In 1995, I was running the Philadelphia Music Conference, one of the country’s largest music/business gatherings. It was that year when I discovered world music – and I used to drive my staff crazy playing discs like “Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest” when they wanted to hear Pearl Jam.
So I called Smithsonian Folkways and offered them a deal: I would give them a grand sponsorship to the conference, and they would send me their catalog – every single CD in their world music collection, and hundreds of cassette tapes. I treasured this music greatly, and it influenced my composing and changed my life.
To go beyond their catalog, I had to go scour through Goldmine, libraries, or NYC record stores to hear great music at the margins. But today, I discovered that much of the work of the great folklorist Alan Lomax is now online to browse and listen, for free.
Now, you can watch videos of Appalachian folktales and hear shepherd’s tunes from Azerbaijan, all in one place – and see the cultural heritage of our species beautifully laid out. It’s an embarrassment of riches – which you shouldn’t be too embarrassed to plunder. Enjoy.