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A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Get Your Daily Dose of Archive Challenge All This Week

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Every day this week at noon Eastern time, you can listen to, and sing along with, a respected musician performing a song from the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress. That’s because this week, the American Folklife Center is working with the Daily Antidote of Song, a daily online concert and singalong …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Share Your Photos of Halloween

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The following is a post I wrote jointly with Trevor Owens of the Library’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, with input from many colleagues throughout the Library of Congress. Share your photos of Halloween, Día de los Muertos, and related holidays with AFC and the World! #FolklifeHalloween2014 Halloween, All Souls Day, All Saints Day, Día de …

A woman sings into a microphone with her hand up.

Watch as Natalie Merchant Sings the Treasures of a Nation–Including AFC Archival Treasures

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Watch Natalie Merchant’s June 13 concert at the Library of Congress right here on the blog! The singer, songwriter, activist, and folklife advocate helped the Library mark the opening of the new David M. Rubenstein Treasures Gallery with a very special "Live! at the Library" concert presentation. Around the concert, she spent a week in residence at the Library doing research, meeting with staff, and participating in our June Family Day activities. Merchant, who fronted the band 10,000 Maniacs during its most successful years and went on to a solo career of sustained depth and brilliance, is also a member of the American Folklife Center's Board of Trustees. Alongside a few of her own compositions, the concert featured mostly traditional folksongs which have connections to our unparalleled archival collections. In this blog, you can watch the concert itself and then explore these archival connections, including source recordings, photographs, links, and the stories behind the songs.

A green face surrounded by leaves and flowers.

The Green Man in the Modern World

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In the last entry in our series on the Green Man, we look at this figure from folklore as people encounter it in the modern world, including its appearances in art, music, performance, and spiritual practice. We especially look at enactments of the Green Man as they occur in the folk revival, renaissance faires, and faerie festivals. Following other scholars, we suggest that the Green Man in modern contexts often suggests creative resistance to environmental destruction, the modern, and the mundane. The post includes many photos of Green Man enactments and artworks.

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Caught My Ear: The Lullaby That Came to Symbolize the Exodus of Cuba’s Children

Posted by: Stephen Winick

During her internship here at the American Folklife Center, Elisa Alfonso had the opportunity to explore many wonderful digital collections here at the Library of Congress. In particular she found many versions of a Spanish-language lullaby, “Señora Santana,” and noted fascination variations among versions, suggesting that a version collected primarily from Cuban Americans has become a vessel through which migrants talk about the sensations of trauma and loss that come with childhood forced migration. Read her observations, and hear several versions of the song, in her guest post.

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Folklorist John Vlach 1948-2022

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The American Folklife Center is very sad to pass on news of the death of John Michael Vlach, an eminent folklorist who specialized in the study of folk art and vernacular architecture. Vlach was a longtime professor at George Washington University, where he served as director of the Folklife Program, chair of the American Studies Department, Director of Graduate Studies, and Professor of American Studies and Anthropology. At GWU he trained generations of folklore and folk art scholars, including members of the American Folklife Center staff. Other members of our staff filled in for Vlach, teaching courses at GWU while he was on leave. The American Folklife Center staff will miss John, and we send our condolences to his widow Beverly Brannan, their two daughters, his family, and his many friends and students. This blog post contains an obituary provided to AFC by Vlach's family.

Pamyua. Photo courtesy of the artists.

Homegrown Plus Premiere: Pamyua’s Modern Yup’ik Drumsongs

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're excited to continue the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with Pamyua, a trio performing traditional Inuit (Yup'ik) drumsongs from Alaska with a distinct and unique American sound. As is usual for the series, this blog post includes an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore! Together for more than 15 years, Pamyua (pronounced Bum yo-ah) has entertained millions with their fusion of traditional Inuit music and Yup’ik dance performance. Founding members Phillip Blanchett, Stephen Blanchett and Ossie Kairaiuak are from the Yukon/ Kuskokwim River Delta region in southwestern Alaska. Pamyua found national recognition in 2003, winning Record of the Year at the Native American Music Awards, and is now considered a cultural treasure across the circumpolar north. Native People magazine praised their "blizzard of interlocking harmonies" and Alaska magazine rated them "one of the 10 greatest Alaska artists of the millennium." The group has performed at distinguished events worldwide, including the 25th Anniversary of Greenlandic home rule, which was attended by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and the grand opening of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian.

A man plays ukulele

Homegrown Plus Premiere: ‘Ukulele Master Herb Ohta, Jr.

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're continuing the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with international recording artist Herb Ohta, Jr., who is one of today's most prolific ʻukulele masters. In this blog you'll find an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore! We're very excited to present Herb Ohta, Jr. in the series. Influenced by jazz, R&B, Latin and Brazilian music, as well as traditional Hawaiian sounds, he puts his stamp on Hawaiian music by pushing the limits of tone and technique on this beautiful instrument. The son of ʻukulele legend "Ohta-san," he started playing at the age of three, and began teaching at the age of nine. Based in Honolulu, he shares the music of Hawaiʻi and the beauty of the ʻukulele with people around the world, performing concerts and conducting instructional workshops. As a special treat, Herb asked his good friend Jake Shimabukuro to join him for a medley of traditional Hawaiian songs. Shimabukuro, also a Honolulu native, is one of the most highly acclaimed ʻukulele players in the world, and has collaborated with many great musicians, including Willie Nelson, Bette Midler, Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Loggins, and Amy Mills. He's never forgotten his roots in Hawaiian music, though, and was kind enough to join Herb in his Homegrown concert.

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Outgoing Archive Director Leaves Big Shoes to Fill

Posted by: Stephen Winick

From late December 2012 through early June 2021, Nicole Saylor led a team of archivists, ethnomusicologists and folklorists that curates the nation’s largest ethnographic archives. She worked to preserve the American Folklife Center’s collecting legacy while accelerating the transformation of an already well-established archives for the digital age. She recently took a position at the Library as the Chief of the Digital Innovation Lab, a position established to lead the Library’s innovation with digital collections and to support its digital transformation. As she began her new position, we interviewed her about her time at AFC.