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6 september 2009

The British Library has made 28,000 rare recordings available free

Rowdy pub sessions in England and Yanggona ceremonial chants in Fiji

* Fijian nose flute played by Joseph Tale Tailevu 1957 (credit George Kingsley Roth and the British Library)Rare, unpublished and out-of-print recordings launched online
* 28,000 recordings – that’s 2000 hours
* Listen to music from every continent in the world on your laptop
* Earliest recording from the collection made in 1898
* Music clips range from the lament of the organic gardenerin Gloucestershire to songs in praise of oxen sung by Karamojong herders in remote villages of north eastern Uganda

The British Library launches new traditional and world music collections online at http://sounds.bl.uk. Featuring unique field recordings, live performances and out-of-print commercial releases, this latest addition to the JISC-funded Archival Sound Recordings website provides a sample of musical traditions across the globe - offering a glimpse of cultural experience around the world.

Highlights include:

Traditional music in England – ranging from rowdy pub sessions to the intimate settings of musicians' homes and slickly produced radio programmes, this collection provides a unique insight into traditional English music, including popular ballads, children's skipping songs, music hall, soldiers' songs and folk tales, for example:

* A sing-along of 'It's a long way to Tipperary' medley in the Boldon Lad public house in Newcastle accompanied on banjo and spoons (1979).
* A rousing rendition of 'Any old iron' recorded in the Nautical Club in Birmingham (1986).
* Lament of the organic gardener in Gloucestershire (1988).
* WWI soldier, George Coppard, sings "If the sergeant drinks your rum, never mind" and "Tickler's jam" (a jam supplier to the army), talks about the songs and speaks on his experiences of the war.
* One of the last Black Country chainmakers, Lucy Woodall, sings work songs such as 'Chainmaker lad is a masher' and talks about her life and work.

Music in India – devotional songs, Vaishnava prayers, Buddhist ritual music and healing songs from remote rural areas of India, recorded as part of a collaborative project between ethnomusicologist Rolf Killius, the Horniman Museum and the British Library, including:

* Monpa dung-khar conch shell duet in the Tawang monastery, Arunachal Pradesh (2001).
* Sora ancestor song with fiddle and flute in Tame Gorjang village, Orissa (2001).
* Cettia Vadyam – an ancient percussion music ensemble featuring the centa and thappe drums and the ilatalam cymbals in Edakkunny village, Kerala (2002).
* Sutuli stone flute played on a harvested rice field in the Upper Katoni village, Assam (2002).

George Kingsley Roth Fiji Collection – recorded in the 1950s during Roth's stint in the Fijian Colonial Administrative Service, this collection includes the sounds of dance gongs, stamping tubes, nose flutes and songs from the islands of Fiji and Tonga, for example:

* A selection of songs to accompany three Tongan dances: the lakalaka, the tafi and the ma'ulu'ulu.
* Ceremonial chants that accompany the drinking of yangonna (the traditional drink of Fiji made from the powdered root of Piper methysticum) which once formed the backbone of Fijian society and culture and would have been drunk at every event.
* Songs from Rakiraki accompanied by stamping tubes and wooden gongs.
* Examples of wooden gong signals that are used to order the men to protect the village from attack, warn of fire, announce a prohibition on making noise in the village, or alert villagers that a body has been brought in for eating.
* Examples of nose flutes and shell trumpets.

Decca West Africa Recordings – music recorded in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and possibly Togo, encompassing a wide range of popular genres of the time including highlife, rumba, calypso, blues and early Nigerian jùjú as well as some more traditional performances. Highlights include:

* Famous Scrubbs and his band from Sierra Leone play 'Poor Freetown Boy'.
* Somuah’s band from Ghana sing 'Auntie Christie'.
* Ma Felreh and her Susu Jolly Group (probably from Togo) sing 'Kingsway Bairie'.

These commercial recordings come from the British Library's holdings of the Decca West Africa yellow label series, issued on shellac disc between c.1948-1961. The collection features recordings by some more well known artists, such as Kwaa Mensah, Kwashi Gatse, Famous Scrubbs and Spike Anyankor, but it also includes many more obscure artists – many of whom have long since passed away - thus providing a detailed picture of the musical scene in West Africa in this post-war period.

Janet Topp Fargion, Curator of World and Traditional Music at the British Library, said:

"Music plays an integral part in the lives of all human beings - it offers us entertainment, documents our history and allows us to identify ourselves as individuals, communities and nations. Traditional music, being orally transmitted, is generally not written down, so the only document for these sorts of music is the recording. Since the late 19th century and the advent of sound recording technology, people have taken on the task of this type of cultural documentation and a great deal of it has been preserved in the British Library's Sound Archive. Making the recordings available to everyone to learn from is what the Archival Sound Recordings project is all about. It’s a real treasure-trove for musicologists and other researchers, but there's something here for everyone too."

Other traditional and world music collections which can now be accessed online at http://sounds.bl.uk include:

African recordings from: Arthur Morris Jones Africa Collection; Kenneth Gourlay Uganda Collection; Klaus Wachsmann Uganda Collection; Peter Cooke Uganda Collection; Hans-Joachim Heinz Botswana Collection; Giles Swayne Senegal Collection.

(bron: persbericht BL)