Skip to main content
  • Blog\smithsonian_westernClassical_72dpi.jpg


    We're Now Apple Music Curators, Listen to Ben Mandelson's Curated Playlist

    We are proud to announce that Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is now a bonafide Curator on Apple Music. That means that you will be able to find and stream a unique offering of custom-built playlists from our enthusiastic team and expert contributors, updated and rotated on a regular basis, giving Apple Music listeners exciting new ways to explore the colossal Smithsonian Folkways collection.

    We are launching with a bang and a nice slate of playlists to kick start your binge listening:

    Ben went even deeper for his playlist, supply track-by-track annotations for his choices:

    1. Orchestra Goldberg – “Kleftico Vlachiko” from Klezmer Music: Early Yiddish Instrumental Music: The First Recordings (1908-1927)
    2. “Recorded in 1908, in Istanbul. A beautiful, complete, confident, mesmerizing piece of music, played live into a recording horn. An emotional and articulate trumpet doina bursting into a joyful dance-out. Wonderful.”

    3. Malik Mansurov and Mahmud Salah – “Choban Bayati” from The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan
    4. “The great master of the tar, from Azerbaijan. I love the sound, and in my next life I would choose that as my instrument.”

    5. The Stuff Smith Trio – “Bugle Call Rag (Take 2)”
    6. “No-one swings like Stuff Smith. The entire Count Basie Orchestra in one violin. In my fiddling days, he was the gritty guru.”

    7. Joseph Spence – “I’m Going to Live that Life” from Joseph Spence: The Complete Folkways Recordings, 1958
    8. “The joyous, endless invention and fully-formed originality of Joseph Spence, coupled with the gurgled vocal counterpoint commentary and informality make him a warm and approachable hero. I love the way that he always seems slightly amused at what is going on in the performance. Essential listening for guitarists.”

    9. Big Joe Williams – “So Glad” from Shake Your Boogie
    10. “Big Joe always seems so committed, making his nine strings sound like he’s playing the hawsers on a giant suspension bridge.”

    11. Naftule Brandwine’s Orchestra – “Turkische Yalle Vey Uve”
    12. “One more from the ground-breaking compilation. This album and its companion archive door-opener (Klezmer Music 1910-1942: Recordings from the YIVO Archives) seemed to supply all of the fledgling klezmer ensembles with their stock repertoire. Outstanding and characterful clarinet standard-setter for the Jewish music community of his time and beyond.”

    13. The Growling Tiger – “Money is King” from The Real Calypso: 1927-1946
    14. “I listened a lot to this compilation when it came out, and admired the skill of the lyrics, and the lift and confidence of the small combos. Lyrically pointed and clear, beautifully delivered, Growling Tiger sings the facts.”

    15. Periklis Halkias – “Miryioloi Arvanitiko” from Epirotika with Periklis Halkias: Greek Folk Music and Dances from Northern Epirus, Vol. 2
    16. “The musical Halkias family is a respected one – maestro Periklis takes us into long-listening territory with the lament of the miroloi tradition.”

    17. The Eureka Brass Band – “Trombonium” from Music of New Orleans, Vol. 2: Music of the Eureka Brass Band
    18. “Have to have a brass band. New Orleans has some of the best.”

    19. Aubon Baldonado – “Bagee” (Calypso) from Caribbean Rhythms
    20. “I listened to this whole release a lot, too; it felt very down-home and local, and seemed to blend all of the cultural elements in San Andres.”

    21. Bob & Ron Copper – “Birds in the Spring” from English Shepherd and Farming Songs
    22. “The Copper Family is one of the touchstones of the English folk-singing tradition (and collecting tradition: Bob Copper was a fine seeker-out of songs in England, and a fine writer, too). I had the rare opportunity of working with Bob and the Family on Bob’s blues recording sessions (yes! Bob was a big fan of Sleepy John Estes), much to the surprise of some of the folk scene. Bob was a lovely, warm and open person who understood the heart of music making. The Copper Family is, of course, producing new generations and singing on.”

    23. Dembo Konte – “Sutukung Kumbu Sora and Solo (Tomora Ba Tuning)” from Gambian Griot Kora Duets
    24. “The kora is now a familiar instrument on the world and folk scenes, but this wasn’t always the case, and Dembo, Malamini, and Alhaji Bai Konte were among the first to be known, and to play to a new audience outside West Africa. I had the chance to play with, and then produce records with, Dembo and his family.”

    25. Gondang Sabangunan – “Gondang Haro-Haro” from Music of Indonesia, Vol. 4: Music of Nias and North Sumatra: Hoho, Gendang Karo, Gondang Toba
    26. “This is from the encyclopedic series of Music from Indonesia, directed by Philip Yampolsky. The quality and breadth of this series is outstanding – there’s so much in there. I chose this piece because of its buzz and momentum.”

    27. George Mgrdichian – “Israeli Medley: Erev Shel Shoshanim (Evening of the Roses) / Cholot Mid Bar (Sands of the Desert)” from Now Sounds of the Middle East
    28. Erev Shel Shoshanim is something of a composed-folk classic with an idealized, romantic vision, and part of my childhood; I still succumb to the nostalgic yearning of the lyrics.”

