, regions, and applications, drawn from what sounds like many decades of recordings, from the field to the church to the concert hall.
Iranian dot com
America might be Ahmedinejad’s “Great Satan,” but he should keep an eye on the electric guitar riffs gracing some of the unbelievably guiltily-pleasurable pop tunes available here. In the prodigious alphabetical list of predominantly pop performers, there are also the big names in classical Iranian music (big enough for me to be familiar with – thanks, Kamrooz), and surely others I’ve never heard of. Man, and then there are the caches of vintage radio performances, songs of the Revolution, World Cup songs, and very generous section of ethnic/tribal folk music, interpretations of Persian trad songs, and some progressive folk revivalists too.
The best of the Iranian music sites thus far for pop and folk-rock material. Run out of Germany as it features plenty of banned singers – especially the female variety – on video clips and loads of recordings from cassette and LP. A bit hard to browse if you don’t know which singers are to your taste, but if you’ve got the time to poke around you’ll be rewarded. The copious vintage photos make for an time-machine experience that especially jars this Westerner, trying to conceive of how such a huge diversity of pre-Revolution Iranian musical talent could go overseas, underground, or outright disappear in such a short number of years. An amazing resource.
Yet another fine Iranian music site. This one is nearly entirely in Farsi, but when the illiterate finds his way to a good-looking album cover (and there are many), the useful pop-up player features the artist and song names in English.
They were moving servers for sometime, and are now back up, but unfortunately the classical maqam pages are empty with a “Files will be added soon” note. Consoling myself with a trip to the “general songs” section, we have to admit that a good amount of it sounds like please-hold, a-representative-will-be-with-you-shortly music, about as canned as can be, but at least it’s being made at all?
Irish Traditional Music Archive
A highly enjoyable diversity, instrumental and sung, in Irish and English, from cylinder, disc, and modern media, made available by this noble repository and cultural center. What you find on their site is but a fraction of their holdings, but new digitized collections are posted with some frequency, and they’re all worth your attention. Take some time with the contemporary recordings too, some of which are featured in the “They Love Music Mightily” exhibit. Rosie Stewart’s rendition of “My Charming Edward Boyle” is one for the ages.
Music of the Jain puja: devotional songs, recitations, liturgical pieces and prayers. Most of the songs are in the Hindi and Gujarati sections; unfortunately the English songs for “Jr. Kindergarten” and “Sr. Kindergarten” are unavailable.
Judaica Sound Archives
Care of the Florida Atlantic University. Plenty vintage recordings in Yiddish, of Sephardic singers and liturgy, and cantorial gems by the hundred.
Juneberry: The Roots Music Listening Room
Lock yourself in your room with a Coleman camper stove and some cans of soup and an internet connection and this website and maybe we’ll see you later. This site is nearly too good to be true, and home to just too much to mention. Black and white, pre-war and post-war, fiddlers from Cape Breton and Appalachia, sacred and secular, calypso and corridos, Library of Congress field recordings, etc.
Thrilling and huge selection of film tunes, folk music, devotional material, Carnatic performances, songs for to accompany the Yakshagana dance traditions of Karnataka, and many recorded story-tellings! The bhajans to Shiva are especially stirring, but those with any taste for Vijay Anand and the zany antics of the Kannada-language film music composers past and present, you’re in business with the decade-spanning archives.
They couldn’t have tried to make this site any less user-friendly, but once you get past the totally non-intuitive menus, you’re in Cambodian pop HEAVEN. And though the Borat Era (and G. W. Bush Era) have made English misconstructions passé: “Every Khmermidi forum members and supporters are invited to join KhmerMIDI Chat Room where is new place for friendship [sic].” Update (Jan. ’09): KhmerMidi has updated! New look, easier to navigate – do like they say and “let the music heals your boredom.” [Sic.]
There’s a sensation hard to describe – roughly akin to simmering anxiety of a claustrophobic kind, but not wholly unpleasant – that’s born of experiencing something deeply beautiful yet entirely inscrutable. Thus is the effect of this site’s music on this listener. The many a cappella performances available from Sakiro Sakiro are – there’s no other word for them – sublime, and I wish I knew something more about them than just how affecting they are. Googling the singer brings up 59 entires, none of which are of any use whatsoever. The Dersim Muhabbeti ensemble provide a more familiar approach (not many discernible differences from Turkish classical music to these novice ears, with the use of duduk and saz), but also a very beautiful one. Karapete Xaco seems to be a respected vocalist of an older school, with the several of his 20 songs I’ve listened to thus far being absolute stunners, but all available information about his in transliterated Kurdish. Such is the way throughout, giving rise to the aforementioned feeling – though a small price to pay for this thrillingly lovely and unfamiliar music.
