Folkways means that “everything occurring on the earth and in the contemporary time is being recorded. Folkways is a record company to describe the human race, the sound it makes, what it creates.

Moses Asch

World Music... from Alaska to Zaire

Probably the most influential Folkways category outside of the American folk orbit is world music, or what in the 1950s was called "ethnic" music. The design of the covers for this category, like the music itself, strove to allow cultures to speak for themselves, often through photographs of art, the musicians, or their communities. Field photographs appear on many of the covers even though they rarely yielded high-quality images. Cover art was used to represent world cultures in a creative array of styles and subjects, producing striking, individual visual identities. At the same time visual identity of the label was retained in the album's overall design.

 
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Folk Music of Japan image1Folk Music of Japan image2Folk Music of Japan image3
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Folk Music of Japan

FW04429
1952, 1962
Ronald Clyne
Utamaro
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Sado Okesa — n/a

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Edited by Harold Courlander this collection of Japanese folk music includes religious songs, work songs, ballads, children's songs, and dancing songs generally sung at festivals, wedding banquets, and other celebrations. The superbly refined print by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1808) provides an instant identification with Japanese culture, especially as his works have been favoured by collectors since the nineteenth century and are known in the West.

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She Was Poor But She Was Honest image1She Was Poor But She Was Honest image2She Was Poor But She Was Honest image3
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She Was Poor But She Was Honest

FW08707
1962
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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She Was Poor But She Was Honest — Derek Lamb

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A bright red banner-like strip presents the record's title like a newspaper headline: "She was poor but she was honest", the title song of the record. The image shows the milieu of its performance, the pub, where such songs were popular working people's entertainment until the end of World War I.

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Ballads, Wedding Songs, and Piyyutim of the Sephardic Jews of Tetuan and Tangiers image1Ballads, Wedding Songs, and Piyyutim of the Sephardic Jews of Tetuan and Tangiers image2Ballads, Wedding Songs, and Piyyutim of the Sephardic Jews of Tetuan and Tangiers image3
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Ballads, Wedding Songs, and Piyyutim of the Sephardic Jews of Tetuan and Tangiers

FW04208
1983
Ronald Clyne
Henrietta Yurchenco
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Aunque le di la mano - Although I Gave Him My Hand — Flora Benamol

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New York ethnomusicologist Henrietta Yurchenco took the cover photograph of Tetuan, one of the Moroccan centers of Sephardic music that she researched. The architecture and palm trees in the image establish the "oriental" location with which the Sephardic culture is often identified.

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Sones of Mexico

FW06815
1950
Unknown
Carlis
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El Cascabel: Sones of Veracruz — Trio Aguilillas

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This recording of regional Mestizo music by the Trio Aguilillas includes songs played on instruments depicted in the stylized cover illustration of three musicians in traditional garb.

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Folk Music from Italy

FW04520
1956, 1962
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Lu Me Sceccu — n/a

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Field recordings of Italian folk music made by Walther Hennig in 1954 contain examples of songs and dances from Sardinia, Sicily, Capri, the "Albanian" villages of southern Italy, and elsewhere. The striking photograph of a coastal town in dark sepia is appropriately suggestive of old high culture and a warm Mediterranean climate.

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Music of the Plains Apache

FW04252
1969
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Go to Sleep, Baby Boy — Two vocalists at the home of one of the Kiowa-Apache in Anadrako

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This recording of Apache music includes children's songs and lullabies. The cover image, an old print of unknown origin, depicts a peaceful domestic scene of a woman and young child sitting together in the shade of the tipi. The colour of the cover is a rich summer ochre.

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Irish Folk Songs for Women

FW03518
1958
Unknown
Miriam Schottland
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Come, Oh Love — Lori Holland

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The rich, decorative patterning of this block print evokes a folk art tradition. The green of the woman's dress and the harp that she is playing clearly mark the album as Irish, while the script and decorative framing suggest early Irish manuscripts.

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The Pete Seeger Sampler

FW02043
1955
Carlis
Augusta Seeger
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Go and Dig My Grave — Pete Seeger

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This unique cover takes the form of an embroidered sampler, signed "Augusta Seeger aged 10, 1823." Through the image of the old-fashioned hand-stitched sampler, the cover at once plays off the album title and the recorded material, connecting Pete Seeger to his family's history and to songs rooted in the American past.

