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Homegrown Plus Premiere: Ukrainian American Bandura Master Julian Kytasty

We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with Julian Kytasty, a third generation player of the bandura, a Ukrainian stringed instrument with similarities to the lute and the zither. Julian also sings beautifully and composes for the bandura and other instruments. In this blog you’ll find an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore!

AFC Welcomes a New Director of Archives!

Please join the American Folklife Center in welcoming our new Director of Archives, Michael Pahn! He’s only just started with us in this position—his official first day was May 9—but has a long relationship with the Center, going all the way back to an internship he held in the 1990s! He’s also worked with many AFC staff over the years in his capacity as Head of Archives and Digitization at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the position he held prior to joining the Library of Congress.

Caught My Eye: Working the Port of Houston Collection

As shipping delays persist, even if Ever Given and Ever Forward are both free to forge on, I am reminded of the AFC’s Working the Port of Houston Collection, and the insights it offers into the global shipping industry from the perspective of one of the world’s busiest ports. Focused on the history and importance […]

Homegrown Plus: Traditional Dance from American Samoa

We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus series with a very special presentation of Samoan dance. In addition to the dance video, the blog features an interview with Eti Eti, one of the members of the dance group. The dance video was created by the Student Association For Fa’asamoa, a program of the Samoan Studies Institute at American Samoa Community College. The Samoan Studies Institute’s mission is to ensure and promote the continuity of Samoan culture, traditions, language, and heritage. Since its inception, SAFF has been active in performing the Siva Samoa (traditional Samoan dance), and in teaching and practicing old Samoan customs. For their Homegrown video, the SAFF dancers performed a 30-minute program of traditional dances in several locales at the college, under the direction of Molitogi Lemana. See the video right here in the blog!

ETL: Searching the Lomax family papers through the magic of crowdsourcing

“ETL” is a wonderful acronym, a non-word, a nickname for a phrase by which insiders describe a complex process. ETL in the context of digital collections at the Library of Congress is short for “extract, transform, and load.” To a curator working with crowdsourced archival material. “ETL” in an email subject line signals the final step in a process by which an archival collection becomes full-text searchable, the gold standard for access to manuscript materials. In this post we look at the ways in which crowdsourced transcriptions add depth to our understanding of our rich fieldwork collections. We look at a variety of materials, including Alan Lomax’s trips to collect traditional songs and music in Florida and Haiti. We show how Zora Neale Hurston’s fieldwork informed her brilliant novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” providing excerpts from fieldnotes that comport with descriptions in the novel.

More About “Hal An Tow”: Early Evidence of a May Song.

In this post we examine some of the earliest evidence of the Cornish May Song, also known as “Hal An Tow.” A version of this song was recorded from Lillian Short in Missouri by Vance Randolph in 1941. By that time, the melody to the song had changed in oral tradition, but this early evidence, a written transcription by Edward Jones from 1802, shows that the song was formerly sung to the same melody retained by Lillian Short. The post includes Jones’s 1802 passage describing the May 8 observances in Helston, Cornwall, which include the “Hal An Tow” song, the “Furry Dance” or “Flora Dance,” and other events; the sheet music as he published it; and a discussion of Jones’s interpretations of the Helston song in relation to AFC’s field recording.

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

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.

Homegrown Plus: Vri: Chamber Folk From Wales

We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus series with Vrï, a trio from Wales in the U.K., whose members describe their music as ‘chamber-folk.’ The idea of the series is to gather concert videos, video interviews with the musicians, and connections to Library of Congress collections together in one place for our subscribers…so here we go!

Bringing together the experience of Jordan Price Williams (cello, voice) Patrick Rimes (violin, viola, foot percussion, voice) and Aneirin Jones (violin, voice) Vrï plays tunes and songs from the Celtic nations and beyond, attempting to combine the energy of a rowdy pub session with the style and finesse of the Viennese string quartet. They combine high-energy dance music and stately traditional melodies with delicate arrangements, and sing in both Welsh and English.

James B. Hardin 1940-2022

The American Folklife Center is very sad to pass on the news of the death of James Budd Hardin, who worked as the editor for the Center from 1987 until his retirement in 2004. Jim died peacefully at home on April 4, with family by his side. Throughout his tenure at the Library of Congress, Jim was a highly respected and well-liked colleague who was known for his dedication, hard work, outstanding sense of organization, meticulous attention to detail, willingness to pitch in for the good of the Library, and wry sense of humor. At AFC in particular, Jim was a beloved staff member, and will be missed by his former colleagues at the Center and throughout the Library of Congress. Read more about Jim’s life and work in this blog.