Laos, Music & Songs In
Laotian field recordings, collected by the Archives of Traditional Music in Laos and the Lao-German Research & Development Project at the Laotian National Library in Vientiane. Lots of lam, the national singing style, accompanied by bells, drums, and the khaen, a complex mouth organ made of bamboo tubes connected to a windchest through which the player blows. Instrumental selections too, with a Voice of the Khaen portion, and a separate section is devoted to the music of the Khmu highlanders, though to these entirely novice ears, the differences seem too subtle to ken. There are also songs recorded among the Lao people in Northeastern Thailand – folk songs, lullabies (a beautiful piece called “Dear Moon” that asks the moon for a “gold water scooper … sticky rice for my precious sister … [and] Lam, the Isan folk opera, for my sister to enjoy.” Thus the moon giveth – down below there are a dozen Isan pieces, some of which are really stirring, though distorted and lo-fi they may be. And finally: did you know there was a song to the Champa flower, extolling its noisome virtues? There is, and it’s winningly sung (a little flat) by some children at the “Children’s Home for Cultural and Education.” (Don’t get your hopes up over the potential pop links at the bottom of the home-page – none of them work.)
Trans-African music site offering tons of rare recordings often not available stateside, and drawn primarily from cassette and vinyl sources. Presenter John B. is a well-versed and gracious host, and offers plenty interesting and helpful bio- and discographical information. For the listener (this listener) only familiar with the most widely exported of African artists, Likembe is a huge treat, vastly edifying and enjoyable.
Lomax, John A. and Alan in Louisiana, 1934
Although commercial record companies started recording the lyric songs and dance music of Cajun and Creole Louisiana in 1928, they had no interest in its older, more domestic ballad and narrative songs. Alan Lomax and his father John A. Lomax collection dozens of hours of this soon-to-disappear material in the early 1930s, as well as occupational pieces, dance tunes, sacred songs and ring shouts, and blues from Creole and African American performers throughout the Southwestern portion of the state. This site is a digital resource for the study of the 1934 trip, and was developed as part of a John W. Kluge Center Alan Lomax Fellowship by Joshua Caffery, author of Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, which contains transcriptions, translations, and annotations of these recordings. The recordings themselves are part of the Lomax Collection at American Folklife Center.
The Lomax Kentucky Recordings
The product of four years of work (admittedly, our work), this online exhibition is a collaboration between the Lomax Archive, Berea College, the University of Kentucky, and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and features nearly 70 hours of Eastern Kentucky folk music and lore, collected under the auspices of the Library between 1933 and 1942. It makes available for the first time the extensive collections compiled by folklorists John A. Lomax, his son Alan Lomax, and Alan’s wife Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold, as well as those of Columbia University’s Mary Elizabeth Barnicle. Featuring full, free streaming audio of every performance, interview, and narrative segment—some 1300 discrete pieces—along with searchable recording details (performer name, location, date, instrument, etc.), the site presents a diverse spectrum of Appalachian traditional culture and a point of entry into the lives of the farmers, laborers, coal miners, preachers, housewives, public officials, soldiers, children, grandparents, and itinerant musicians who nurtured and were nurtured by it. You’ll hear ballads and lyric songs, play-party ditties and comic pieces, topical and protest material, fiddle and banjo tunes, hymns and sacred songs, children’s games and lullabies, and a variety of spoken lore—religious testimonies, occupational reminiscences, tall tales, jokes, and personal narratives. You’ll hear the first version of “The House of the Rising Sun” recorded “in the field,” sung by 16-year-old Georgia Turner of Noetown, Kentucky. You’ll hear W.H. Stepp’s sublime rendition of “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” adapted by Aaron Copland for his ballet Rodeo and later reconfigured and broadcast to the nation in the “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” ad campaign, featuring the voice of Robert Mitchum. There are ballads of ancient derivation and more recent ones concerning local disasters; one favorite is the anti-smoking “Tobacco Song.” There are bawdy songs with lyrics deserving of “Parental Advisory” warnings. High-school girls sing of the murder of “Pretty Polly” in eight-part harmony. There’s a ten-part story of a drunken moonshine spree and the sounds of a hog-calling competition. There are the wonderful, wonderful performances by Little Daugh Henson of Botto on Billy’s Branch in Clay County. Among much, much else.
