Friday, April 1, 2005

Smithsonian MP3

Great! I wanna download The Spirit Of St. Louis! But seriously, folks, the Smithsonian's Folkways Records division is getting set to offer its vast collection of Americana and World music on MP3. This is good news. I like music and very little of what I like to listen to could be described as "mainstream" unless you're from someplace really weird. Yeah, yeah. Button it.

Folkways has been around for a long time. I still have Leadbelly records on that label from the fifties.

From the WaPo:
The Smithsonian Institution is entering the highly competitive world of music downloads by offering the Smithsonian Folkways collection of ethnic and traditional music in an online music store.

"I'm all for it," says Mike Seeger, a member of the New Lost City Ramblers. The son of musicologist Charles Seeger and half-brother of Pete Seeger, Seeger has spent much of his life promoting southern and folk music. "I have a feeling of mission that I would like to have people get to know this realm of music better. This is a way to afford it," Seeger says.

The Web site,, will allow searches by artist, geographic location, language, cultural group or instrument. All of the Folkways archives, including photographs, can be downloaded onto a screen. Also in development are scrolling translations of some of the music for use on a personal computer. Right now the Haya Heroic Ballads, a form of storytelling found in northwest Tanzania, is being translated into English on the Web site.

As the Smithsonian fine-tunes this new service, the promoters hope new audiences for underappreciated artists of traditional music will develop.

"There's a guy in Punjab who is doing wonderful, meaningful work and it is never going to be heard," says Kurin. "Here is a way."

I guess you could hear it in a New York City taxicab, but downloading sounds safer.

Go read the article and visit the website. Your ears will thank you.

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