How I missed out on Smithsonian-Folkways on

Mountain Music of Peru Music of Indonesia

I can’t believe how long I have been on emusic and never bothered to check out Folkways. I guess I owe it to a bit of prejudice left over from my more punk days towards all things nostalgically american.

Well, I was wrong, dead wrong.

What I have been realizing recently is that the term “folk” is frustratingly broad. It includes everything from the vapid sentimentality of modern singer/”songwriters”, to the enraptured, feminine flitter of John Jacob Niles and even further to the rustic moans and chants of the herdsmen of Kyrgyzstan.

That is pretty damn broad.

An Untamed Sense of Control John Jacob Niles

It was the last example there that I was most ignorant of. When I saw the folk in the Folkways name, I immediately thought of trust-fund hippies. This is in part due to my aforementioned prejudice, but also due to the fact that the deeper reaches that “folk” encapsulates are ill represented at best in our current culture. While what does get represented is by far the most boring of the lot. I won’t get into the multi-layered corporate politics that got us here. What I will say though, is we have been missing out… big time.

While I have known this for some time, what I did not know, was that Folkways has been trying it’s damnedest to expose us to all of the great alternatives to our current state of boredom, and have been doing it for some time. I guess the “folk” just got in my way.

On emusic, Folkways has a ton of interesting records, from early american blues to railroad songs, to Indonesian guitar music. If you are not a member, I’d suggest getting a basic subscription just do get all of these records, let alone the massive amount of other music available.

An overview of Folkways on emusic is available here.


4 Responses to “How I missed out on Smithsonian-Folkways on”

  1. Daniel Thompson Says:

    I really like the cd on Indonesian guitars and Indonesian music in general. They seem to have a musical perspective that is quite different from what we are used to in the west. I recently attended a gamalan concert. It was a lot of fun.

  2. howsthatsound Says:

    Yeah that CD is really good. I thought it was amazing the similarity to John Fahey. Then the vocals come in and recontextualize it completely. I imagine Indonesian music probably had a pretty big effect of Fahey from what I’ve heard.

    I’d love to see a Gamelan concert… I guess I’ll have to keep holding my breath tho… 🙂

  3. » Blog Archive » How I missed out on Smithsonian-Folkways on Says:

    […] Of Sound Mind, one of the best new and obscure music blogs out there, blogs on the catalogue of the greatest of all folk labels being available for digital download through, a download site much a much cooler catalogue of music in general. […]

  4. Richard Carlin Says:

    Anyone interested in Folkways Records should check out my blog, My book, Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smitshonain Folkways, is being published this fall by HarperCollins.

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