It’s apparently impossible to order media from Mahoor — the prolific Tehran-based label and publishing house dedicated to traditional Persian music — without an Iranian bank account, but a consolation is their streaming radio station, Radio Mahoor.
Afghan site with gobs of mp3s, though it does require a lot of picking through a swamp of pretty unsatisfying pop material. If you still want more Afghan music, you might want to spend some time with the links – though many are obsolete – listed at http://afghanistanmusic.com/.
Mon Rak Pleng Thai
“Collection of great music by thai people; ลูกทุ่ง (luk thung), ลูกกรุง (luk krung), หมอลำ (molam), various folk styles & others. most of these are taken from tapes that i found either in thailand or at home, in america. quality should be pretty good (unless stated otherwise).” Quality is most often great, both fidelity and content-wise.
A new project of the Southeast Asian Music Enterprise. Their site explains their mission better than we can, so we’ll just recommend the “roots music” audio medleys they offer (although they give you no title or artist info), found next to the respective genre descriptions native to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Looks great, but the “Playlist Format is Unrecognized” on my Mac. Anybody who has better luck, probably on a PC, please let me know how.
Moroccan Tape Stash
There’s a lot to be said for blogs making music available that you wouldn’t be likely come by anywhere else outside of Bukhara, Dakar, or Rabat — this blog is of course dedicated to those — but there’s even more to be said for blogs that are happy to help you figure out what the hell it is you’re listening to, who the folks were who played it, and the historial, social, cultural, and religious dimensions of the music’s context. There just happen to be fewer of those, because it takes work to figure this stuff out; a lot more than it takes to just upload an killer photo and folder of MP3s. Kudos to Tim Abdellah Fuson for bringing his expertise to bear on a tremendously wonderful but obscure body of music — that, very roughly speaking, of the Moroccan folk revival period of the 1970s. Some of the greatest bands of the 1970s came out of this Berber- and Gnawa-inspired scene; most influential among them Jil Jilala and Nass El Ghiwane. You’ll find the latter here, along with some top-notch rarities you’d be hard pressed to turn up outside of Le Comptoir Marocain de Distribution de Disques. Especially recommended is the killer Mohammed Roucha tape. Looking forward to a lot more from the Stash. (Self-promotional postscript: Prof. Fuson graciously contributed the liner notes for our second Twos & Fews release, Ouled Bambara: Portraits of Gnawa.)
South Asian music site with not a ton of stuff, but an ecumenical perspective, with Pakistani, Indian, and Pashto offerings. It only streams Windows Media Player files, so we can’t vouch for anything. Maybe we’re just including this so we can ask why are the Venga Boys featured in the Urdu ghazals section?
Music India OnLine
Yet another prodigious Indian music site, this one a little harder to traverse than Dishant above, but, if your taste is less pop-oriented, much more rewarding. Mostly leaning towards classical, the site is well-stocked with both Hindustani and Carnatic artists (or “artistes,” to use the vernacular), and a great search function for a particular raag brings up your results separately according to their regions, genres, or applications, with album titles and thaal (beat), when applicable, for each. Spend time with the many Kishori Amonkar records. But you needn’t feel bound to ragas alone. Lots of regional musics and qawwalis (though the latter are filed under “light” music, which seems unfair), and even if the stream sometimes sounds like about 1.5kb, the fidelity can’t be said to be much worse than the $.60 South Asian variety store cassettes you can gamble, and frequently lose, on.
Music of Ukraine
“Here is some traditional music from Ukraine. Mostly this is music for traditional Ukrainian dance. There are also some songs, both secular and religious. Some recordings from September of 1991. A very emotional time, shortly after Ukraine declared independence from the former Soviet Union. All this music was recorded live. It is full of emotion, patriotic feeling and pure enjoyment of a spectacular show of song, music and dance.”