    29. Sayid Abdul Rahman and his group, Madbis clan, Ganis Village, Berta Tribe – “Al Shammasha, Waza-Ensemble” from Sudan: Music of the Blue Nile Province - The Ingessana and Berta Tribes
    30. “A great example of an African polyphonic tradition. Sometimes I wish that all horn sections would sound like this. All-enveloping and collective playing gives way to a vocal collective.”

    31. Gusii Obokano player – “Obokano – Bowl Lyre” from Music of Kuria and the Gusii of Western Kenya
    32. “The Obokano (a giant bowl-lyre) champions the ‘buzz aesthetic’ and driving, cyclical non-looper-pedal bass loops.”

    33. U Sein Maung – “Burmese Guitar” from Burmese Folk and Traditional Music
    34. “Released in the year that I was born! I really puzzled over this album when I encountered it in the late 1970s. The harp and xylophone sets made me think of kora and balafon, but the tempo movements travelled elsewhere; and the guitar – my earliest ‘way in’ to things, as a guitar-player – was like (but wasn’t like) the British approach of Dav(e)y Graham and Martin Carthy, whom I admired, still do.”

    35. “Albania: Lule Sofo Djale Lule” from Music of the World’s Peoples: Vol. 2
    36. “This is saze music from Girokaster, South Albania, performed by Zoti Sadik Asbiu and group (not named in original sleevenotes). Clarinet, violin, llautë and iso-polyphonic voices. A lovely earlier-days example of the style that has been popularized recently on Glitterbeat Records’ Saz’iso project. Issued in USA on (and possibly recorded by) Balkan Phonograph Records (catalogue # 519). The label was run by Ajdin Asllan ‘Leskoviku’, and was based in New York’s Lower East Side. Mr Asllan may well be the clarinet-player on the recording.”

    37. Roza Eskenázi – “Trava Re (Manga Ke) Alani (Hipster, Hit The Road)” from Greek-Oriental Rebetica Songs & Dances
    38. “Roza Eskenázi had a long career, and was a leading performing and recording rebetissa. We (the group in which I was playing) listened to her recordings, and, as a side note, were very inspired by the two classic trio photos of her with musicians Agapios Tomboulis and Lambros Leontaridis or Dimitris Semsis. We really tried to have that serious look of intent!”

    39. Billy Pigg – “Archie’s Fancy / Holey Ha’penny” (medley) from Northumberland Rant: Traditional Music from the Edge of England
    40. “There is a thriving musical tradition in Northumbria, and theNnorthumbrian small-pipes are sweet, sophisticated and supple. Billy Pigg was one of the mid-20th Century masters of the art.”

    41. The Klezmorim – “Lebedik Un Freylekh” from First Recordings 1976-78
    42. Kyriakos Kosoulas, Georgios Florios, Yorgos Tikos – “Skaros” from Greece: Traditional Music
    43. “Deep, meditative Greek music, originally considered to be a shepherds’ music; a companion style to the long-listen miroloi

    44. Jazz Majestic Orchestra – ”Trois Fois Trios (Three Times Three)” from Calypso and Meringues
    45. “Fantastically enthusiastic ensemble, ragged but right.”

    46. Peggy Seeger – “Katy Cruel” from Songs of Courting and Complaint
    47. “I had this 10” album, and loved Peggy’s singing. I first saw her with Ewan MacColl when I was fourteen or fifteen, in Liverpool. Big night out, going to a folk club! The defiant and bumpy narrative in the lyrics give an extra twist to the matter-of-fact quality of the vocals.”

    48. Flaco Jiménez – “Un Mojado Sin Licensia” from The Best of Flaco Jiménez
    49. “Flaco used to tour a lot in UK, and was a regular ‘on the scene’. This is super-crisp accordion playing, and the joy of those extended fill lines that hang on and hang on and hang on before resolving is audacious and exciting.”

    50. Orchestra du Groupe Folklorique – “Mazurka” from Caribbean Dances
    51. “Another ‘ragged but right’ bravura performance from the dancehalls of Martinique. It is uplifting and dynamic with bold and positivist trombone (all groups are improved by the addition of a trombone).”

    52. Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin with Canray Fontenot – “La Valse De La Prison” from La Musique Creole
    53. “There is a fantastic film clip of Mr Ardoin and Mr Fontenot, realised by Alan Lomax at one of the Newport Folk Festivals, in which you can see how comfortable, unified and tight they were as players. Singing with great feel.”

    54. Hobart Smith – “John Hardy” from Hobart Smith of Saltville, Virginia
    55. “Hobart Smith seemed to have a lot of styles under his fingers (banjo, fiddle, guitar, piano, singing), and I have always liked this little jewel, especially the chromatic swerve at the end of each verse.”

    We're Now Apple Music Curators, Listen to Ben Mandelson's Curated Playlist | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings