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.”
World Music... from Alaska to Zaire
Folk Music of Japan
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.
She Was Poor But She Was Honest
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.
Ballads, Wedding Songs, and Piyyutim of the Sephardic Jews of Tetuan and Tangiers
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.
Sones of Mexico
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.
Folk Music from Italy
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.
Music of the Plains Apache
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.
Irish Folk Songs for Women
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.
The Pete Seeger Sampler
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.
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.
Tea House Music of Afghanistan
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.
Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Songs
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.
Eskimo Songs from Alaska
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.
Into the Secret of the Heart
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.
The Ragas of India
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.
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).
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.
Music of the Shakers
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.
British Broadside Ballads...
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.