Northwest Fiddle Field Recordings
A letter appeared in the February-March 2011 issue of The Old-Time Herald calling for more coverage of vernacular music traditions in the Pacific Northwest — a region we admit to being the last in America to be associated with old-time music. Lucky for us that two pages later it was announced that Phil and Vivian Williams of Voyager Records have launched a page devoted to their recordings of Northwest fiddlers, a collection they’re been amassing for “over fifty years.” They’ve put lot of work has put into this index — biographies of musicians are followed by a selection of their tunes (some downloadable), links to videos, and in some cases recorded reminscences. Many of these players have been featured on Voyager releases, of which there are dozens — I admit I knew nothing of the label past the LP they issued in the late ’60s of the Skillet Lickers’ complete “Corn Licker Still In Georgia” skit-cycle — but the name of the site undersells the Williams’ huge reach. There’s much from Washington State, but also Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Canada (from B.C. to Quebec), Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama…
Oriental Traditional Music
Extremely extensive and generous blog devoted primarily to Hindustani, Carnatic, and South Asian Sufi music drawn from LPs (’50s-80s) and cassettes, although there are also forays into Persian classical, North African and Arabic classical and Sufi traditions, and gamelan.
Sophisticated collection of big names from the Middle East, North Africa, South and Central Asia; especially good for oud material. Check out the “rare tunes” link for some classical Arabic gems from the 78 era, as well as a handful of live recordings. The Saliba al-Qatrib session is sublime.
A fiercely proud site devoted to the Osset people, whose national self-regard is geopolitically limited to two small regions, North and South Ossetia, wedged between Russia and Georgia and sprinkled on either side of the Caucasus. The news is hardly of the objective variety – especially considering the recent conflict between Georgia and Russian over South Ossetia – but do check out the “folk songs and ballads” link at the bottom left of the English home page. Included there are songs of an Olympic weightlifter and plenty martial praise songs, including several to Issa Pliyev, commander of the Soviet ground forces in Cuba during the Cuban Missle Crisis, and native Ossetian.
Such a great site, with tons of material: qawwali, ghazals, wedding songs, Lollywood, folk and pop music. Junoon, Pakistan’s rock n roll phenomenon, is available under the “modern age” link. After we played our first Musarrat Nazir tape into the ground we came here for more.
What an AMAZING looking site, with an absolute slew of unfamiliar music. Plenty looks to be of the state-sponsored “grupo folclorico” variety, but many diamonds can be found in those roughs. Unfortunately all the material is Windows Media format and, at press time, our PC is a block away and at press time we’re still limping after a bike wreck, so we’ll have to return to this soon while reading John Gimlette’s wholly bizarre Paraguayan travelogue, At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig.
One of a slew of Iranian media sites sent to us this day in May from the Library of Congress’s Middle Eastern division by way of a colleague at the American Folklife Center (thereby providing legitimacy?). This one requires registration and a bit of patience with the layout, but there are many wonderful classical (vocal and instrumental) and folk records available for listening at a fairly generous 192kb. Some you have to dig out from among the pile of contemporary pop in the middle of the page, but many are accessible through the “Classic Collection” button (marked by an image of a Persian rug) on the left of the home page.
Another killer Cambodian music site. Although it’s not predominantly a free one, we’re including it here because the download fees are all of FIFTEEN CENTS a song. For those of you unwilling to take the plunge, the “Free MP3 Music” link at the top offers some “oldies” as well as two great snippets of vintage Kampuchea Radio broadcast. [However, at press time, a click on those “free MP3” files pull up a Not Found message…] The list of genres on the home page are tantalizingly obscure to this non-Khmer, though the distinctions made between “Rock,” “Slow Rock,” and “Slow” are appreciated. This site is especially good for its link to “The Good Oldies,” songs termed “Bolero” for their adoption of the Cuban rhythm. (For other appropriations of Western rhythms, see also “Cha Cha Cha,” “Jerk,” and “Twiss [sic?].” (Thanks to the above site, Monsoon Country, for edifying us on these points.)
Polish Folk Music
Site of contemporary purveyors of Polish folk music, across the spectrum of “traditional.” Each of the artists listed on the right have mp3s available under their bios – that of the contemporary Warsaw Village Band is especially good.
Proud To Be Sikh
My goodness, this site is massive. Tons of kirtan (Sikh devotional singing) recordings, as well as recitations of Sikh poetry and daily ritual practice. Just throw yourself into one of the “jukeboxes” and get lost. They’re accepting donations, too. It’s the right thing to do, as you can get a hundred times more for free here than you can buying even the bargain-priced $2 cassettes at the Punjabi Deli on Houston Street in NYC.
Painfully extensive site for bhangra and its ever-increasingly hip-hop dimensions. Ryan Singh’s “Dholicious” album is well worth your time. Especially check out 2-Dark’s “Vichorday” with Pavan Pali.
