Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Fred McDowell, 1965, Como, Mississippi

Meet the Man Who Recorded the Music of America's Front Porches and Backyard Parties

Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records, crisscrossed the United States photographing and recording musicians where they played

Joan Baez at the Alabama State Capitol in 1965, from Joan Baez I Am a Noise, a Magnolia Pictures release.

Folk Icon Joan Baez Sings a Song of Herself

After decades in the limelight, the American musician who spent a career exposing the world’s problems explores her own past

Illustration by Nina Goldman / Images via Smithsonian Folkways Records

Celebrating 75 Years of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

The vast, eclectic public archive of American music—and other sounds—is featured on a new episode of the Sidedoor podcast

Now available is the Biography of a Phantom: A Robert Johnson Blues Odyssey by Robert "Mack" McCormick (above center with Spider Kilpatrick, c. 1960), and this summer, the much-anticipated book is complemented by an exhibit at the National Museum of American History, a box CD set from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and a concert celebration at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall.

Legendary Bluesman Robert Johnson Had Demons. So Did His Biographer

The long-awaited “Biography of a Phantom” unravels some of the mystery and intrigue

The "Gifts We Carry: Sounds of Migration and Memory” concert will combine musicians from several backgrounds and cultures, including Salar Nader on the tabla and Homayoun Sakhi, a master on the Afghan stringed instrument the rubab. 

After Long Absence, the Folklife Festival Returns to the National Mall

The much-loved summer event, featuring the United Arab Emirates and Earth Optimism programs, opens with a concert hosted by Yo-Yo Ma

"There isn't a Christmas that goes by that I don't sing 'Oh Holy Night,'" says Irma Thomas (above: in 2019 at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) "If you listen to all the verses, it tells a beautiful story."

Irma Thomas' Rendition of 'O Holy Night' Is a Marvel From Beginning to End

Soulful Christmas music is an obsession for Bill Adler, so he interviewed the singer of one of his favorite songs

The Smithsonian Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap tracks the evolution of the genre from its music to its culture and to its people. "Everything that is part of hip-hop," says the Smithsonian's Dwandalyn Reece, curator of music and performing arts.

Chronicling Hip-Hop's 45-Year Ascendance as a Musical, Cultural and Social Phenom

The groundbreaking box set "Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap" features 129 tracks, liner notes and an illustrated 300-page compendium

Paredon Records produced music that was literally revolutionary.

From the 'Sidedoor' Podcast: How a Woman-Led Record Label Spread Songs of Protest and Revolution

This episode from the sixth season of the Smithsonian's "Sidedoor" podcast delves into the history of Barbara Dane's revolutionary Paredon Records

To learn more about high school choruses, a team from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings collaborated with the chorus (above) at Oakcrest, an all-girls school in Vienna, Virginia.

How a Choral Director and Her Students Found Joy in the Folkways Archives

Watch this uplifting video giving voice to stalwarts of the American songbook

The six CD set Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings won a Grammy in the category for Best Historical Album. The set includes some well-known, not-so-well-known, and previously unreleased recordings spanning Seeger’s career.

Grammy Nod to Folkways’ Pete Seeger Collection Is a Fitting Tribute

The producers aim to inspire future generations to carry on the singer’s legacy

In 1904, Joseph Kekuku, inventor of the Hawaiian steel guitar, left Hawaii to perform on the American West Coast. Newspaper critics called him the “world’s greatest guitar soloist.”

How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed American Music

The season finale of Sidedoor tells the story of an indigenous Hawaiian instrument with a familiar sound and unexpected influences

Rhiannon Giddens is joined by Canadian-American musician-songwriter Allison Russell (Po’ Girl, Birds of Chicago), Leyla McCalla (Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Amythyst Kiah (Amythyst Kiah & Her Chest of Glass) for the new album Songs of Our Native Daughters.

Why These Four Banjo-Playing Women Resurrected the Songs of the Enslaved

The new Folkways album "Songs of Our Native Daughters" draws spiritually from slave narratives and other pre-19th-century sources

At Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney Phil is proudly lifted like  Simba high overhead by his top-hatted Groundhog Club handler. Will it be six more weeks of winter or an early spring? Only the groundhog knows.

Play a Groundhog Day Song on a Continuous Loop

Like Bill Murray, wake up to Groundhog Day everyday with the Smithsonian Folkways' groundhog playlist

For Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles, their dual mission of being a respected musical group and advocating for social equality for the LGBTQ community has won the hearts and minds of many.

How the First LGBTQ Mariachi Became an Outlet for Advocacy

LA musicians Carlos Samaniego and Natalia Melendez do traditional Mexican music their way

"My goal with music is to represent myself in a natural and sincere way," says musician Alidé Sans, "and what is more natural and sincere than an Aranese woman expressing herself in Aranese?"

This Musician’s Songs Give Powerful Voice to a Language in Crisis

Singer and linguistic activist Alidé Sans hails from an isolated Catalan valley where a rare dialect is spoken

“I knew I had to tell a story of the past,” says Don Flemons, the Grammy-winning co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Songster Dom Flemons Brings Back the Melodies of the Black Cowboy

The Latest from Folkways, a Label Marking 70 Years, revives music traditions from the African-American ranch crews of the West

The box set will include a 300-page companion volume featuring never-before-seen photographs, scholarly commentary and rigorous liner notes.

This Ambitious Landmark Hip-Hop and Rap Anthology Was Successfully Funded

Smithsonian's nonprofit record label launched a Kickstarter for help and got it

Young Aboriginal dancers keeping their tradition alive at the Leura Festival in Australia.

How We Can Support the World's Rich Musical Diversity

Some music thrives, while other musical traditions are on the verge of disappearing

Christylez Bacon at the Opening Ceremony of the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Christylez Bacon on Finding His Voice through Music

The Grammy-nominated artist takes inspiration from weaving together seemingly disparate musical forms

In 1971, Folkways Recordings released the album Raimon: Catalonian Protest Songs, and in the liner notes, Pete Seeger wrote: “Censors, in every corner of this world, tend to be shallow, literal-minded people. Raimon is a poet. There is no need to say more.”

This Catalan Folk Singer Refused to Bow to Oppression

The director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage recognizes the lifetime work of the singer activist Raimon

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