Seminal LPs of Global Music from Gambia, the Sahel, and the Caribbean Back on Vinyl
Coming January 31, 2020, Smithsonian Folkways will re-issue three seminal LPs on vinyl from their extensive collection of music dating back over seventy years. These LPs are coming as part of Smithsonian Folkways Vinyl Reissue Series, which brings to light hidden gems and revisits some of the most iconic and influential albums released by the label. Each LP was a seminal recording at the time, influencing the development of global music in the 20th century. These reissues were remastered from the original tapes by GRAMMY Award winning engineer Pete Reiniger and are presented in the iconic Folkways fold-over, paste-on jackets, replicating the feel of the original releases.
For a limited time, you can order all three vinyl reissue titles: Calypso Travels, Gambian Griot Kora Duets, and Tuareg Music of the Southern Sahara as a bundle and you'll receive a bonus Folkways slipmat.
The hypnotic, delicate sound of the kora, the harp-like instrument strung on a halved gourd, has been a trademark of West African music for centuries. Gambian Griot Kora Duets (1979), featuring the master player Alhaji Bai Konte, his equally influential son Dembo Konte, and Ma Lamini Jobate, is a remarkable recording that documents an evolution in the kora’s use in the traditional music of Gambia. The album, made in Dembo and Alhjai Bai Konte’s living space, shows the musicians incorporating complex, polyrhythmic arrangements. Though these musicians are intrinsically linked to the Jali tradition of griot families in West Africa, in which kora players are the historians and record keepers of local cultures, these recordings, with their stylistic flourishes, marked a new beginning for international interest in the kora. Dembo Konte went on to tour internationally, performing on John Peel’s legendary BBC program in 1989 and collaborating with the influential group Mustaphas 3.
In the 21st century, the music of the Tuareg people, a diverse group spread across the Sahara encompassing Mali, Niger, and beyond, has reached an unprecedented international audience. Groups including Bombino, Mdou Moctar, Tinariwen, and Les Filles de Illighadad have incorporated the mesmerizing, repetitious qualities of the region’s folk music into rollicking, full-band rock and roll, bringing countless new ears to these styles developed in the African desert. Tuareg Music of the Southern Sahara, originally released on Folkways in 1960, traces the origins of these sounds and styles, focusing on the ecstatic vocalizations and singing accompanied by sparse instrumentation. These raw, extemporaneous recordings offer a glimpse at the musical traditions dating back hundreds of years from many tribes and localities from throughout the Sahel.
Lord Invader was one of the most iconic and well-regarded calypso musicians of the mid-20th century. Coming from humble beginnings in the musical hotbed of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Invader gained notoriety for his unique voice and lyrical prowess. Calypso Travels, his final album released just before his death, was produced in New York in 1960 by Folkways founder Moses Asch. The album showcases Lord Invader’s talent for biting lyrics that reference contemporary happenings, such as the rise of Fidel Castro, his experience at the 1956 World Fair in Belgium, the arrival of the Little Rock Nine in 1957 desegregating the public schools in the United States, and his touring experiences in Europe in the 1950s. An icon of Caribbean music, and one of the major forces exporting it to the world, Lord Invader epitomizes the spirit of calypso – boisterous, acerbic, and joyful.
Check out the other titles in our Smithsonian Folkways Vinyl Reissue Series
- Happy Woman Blues – Lucinda Williams (originally released in 1980)
- Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar – Elizabeth Cotten (originally released in 1958)
- Mary Lou Williams – Mary Lou Williams (originally released in 1964)
- Struggle – Woody Guthrie (originally released in 1976)
- Lightnin' Hopkins - Lightnin' Hopkins (originally released in 1959)
- Bahaman Folk Guitar – Joseph Spence (originally released in 1959)
- Goofing-Off Suite – Pete Seeger (originally released in 1955)
- American Banjo: Songs and Tunes in Scruggs Style (originally released in 1957)
- Dock Boggs: Legendary Singer & Banjo Player – Dock Boggs (originally released in 1964)
- Easy Rider – Lead Belly (originally released in 1953)
- Ballads, Blues, and a Spiritual – Dave Van Ronk (originally released in 1959)
- Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry Sing – Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry (originally released in 1958)