Aggressively poor quality, but a killer site with links to archival programs (in Arabic) from five different Tunisian radio stations, and a modest mp3 music collection. You can also listen live to the national Radio Tunis itself.
Red Hot Jazz
An amazing resource for discographies, biographies, and mp3 libraries of the salad days of jazz, 1895-1929. If a musician played hot, they’re here. Catalog numbers, personnel, and recording dates and locations are included, and mp3s of rare sides abound. It’s fun to pick names you know and explore all the multitudinous bands that person was in, with whom, and where – we never knew that Clarence Williams was in a group called the Blue Grass Foot Warmers (whose records, by the way, are KILLER). A couple blues records made it past the gate, as a bonus: you’ll find some of Texas Alexander’s sessions with Mississippi Sheiks Bo (“Carter”) and Sam Chatmon, and the cream of the jug band crop too – Clifford Hayes’ Original Louisville, Cannon’s, Cincinnati, King David, Whistler. But the first things to check out, just out of sheer weirdness and hilarity, are two sides of Dan Parrish’s orchestra providing musical accompaniment to Jean Cocteau’s poetry recitations. That is, recited by Cocteau. He whistles too!
The John Donald Robb Collection
A huge cache of field recordings made by John Donald Robb, former Dean of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico, made primarily in that state, but also in Arizona, Colorado, Mexico, from the 1940s to the 1970s. Native material (dance tunes, ritual pieces, game songs), lots of corridos, religious performances, frontier and border ballads both Hispanic and Anglo, and a couple really nice cowboy pieces. There are some Spanish recordings too, made in 1970 – religious pieces and lyric fandangos. Quality is pretty poor, and if you don’t know what you’re after (like me), getting lost is easy – genres aren’t identified – but well worth an expedition. Thanks to DS Monoclonius of undismayed.blogspot.com for the tip.
Such a staggeringly vast and exciting labor, this, despite the vertigo it causes. A huge discographical undertaking of vintage Russian music from the 78 and LP eras and not all vernacular music by any means, but including light opera, jazz bands, all manner of dance orchestras, art music. Even with barely a word of Russian or a character of Cyrillic to your name it’s a thrill to dig through the “printed matter” collections, and the hundreds upon hundreds of label scans and even label paste-overs! And when the whole thing is just too much to process, you can take a break with the streaming Jukebox. Perhaps the most impressive presentation of The World’s Mp3s we’ve seen yet.
A digital multi-media collage-portrait of an easily overlooked part of the world in a near-constant state of tumultuous political, cultural, and technological change. Devoted to the sonic diversity of the West African Sahel, it’s travelogue, cultural reportage, photo montage, and a dizzying audio-video collection of ambient sound, interviews, and musical performances, live and pre-recorded. Curator Chris Kirkley, a fine writer with a good head for his material and its context, discusses herein the ubiquity of cell phones as the primary means of exchanging music and video files in the Western Sahel, often through bluetooth transfers: Tamashek guitar bands, Algerian rai, Cote d’Ivorian Coupé Décalé, American hip hop, Egyptian and Lebanese pop, Bollywood, Dire Straits. Tastes here seem among the most catholic in the world (and the ease with which media is pirated and distributed across this great expanse of land is no surprise, given that so much of its population is still semi-nomadic). Make sure you check out his downloadable compilation, “Music for Saharan Cellphones,” which will be given physical release in the coming months by Mississippi Records.
Very generous South Asian music site, with pop old and new, ghazals, qawwali, bhangra, and not only Bollywood tunes but songs from India’s non-Hindi-speaking film industries and their respective regions.
Secret Museum of the Air on WFMU
MP3 archives of Pat Conte and Citizen Kafka’s broadcast of the world’s local music (“historic old recordings”) on 78. A show, so sadly deceased, that needs no introduction, and that is so completely without peer as to almost make you desperate. “Vespers Ringing” – the dizzying two-part tour though the world’s religious practice turned at 78 rpms – is the most brilliant and edifying compilation ever made. Full stop. Postscript: Citizen, nee Richie Shulberg, passed away Saturday, March 14, 2009. Worth taking a moment and recalling his many wonderful, bizarre, and brilliant musical contributions.
Good looking inventory of Seraiki (by and large Pakistani) singers of kafi, naat, and Sufi praise songs, but make sure you save whatever else you’re doing in your internet browser before fooling around here – tried to “download” tunes from there to be thoroughly overtaken by a flood of pop-ups. There might be a way to stream from the site – does say that Real Player is involved – but we can’t figure it out. Try Wasaib below for similar material and a less hectic experience.