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Kwakiutl

FW04122
1981
Ronald Clyne
Willie Sewid
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Sea Eagle Ghost Mask — Mungo Martin (Hanagalasu)

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The carved wooden mask pictured on the cover is entitled Buouis, Kwakilitz and was carved by the very influential Northwest Coast carver, Willie Sewid (often anglicized as Seaweed). Songs and dances, some recorded on this album, and carved masks are integral to Kwakiutl social and ceremonial occasions, especially the Potlatch, which was outlawed by the Canadian government in 1884 and only rescinded in 1951.

 
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Tea House Music of Afghanistan

FW04255
1977
Ronald Clyne
S. and R. Michaud
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Come to me in the morning / Pashtum — Farida Mahwash

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The photograph depicts a turbaned Afghan gentleman drinking tea, likely in conversation; his falcon is perched on top of a water pipe or huqqah. The bygone way of life represented in this image remains a cultural ideal, preserved in traditional and popular songs.

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Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Songs

FW02215
1955, 1961
Unknown
Carlis
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Meedli, Widdu Heiere — George Britton

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The cover uses Pennsylvania Dutch design elements, visually situating these songs typical of the Lancaster region and its German-speaking settlers. The cursive handwritten script used by Carlis conveys an untutored traditionalism suggestive of an earlier era in American folk music.

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Eskimo Songs from Alaska

FW04069
1966
Irwin Rosenhouse
Unknown
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Helicopter Song / Second Helicopter Song — Nathan Noonwook

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The cover photograph shows an Inuit blanket toss game with a player in mid-toss. Traditionally, the "blanket" is made of seal or walrus skins sewn together; the winner is the player who bounces the highest. The blanket toss game is played at festivals and other Inuit celebrations.

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Into the Secret of the Heart

FW08905
1976
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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O Golden One — Guru M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

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The cover image contains a number of Sufi-Islamic symbols related to this recording of Sri Lankan Arabic and Tamil chants. Rendered in green, the colour associated with Islam, the image takes the shape of a prayer mat pointed to Mecca. An inverted heart contains the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, Alif, which stands for "One God." The mat is decorated with peacocks favoured in Indian and Iranian cultures.

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The Ragas of India

FW08368
1962
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Raag Yaman (Time Measure: Ektal) — B. R. Deodhar

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The cover is a photograph of Adinath Temple, one of the magnificent Dilwara temples on Mount Abu in southwest Rajasthan and an important Jain pilgrimage site. Though not directly linked to the music on the album, the elaborately carved sculptures evoke the ancient connection between art and spirituality--which also applies to raga music--and elevate the status of this unique didactic recording by renowned Indian music pedagogue, B.R. Deodhar.

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Haitian Piano

FW06837
1952
Unknown
R. W. Kane
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Retour des Cayes - Meringue — Fabre Duroseau

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The large, centrally placed drawing of a piano dominates the cover design, emphasizing the repertoire within. Harold Courlander recorded Fabre Duroseau playing a collection of meringues composed by various members of this important Haitian musical family. Although little is known about its origins, the meringue is "believed to have evolved during colonial days, when the slaves adapted a French style of dance imported from Europe into a style of their own" (liner notes).

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Afro-Dominican Music

FW04285
1983
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Salve with Palos — Percussion ensemble from Semana Santa

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This recording presents the culturally complex Afro-Dominican musical traditions. The cover, an old black and white image of slaves working on a plantation, points to the origins of these traditions in the slave trade. As the liner notes indicate, Afro-Dominican music and dance "were often suppressed and prohibited," particularly under the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.

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Music of the Shakers

FW05378
1976
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Sheep as I Go / The Voice of God/ Who Will Bow and Bend Like a Willow / Come Life, Shaker Life / Simple Gifts / I've Set My Face for Zion's Kingdom — Amherst and Smith College Glee Club

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This nineteenth-century illustration of the Shaker "wheel dance" depicts four concentric circles of Brothers alternating with Sisters to symbolize the four spiritual cycles of Shaker theology. The Shakers--so named because they believed that shaking and agitating the body would free them from worldly ills--considered music to be integral to religious experience and worship. They were prolific composers of song and creators of dance.

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British Broadside Ballads... image1British Broadside Ballads... image2British Broadside Ballads... image3
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British Broadside Ballads...

FW08708
1957
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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The False-Hearted Knight — Paul Clayton

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The cover depicts a military figure on horseback, perhaps from the period of the Napoleonic Wars, holding a broadside. Broadsides, popular ballads printed on single sheets of paper, were sold throughout the British Isles since the time of Shakespeare.