Hugh Tracey's African music recordings
October 22, 2012 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Like folk enthusiasts and field recordists John and Alan Lomax did in the US, Englishman Hugh Tracey documented an astonishing amount of traditional music. Tracey's love was the music of central and southern Africa, and his recording work came at a crucial time in the history of the region, when, due to repression from Christian missionaries as well as great social change and migration, traditional music of various kinds was fast disappearing. The hour-long audio documentary Discover and Record: The Field Recordings of Hugh Tracey is an excellent introduction to the man and his work, and is chock full of some absolutely fantastic music.

For some, the name Hugh Tracey might be familiar due to the Hugh Tracey kalimba, a *westernized* version of the likembe and mbira instruments that he loved so much. The instrument has been quite popular for decades now. Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire did much to popularize the instrument: "There is a small object that helps illustrate the complexity of Earth, Wind & Fire's achievement - an African thumb piano called a kalimba. The kalimba is clearly close to Maurice White's heart, he introduced it to millions of listeners by making it a centerpiece of Earth, Wind & Fire's spectacular concerts. It was a staple of the group's albums. White even named his production company Kalimba Productions. "The kalimba represented my link to Africa," he explains. "It was my way of taking part of that culture and spreading it all over the world."

Hugh Tracey wikipedia page

The International Library of African Music (ILAM), was founded by Hugh Tracey
posted by flapjax at midnite (6 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks, FJAM! We owe so much to these odd guys who just went out and did this stuff. Speaking of Lomax, I would love to find a similar source for European folk music -- Roma, Irish jigs, English sea shanties, etc.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:40 AM on October 22, 2012

I credit Tracey with helping me realize long ago just how mind-boggling vast the world of music really is, that the well of incredible music is virtually infinitely deep.
posted by williampratt at 10:06 AM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Speaking of Lomax, I would love to find a similar source for European folk music

What you want, Devils Rancher, is the World Library of Folk & Primitive Music series, edited by Lomax, who left the US around the time the FBI started investigating him for his communist associations and didn't come back for the rest of the decade. What was he doing then? Oh, just traveling extensively, recording folk music and compiling earlier field recordings from other folks and then releasing a series of albums, which you can currently listen to in full at The World's Jukebox blog:

Northern and central Italy
Southern Italy and the Islands

I've left off the African, Asian, Australian and Latin American links, but they're just as good.
posted by mediareport at 10:47 AM on October 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oops, missed the edit window for that Scotland link; it should be this.
posted by mediareport at 10:53 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Marry me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:19 PM on October 22, 2012

The Hugh Tracey documentary is excellent. Thanks!
posted by monocultured at 12:39 PM on October 22, 2012

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