South Asia dominates the World’s MP3s, no doubt, but not from our lack of trying. Here’s the Sindh province’s contribution to the on-line music arsenal, featuring some of my favorite devotional music in the world; that of the music performed in honor of the Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. The two biggest Sindhi stars to frequent Bhitai’s shrine are here – the qawwali Abida Parveen and the late folk singer Jalal Chandio (knows as the “Suzuki King” for the ubiquity of his recordings in auto-rickshaws, etc. – as well as plenty tunes from much-revered artistes like Allan Fakir and Mohammad Yousuf. The small “saaz” (Urdu: instrument; not to be taken for the Persian-Turkish lute) selection provides instrumental ragas on ney, wedding songs, and some folk dances. As always, plenty of pop to avoid, and some of files stream from what sounds like some substantial subterranean watery depth, but passionate performances abound. (See “Individual Artists” below for a link to the phenomenal praise songs sung of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, with falsetto harmony, by Qurban Fakir and his group.)
South African Music Archive Project
“Much of South Africa’s music heritage, like that of our political past, is hard to access. Just as people and books were banned and censored, so too was music, sometimes along with the musicians who made it. Much of the material recorded was politically sensitive, or subversive; some of it was never commercially released, and has remained hidden, even forgotten. Troves of local recorded music await identification, digitisation and research. Independent music archives currently lack the infrastructure to preserve their historical collections. An immediate concern is the deterioration of analogue tapes, records and other obsolete media on which much of this material is stored. Among other pressing concerns are the fading memories and sheer mortality of those who were involved. The South African Music Archive Project aims to create an online resource on South African music and associated cultural heritage, so as to promote multidisciplinary research in the field of popular music and culture.” Some great, great stuff here. Many vintage artists and sounds you might be familiar with from Original Music or Int’l Library of African Music releases of yesteryear, but also township pop and disco, earnest Elton John or Jackson Brown imitators, and home recordings of ’80s Afrikaaner folk rock. Not everything is available in its entirety, and samples seem to range from 10 to 30 seconds, but you’ll be rewarded for taking your time here.
St. James Sessions
A very welcome site dedicated to the recording sessions held at Knoxville, Tennessee’s St. James Hotel in 1929 and ’30. It might seem obscure at first glance, but from this modest collection of dates came some of the greatest records of the pre-war period. Curiously (and frustratingly), the best records to come from St. James were by artists who only made one record a piece: Alex Hood and his Railroad Boys’ “L&N Rag” and “Corbin Slide” and Hayes Shepherd’s (as the Appalachia Vagabond) “Hard for to Love” and “The Peddlar and His Wife.” These records have more style and personality than 18/20ths of their hillbilly contemporaries. Also made here were the two sides of Howard Armstrong (Louie Bluie) and Carl and Roland Martin’s Tennessee Chocolate Drops: “Knox County Stomp” b/w “Vine Street Rag.” Carl Martin’s later records in the early ’30s don’t come close to comparing to the Drops’ tunes from St. James; Louie Bluie’s 1934 dates with Ted Bogan get closer, but we’d take these first. See also: the four sides of the Perry County Music Makers – with Nonnie Smith Presson’s lonesome yodelling and autoharping – and the killer religious piano blues* of Leola Manning. Her “Arcade Building Moan,” about a fire which killed several children in Knoxville, was included on one of Dick Spottswood’s Folk Music In America volumes, and has long haunted us. This site gave us our first chance to hear her topical murder ballad “Satan Is Busy In Knoxville.” We long for more local projects like this. (*Do refer to Manning’s “The Blues Is All Wrong” to see why “blues” is a misnomer.)
Tobar an Dualchais (Kist O Riches)
Another example of how much further advanced other countries’ national repositories are than ours. This is a massive digital archive of Scottish song, story, music, and conversation, drawing on the collections of the School of Scottish Studies (Univ. of Edinburgh), the BBC, and the Canna Collection of the National Trust for Scotland; from John Lorne Campbell’s 1937 Gaelic cylinder recordings through to radio reportage in the 2000s. The music runs the gamut: Gaelic waulking songs, bothy ballads, travellers’ songs in cant, pipe tunes, offerings from many of the best known voices in traditional Scots music — the singing Stewarts, Jeanie Robertson, Willie Mathieson, Flora MacNeil. It’s a breathtakingly diverse and ambitious project, with the stated mission of ensuring “that Scotland’s rich oral heritage is safeguarded and made widely available for educational and personal use for future generations.” Would that American repositories get over their paranoid hysteria regarding copyright infringements and consider following this stellar Scottish example.
