In this fascinating episode (we hope!), John Fenn and I, along with Library of Congress staff members Stephanie Hall, Michelle Stefano, and Muhannad Salhi, explore the work of “hidden folklorists,” that is, people whose folklore work is sometimes overlooked because they came from marginalized communities, or were more famous for other activities.
We drew on a lot of previous blog posts to write this episode, which looks at four folklorists or folklore families:
- The famous 19th century detective Allan Pinkerton and his wife Joan compiled an early book of Scottish ballads, and were featured in one of my blog posts.
- King David Kālakaua, last king of Hawai’i, and his sister Queen Liliuokalani, last monarch of Hawai’i, published and translated the sacred chants of their people, and were featured in blogs by Stephanie Hall.
- Sarah P. Jamali, an English professor and wife of an Iraqi prime minister, collected audio recordings of Iraqi folktales and published them in English translation. Her work was uncovered by Michelle Stefano.
- Ralph Ellison, a prominent and award-winning novelist, also collected folklore for the WPA. His Invisible Man seems to have been partly inspired by a story he collected in New York, as I discussed in another of my blogs.
We used a lot of fun and interesting audio in this blog, including incidental music. The full audio for almost all the music and audio examples is available on the Library’s website in the following locations.
First, the audio examples that we mention along the way:
- Jeannie Robertson sang “Jimmie Raeburn” for Alan Lomax in London, England, May 30, 1958. (AFC 2004/004).
- Hawaii Ponoi, the Hawaiian national anthem, written by King David Kālakaua, recorded in 1913 by the Hawaiian Quintette, is in the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox.
- Unukupukupu performed at the Library of Congress in 2012. View the entire concert here.
- Aloha Oe, a Hawaiian classic written by Queen Liliuokalani, recorded in 1913 by E.K. Rose, is in the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox.
- The storytelling in Arabic by Bahiya Jamali from the Sarah P. Jamali Collection (AFC 1955/004) is exclusive to the podcast for now!
One note: because Ralph Ellison collected the story “Sweet the Monkey” from Leo Gurley in writing and not on an audio recorder, no audio exists for this story. Because of this, we asked our good friend Solomon HaileSelassie to perform a dramatic reading. As we say in the podcast, the language he used, including mild racial slurs for white people, was the language written down by Ellison, and reflects informal communication between African Americans at the time. We don’t think it’s offensive, but we apologize if anyone does. The podcast includes the entire reading, so there’s no additional audio to serve you here!
Now, on to the incidental music. We decided to add this to the episode after we recorded our own voices, so we didn’t thank the artists aloud in the episode itself. All the more reason to list them here and point you to their great performances. Many thanks to them for allowing us to record their wonderful music!
- The bagpipe tune that opened the episode, played by John Burgess, is “Caberfeidh” from the Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).
- The oud music interludes in the Sarah P. Jamali segment were played at the Library of Congress by Kenan Adnawi in 2015. The whole concert is online as the Lubana Al Quntar and Kenan Adnawi: traditional music and song from Syria collection (AFC 2015/009).
- The blues harmonica and blues ensemble playing during the Ralph Ellison segment were played at the Library of Congress in 2014 by Phil Wiggins (harmonica), Rick Franklin (guitar), Marcus Moore (violin), and Junious Brickhouse (dance). The entire concert is online as the Phil Wiggins and friends concert collection (AFC 2014/030).
- The Hawaiian slack key guitar playing that closes out the episode was played at the Library of Congress by Ledward Kaapana in 2017. The entire concert is online as the collection Ledward Kaapana: master slack key guitar player from Hawaii, 2017 July 5 (AFC 2017/028). Both the concert and its accompanying oral history interview were featured in this Homegrown Plus blog post at Folklife Today.
Finally, here’s a correction to the podcast: in the episode, I say the Jeannie Robertson recording is from 1953. Although Lomax did record Robertson singing “Jimmie Raeburn” in 1953 as well as in 1958, we actually used the later 1958 recording, so 1958 is the correct date. I apologize for my error!