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A Sampler of Luso-Hispanic American Music and Song

The collections of the American Folklife Center reflect a long history of ethnographic interest in Luso-Hispanic American music and song. Much of the early collecting work focused on peoples of the regions that formerly belonged to Spain. In this post I’ll provide a quick overview of the Hispanic-American music in AFC’s online collections. Spanish Songs […]

Fandango: Convivial Sharing

The following is a guest post authored by Russell Rodríguez and Quetzal Flores of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts.  Rodríguez and Flores will visit the Library with three master musicians, three apprentices, and several guest musicians, on September 11, 2014, for the concert Son Jarocho Master Musicians (video, 1 hour). During the golden era […]

The Two First “Folk-Lore” Columns

This post presents two primary source documents, both in the public domain, which are difficult to find online. Both relate to my previous post on William John Thoms. They are the first two columns in Thoms’ series “Folk-Lore,” which ran in the journal The Athenæum from 1846 to 1849, and in Notes & Queries from […]

“He Coined the Word ‘Folk-Lore'”: The “Old Folk-Lorist” William John Thoms

August 22 is an important date to folklore fans.  It is, in fact, the anniversary of the first appearance of the (originally hyphenated) word “Folk-Lore” in print. The medium was a letter to the editor of the Athenæum, a scholarly journal, and the author was William John Thoms, although he wrote the letter under his […]

Ring Around the Rosie: Metafolklore, Rhyme and Reason

  A recent blog post at Londonist describes “Five London Nursery Rhymes Depicting Death and Ruin.” The rhymes in question have diverse origins and histories, but what seems incontrovertible from James FitzGerald’s work is that they describe dark and portentous matters from English history. Or do they? Looking closely at these rhymes, and at scholarship […]

Celebrating Pi

March 14 (3/14) is Pi Day and July 22 (22/7 in the European date style) is Pi Approximation Day. In mathematics a common shortened figure for pi is 3.14 while the most well-known “approximate pi” is 22 divided by 7 (3.1428571428571428). These two celebrations of the most famous irrational number on dates related to that […]

A Sampler of Caribbean American Recordings

Caribbean American Heritage Month is a relatively new commemorative month, first created in June, 2006. The American Folklife Center has many collections that document aspects of Caribbean cultures and some of these are available online. This essay can only touch on a few examples, but I hope it will provide ideas on how to explore […]

Songs of the Abundant Ocean

June eighth is World Oceans Day, and an opportunity to look at a few examples of folksongs that relate to the interconnection between humans and the sea from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. In this recording, available via the link, James H. Gibbs of Nantucket, Massachusetts sings an untitled song about sperm whaling, […]

Vintage Researcher Photo: George Takei

In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, we present this vintage AFC researcher photo. (And by “vintage,” I mean “prior to the existence of Folklife Today.”) This photo shows the stage, film, and television actor George Takei, best known as Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek, who visited the AFC Reading Room on April […]