Turkish Music & Voice Library
Disorientingly huge but wonderful, with massive caches of folk and classical material. The random-play option is much appreciated, as are the links to Wikipedia bios of many of the artists featured herein. Streaming bit-rate is puny, and don’t get your Orientalist hopes up for what you might like to hear in the “Tavern” section (times is changed…), but do some exploration in the “Arabesque / Arabesk” areas for some great Cairo-influenced Turkish pop tunes. (Don’t give up so soon – you’ll definitely hit some stinkers – but you’ll be rewarded. Şerefe!)
Uyghur Naxsha Muzikiliri
Some lovely material here, though without any accompanying edifying information and hiding out among some pretty hideous stuff: a handful of fetching contemporary lyric songs can be found intermingled with the mostly, quite frankly, brutally canned pop tunes with plenty synthsized sax, et al. If you care not to try your luck with digging through them, try the renowned dutar player Abdurehim Heyet’s album “Termiler” on offer: his dutaric virtuosity and impassioned singing are definitely worth the trip to the site. For fans of any of Central Asia’s Sufi bardic traditions, from Turkey to Azerbaijan.
Uzbek Classic Music
Was inspired to seek this one out after some rapturous time spent with Ocora’s “Uzbekistan: Great Voices of the Past, 1940-’65” compilation, and found the site to be a great companion piece. It features a modest index of contemporary classical musicians and some choice streaming performances from their repertoire, as well as a video index. If you’re unfamiliar with Uzbek music, it draws from many textual and musical fonts – Persian, Arabic, Turkish, a variety of local Central Asian influences – and is sung in Uzbek or Tajik. The stateliness of the performances is evidence of how seriously classical musicians take their tradition; it’s no less devoted to strict modes (maqams) and rhythms (usul, ‘iqa) than its classical counterparts in Persia and the Levant. The site’s nearly entirely in Uzbek, so we can only guess that a lot of this material is of the courtly tradition of shashmaqam (“six notes”) – made famous, so to speak, in the West by the Bukharan Jewish ensemble Shashmaqam – although there are a couple beautiful ghazals included. The site’s managers know the material is good enough to want to keep you from ripping it. Every piece begins and ends with a feminine, pleasantly accented audio watermark declaring “Classic Music dot Uz – all about classic music.”
The prodigious on-line mail-order concern, specializing in pre-war 78 reissues and blues, jazz, old-time, and country material of more recent vintage, also has a very satisfying streaming radio application. Not only does it draw from CDs for sale through the site, but it also dips into the massive 78 collection of Georgia’s esteemed collector Frank Mare, meaning that you’re in good shape to hear material yet to make it to CD reissue. And they take requests!
Vintage Arabic Pop Music
This fellow acquired a stack of some 100 Arabic pop sides dating, as he figures, from the ’30s to the ’50s, and has digitized them all for your pleasure. And there is pleasure to be had among the number of songs for dancing the dabke, that ubiqutous Levantine line dance; interesting American-pressed pop songs with their English translations on the labels (eg., “Tall Dark and Handsome”); film hits; and of course a showing of the prolific stars of the era: Oum Khalsoum, Farid Al-Atrache, and Mohd Abdel Wahab. Some look like private pressings – especially the wholly servicable oud-player and singer “Ataba Shimaly from Nedra Nabhan”; his appellation emblazoned prominantly on the charmingly cut-and-paste label. Interested to know what expert collectors of this material have to say of the diversity represented here. For my part I appreciate that the collection seems to have been one man’s: Robert A. Bitar, of Portland, Oregon, whose address labels are affixed to half the records herein. Thanks to my Louisville landsman Kevin C. for the tip. Postscript: And thanks to Portland’s David Abel, who gives us a link below to a profile of the Bitar brothers, Robert and Frank.
The Virtual Gramophone: Canadian Historical Sound Recordings
In the States we have the burgeoning (and, at press time – late February 2012 – languishing?) “National Jukebox” of the Library of Congress, but our northern neighbors have pretty well beat us to the punch with this massive collection of Canadian cylinder and 78-rpm recordings. While it’s heavy on the light classical and pop, there are also many dozens of wonderful Quebecois fiddlers (like Isidore Soucy), harmonica players (Louis Blanchette), accordionists (Alfred Montmarquette), and their and many others’ dance bands.
