What a joy to look through the Folkways catalogue! I picked a lot of music that’s really influenced me, music from my own regional and cultural backgrounds, and some songs from people who mentored my friends.
I've spent a great deal of time sifting through old recordings of Black vocal music over the past two years. Fond as I am of our instrumental performances, there's a special magic that happens when we reach for harmony together without an established chord structure to guide us.
As a record label proprietor trading in diverse repertoire, there is no greater influence or inspiration than Folkways. For those of us releasing archival and new works in the remote ‘folk’ world, we are all standing on the shoulders of this giant.
I first learned about Smithsonian Folkways through my dad's record collection. He had picked up a number of those records while working as a gigging folk musician around the Virginia and D.C. area in the 60's and 70's.
I tend to listen to more guitar music than other types, even though I make a very conscious effort to include a lot of different sounds in my listening, the sounds that the guitar is capable of are still my favorite. Today these are my essential guitarists, making sounds with the instrument that …
The initial inspiration for this playlist was the work of one of my heroes, the recordist Tony Schwartz. There was something in the stillness and isolation of Covid that drew me back to his street recordings of New York specifically.
This mix is all Caribbean music, with a focus on stringed and melodic instruments and only including music from the islands, no continental countries on this playlist. I love this music so much, and have been doing a deep dive into Caribbean history...
I love making playlists. Always have. Total mixtape kid growing up with an unhealthy allegiance to the movie High Fidelity through my college years. Putting this together for Folkways’ Spotify page is a real honor.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to make this playlist. Mining their vast catalogue, I chose many of my favorites from their repertoire and placed them alongside various other songs that not only have inspired me, but that I feel are a continuation of those same traditions.
On this list is a title borrowed by Yo La Tengo, original versions of songs I first heard covered by pre- and post-punk bands, and a pork chop number that’s not the one that Michael (“Mike”) Hurley did.
I decided for this mix I would concentrate on some of the more bizarre recordings in their catalog, as well as digging deep into the Cook Laboratories archive which has thankfully been acquired by Smithsonian Folkways. Hearing these sounds out of context are fascinating on the basis of their …
Sometimes it’s the warm hum of folk records with socialist leanings that really soothes the spirit, other times it’s the romantic serenades of Luiz Bonfa & his trusted guitar. Take a break from the noise with a collection of tracks that offer us a glimpse of comfort and verity in time uncertain.
Before commodification took over, we had a wealth of truly unique women and men creating eerily beautiful songs that dealt with all matters of peril and uncertainty, of faith and fear, and of life and death.
I think this playlist is an accurate depiction of the music I listen to on any given day- some new some old, all hovering around folk with storytelling at the center. All of these songs have been crucial to my development as an artist.
Just hearing these voices from other lands and languages (and other times) I find hugely reassuring and encouraging. All these humans, all getting on with what they do. And so beautifully. Highly inspiring.
Because of the size of the catalog, and the humbling idea of “choosing my favorites” from such a large field of work. I figured I’d approach it in one of two ways. One, to pick a favorite subsection…and delve deeply into that specific group of records. Or, jump around, picking favorites from a …
Folk songs of all kinds, from all over the world, stories and funnies told and sung by men, women, and children, from all kinds of different backgrounds is what you’ll encounter on this compilation. I hope that you’ll enjoy listening to these gems.
As I was gearing up to write new music for my debut on the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, I was delving into the music of my youth, while at the same time discovering music new to my ears. This playlists is some of that music that perhaps influenced my writing.
Traditional Appalachian music may have reeled us in, but everything from early experiments in electronic music to Lappish Joik songs of Northern Norway to field recordings of an office fax machine to the sweet sad panpipes of Quecha music of Peru - keeps us agape at the vast creativity and …
Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship has been given to many of the treasures of American traditional culture. This includes musicians, but also craftspeople and exemplars of various cultural traditions.
The National Heritage Fellowship is the federal government’s highest award in the folk and traditional arts field in the United States. Given by the National Endowment for the Arts every year since 1982, the fellowships are awarded based on three criteria...
Life, like music, is inherently interruptible, and what I heard on Folkways—while masterful and beautiful—sounded like someone might walk in the room at any moment and break up the fun like a well-intended parent.
Whether in the sparse reggae-influenced beats of sibling-duo Wild Belle or in the expansive horns of “post-afrobeat” band NOMO, Elliot Bergman infuses every project with his love of the bright polyrhythms of West African and Caribbean music.
In true American folk tradition, Will Oldham’s People’s Picks Playlist takes us on a ramble through his native Kentucky, introducing us to the folk legends he’s encountered in his travels, and letting us in on the songs that rattle around his head on his way.
The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. We are a member-supported nonprofit institution of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.
Stefan Shepherd of Zooglobble knows good kids’ music when he hears it. He’s been writing about “music you and your family can sing, dance, and groove to” on his acclaimed site Zooglobble for over a decade.
Detroit-based musician and producer Warren Defever’s music and engineering work has intersected with Smithsonian Folkways since he first heard recordings of Woody Guthrie as a child. Founder of the longtime experimental rock band His Name Is Alive...
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Valerie June grew up in Tennessee, between the small towns of Humboldt and Jackson, moving to Memphis after finishing high school. While her original songs bear her distinctive style, their roots are planted firmly in the rich soil of southern …