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

Chicago Blues and Jazz: A New Story Map on the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection

Posted by: Michelle Stefano

In May, I wrote about a project that was keeping me busy, and providing a nice escape from the mental confines of my well-worn, Baltimore couch. While I cannot believe it is already August, I am happy to announce that the project is all set and ready to share! Chicago Blues and Jazz: Selections from …

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

The Painful Birth of Blues and Jazz

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

One hundred years ago this month, February 26, 1917, what is generally acknowledged as the first recording of jazz was released. “Livery Stable Blues,” performed by the Original Dixieland Jass Band [1] was a best-selling record for Victor, but is a problematic “first” as it is a recording of a white band performing an African …

Homegrown Plus: Blues with Phil Wiggins (1954-2024)

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The passing of harmonica virtuoso and blues master Phil Wiggins on May 7, 2024, was a sad event for the music world, and particularly for the American Folklife Center. Phil was one of the most celebrated musicians in the blues nationwide, and one of the most important roots musicians of any kind in the Washington area. For those reasons among others, AFC has featured Phil in concerts probably more often than any other musician during the last few decades. In this post, we'll bring together most of Phil's appearances that were shot on video, show you some never-before-seen photos of Phil, and pay tribute to a longtime friend of the Center.

Five men stand on stage. One sings into a microphone.

Caught My Eye and Ear: Calypso Photos and Recordings, 1946-1947

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This post looks at photos and recordings of some important calypso stars of the 1940s New York music scene, Macbeth the Great (Patrick MacDonald), Duke of Iron (Cecil Anderson) and Lord Invader (Rupert Grant). The 1947 photos are part of the William P. Gottlieb collection at the Library of Congress Music Division, while the recording of a full-length 1946 concert by the three performers is part of the American Folklife Center’s Alan Lomax Collection. These collections shed light on an interesting time in American music, before the emergence of rock and roll, when calypso and related Caribbean styles were vying for popularity with other folk music genres. In 1944, the Andrews Sisters had a major hit with Lord Invader's "Rum and Coca-Cola." In 1956, Harry Belafonte's "Calypso" became the first million-selling LP record. During the period between those milestones, it looked possible that calypso could emerge to be one of the leading styles of American pop music. Performers like Duke of Iron, Macbeth, and Lord Invader engaged in friendly competitions like the ones documented by Gottlieb and Lomax, using witty lyrics, catchy music, and personal charisma to fascinate audiences on stage and on record. Find the photos and a link to the concert audio in this blog post.

A group of people with musical instruments on a stage

Homegrown Plus: Sones de Mexico Ensemble Concert and Corrido Lecture

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Welcome to Homegrown Plus, Classic Edition! Until 2018, we weren't recording most of our Homegrown interviews on video and we hadn't yet thought of Homegrown Plus. But there are some concert videos from that era that deserve the Homegrown Plus treatment of placing concert videos together with an interview or other related video in an easy-to-find blog post. In this case, we'll feature a classic concert from 2015 featuring the Sones de México Ensemble, along with a lecture on corridos by band member and ethnomusicologist Juan Díes, and a video of the inaugural reading of Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, in which Herrera and Díes performed a corrido composed according to principles outlined in Díes's lecture. 

A woman sings into a microphone

Homegrown Plus: Ladino Songs with Nani Noam Vazana

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We're continuing the series with a concert and interview featuring Nani Noam Vazana. Vazana is one of the few artists in the world who writes and composes new songs in the endangered Ladino (or Judeo-Spanish) language, a form of Spanish derived from Old Castilian which is spoken by Sephardic Jews living mostly in Israel, the Balkans, North Africa, Greece, and Turkey. Ladino, which traveled to these areas with Jewish communities expelled from Spain in 1492, is very nearly extinct in many places. Nani says her work seeks to capture the spirit of this ancient, matriarchal language and culture and propel it into the 21st century with socially pertinent lyrics addressing themes such as migration, gender, and female empowerment. Nani's goal is to create a bridge between tradition and modern life, capturing the sounds and smells of the marketplace and fusing them with surprising instrumentation and vibrant singing. As usual with Homegrown Plus blogs, you'll find the concert video, an interview video, and a wealth of links to related collections and concerts, all right here in this blog post.

Three men on a stage. Pete Seeger smiles at Andy Wallace. Wallace and Mike Rivers play guitars.

Announcing the Artists in Resonance Fellowship

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We’re very happy to invite applications for our brand new Artist in Resonance Fellowships at the AFC to support artists in creating new musical works inspired by and sourced from collection materials in the American Folklife Center Archives. One Fellowship of $10,000 will be awarded annually by the American Folklife Center. The deadline for the first Artists in Resonance award is April 5, 2024. In this blog post you'll find links to help you apply, as well as the story of the founding of the fellowship with the help of the late Mike Rivers.

Alejandro Brittes Quartet performing at Library of Congress

Homegrown Plus: Alejandro Brittes Quartet, Masters of Chamamé

Posted by: Douglas D. Peach

In this post, AFC Folklife Specialist Douglas D. Peach spotlights a recent concert and oral history interview with masters of chamamé music, the Alejandro Brittes Quartet, held at the Library of Congress in September 2023. The interview and oral history interview are now available for online viewing.