Voices Across America
A wonderful shape-note singing site with links to live recordings from two dozen plus singings “across America” over forty years. Lion’s share is from the Sacred Harp, but plenty other shape-note books represented too: Christian Harmony, Southern Harmony, and the Mennonite Harmonia Sacra. Singings from Choctaw Nation are a very interesting addition; singings from Alabama are, as always, the most exciting. (For more Sacred Harp convention singing from the epicenters of Hoboken, Georgia, and Henegar, Alabama, check this cellist’s website.)
Seraiki cultural site featuring a music page with mostly kafi (classical Sindhi Sufi poetry) artistes familiar and not so. A good selection of the wonderful Pathaney (or Pathana) Khan, and some widely available but still great recordings (including one qawwali) by Abida Parveen. This one is thinner but definitely more legit than SeraikiGeet.com above – streams from iTunes instead of Real Player, and is free of pop-ups and other distractive awfulnesses.
Western Swing on 78
Generous downloadable playlists of just what the man says. A little Western swing can go a long way with these ears, but the 78 mixes available here are as diverse as you can get given the confines of the genre, and there are many rarities you’re not likely to have heard — or to hear — anywhere else. Good bit of radio transcription on offer too, and a nice playlist of the hard-to-find records of the Sweet Violet Boys. A favorite of ours, they’re what the Prairie Ramblers became when they put on their hokum hats, with songs like “I Love My Fruit” and “Chiselin’ Daddy.”
Wisconsin Folksong: The Helene Stratman-Thomas Collection
Helene Stratman-Thomas was a song-collecting giant in the 1930s and ’40s, yet she’s virtually unknown to most folks, perhaps because she recorded in places (Maine; Vermont) that just aren’t as rough-and-tumble as Southern prison farms or Appalachian coal camps. She spent six years in the field in Wisconsin, and the good people at the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have digitized the fruits of her labors. Lots of material of Scandinavian and German derivation, as is to be expected from this part of the world; Ho Chunk and Ojibwe Indians; emigres from the Southern mountains up for factory work; plenty of singers of Child and other old English ballads and topical pieces. There’s a single disc on Rounder called “Folk Songs of Wisconsin” that gives an introduction to this material, but why buy it? It’s all right here, streaming at a generous 96k, even if it’s a little hard to negotiate if you don’t know what you’re looking for. We don’t. Start with the Rindlisbacher family’s sentimental tunes played on accordion and Viking cello.
Wolf Folklore Collection at Lyon College
Great big old treasure trove of ballads, religious material, play party songs, banjo and fiddle tunes, and stories collected by John Quincy Wolf, Jr., primarily in Arkansas, in the 1950s and ’60s. Lots of unfamiliar names here, and some really charming if rough stuff. Tons of recordings by the great ballad singers Aunt Ollie Gilbert and Almeda Riddle, and of the peerless Neal Morris. Have a listen to the wonderful and rare duet on “Moses In the Bulrushes” with Neal and his son, one-time RCA (and Rackensack) recording artist Jimmie Driftwood. There are even some clips of Bukka White’s recollections, and a bit of singing, in Wolf’s folklore class at Memphis’ Southwestern College. Just as simple as can be: search by song title or artist, you get the date and location of the recording and the lyrics. They’re releasing CDs of this stuff now too. Only hope with those is that the audio appears in both channels, unlike the material posted on the site.
Zapatista Radio Insurgente: La Voz De Los Sin Voz
Recently the music audio files haven’t been opening, but the player on the home page directs you to the live broadcast outta Chiapas, which works with some frequency, and there are tons of archived programs, lectures, and public service announcements available. Our Spanish ain’t great, but we still really enjoy the programming. Though we do keep Zapatista coffee in the house, so we’re partial.
Zimbabwean site primarily geared towards retail, but the “jukebox” selection looks good, with a lot of Thomas Mapfumo material, mainstays like Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi and System Tazvida, and apparently some contemporary tunes. We say “looks good” and “apparently” because we can’t get any of the audio files to play. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
Qurban Faqir & group (Sindh, Pakistan)
Nazem Ali Ghazali (Iraq)
Oum Khaltoum (Egypt)
A. L. Phipps & the Phipps Family (Barbourville, KY)
Mohammed Abdel Wahab (Egypt)