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"Steamboat Whistle" by John Jackson at Barns of Wolf Trap 1997

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The blues became a prominent American musical form at the turn of the 20th century. The style originated in communities of former African slaves, deriving from spirituals, praise songs, field hollers, shouts, and chants. The use of blue notes and the prominence of call-and-response patterns in the music and lyrics can be linked to centuries-old musical styles from West Africa. The blues has been a major influence on American and Western popular music, inspiring ragtime, jazz, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, hip-hop, and country music.

"St. James Infirmary (Gambler's Blues)" by Dave Van Ronk

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Dave Van Ronk sings "St. James Infirmary (Gambler's Blues)" at the Barns at Wolf Trap during a 1997 concert honoring Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music

"Some Kind of Something Is Going On Down There": Crossroads at Congo Square

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Winter/Spring 2015: New Orleans

"Somali Freedom Song" by Hasan Gure at 1997 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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Hasan Gure is a musician, social worker, community scholar, and Somali immigrant dedicated to preserving Somali culture and traditions in the USA. Here, he performs a Somali freedom song celebrating Somali independence proclaimed from Britain and Italy on June 26, 1960. He plays the oud and is accompanied by Ghanaian immigrants Kwame Ansah Brew and Kofi Emmanuel Dennis on percussion.

"Sleep Eye" by Elizabeth Mitchell from Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie

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"The rhythm of this song is perfect for bouncing a baby on your shoulder and lulling them to sleep. Thank you, Woody!" - Elizabeth Mitchell

"Shoo Lie Loo" by Elizabeth Mitchell from Sunny Day

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This children's song is accompanied by a dancing game where you stand in a circle, clap your hands to the beat, and call out for your friend.

"Serrano de Corazón" by Guillermo Velázquez y los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú

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On August 26th, Smithsonian Folkways released Serrano de Corazón (Highlander at Heart), an album rooted in the Mexican musical tradition huapango arribeño as interpreted by Guillermo Velázquez and his Leones de la Sierra de Xichú. Featuring nine tracks lasting a total of 76 minutes, the collection embodies tradition, as well as the energy of annual topadas festivities – exciting, all-night duels between musicians in a New Year celebration.

"Rast" by Rahim Alhaj and Souhail Kaspar

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The oud, a traditional Middle Eastern string instrument, is over 5,000 years old and the ancestor of many other string instruments. In this video, Rahim Alhaj, Iraqi oud virtuoso and composer plays, accompanied by master percussionist Souhail Kaspar. It is a glimpse into recording sessions for Alhaj's "When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq" CD, SFW-CD-45033, released October 2006. Alhaj is one of a very few professional oudists who are actively re-vitalizing and thereby preserving the Iraqi art music tradition.

"Por Por" from Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana

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The La Drivers Union Por Por Group is an organization of truck drivers in Ghana who lobby for drivers' rights and practice a form of music using honk horns and other vehicle parts. This video is composed of several songs that demonstrate the instruments and themes important to por por musicians. "Trotro Tour of Ghana" begins with an a cappella fragment of the Ghanaian national anthem, demonstrating the intense national pride of The La Drivers Union Por Por Group. "Shidaa" is a song about the history of por por and the original importance of the horns for truck drivers to scare wild animals on dark roads in the hinterland. It ends with praise for all the elders, union leaders, and workers who created and maintain the por portradition.

"Peace Like a River" by Elizabeth Mitchell and Suni Paz at the Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert

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The life of Kate Rinzler was celebrated on July 9 with lively performances by two Smithsonian Folkways recording artists, Elizabeth Mitchell and Suni Paz. Mitchell, who has recorded two albums for Smithsonian Folkways, made her Festival debut, while renowned Argentinean songwriter/singer Suni Paz, who recorded several albums for Smithsonian Folkways, returned to the Festival after many years. In this video, they perform “Peace Like a River” from Mitchell’s 2006 album You Are My Little Bird.

"Parlez nous à boie non parl du marriage" by Michael and David Doucet at 2007 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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Michael Doucet, fiddler, composer, and bandleader, is perhaps the single most important figure in the revitalization of Cajun music in the USA. Cajun is the shorthand name for the French settlers of southwest Louisiana who were expelled from the Acadian region of Canada in the 18th century. During the first half of the 20th century, both the language and music of French Louisiana seemed to be in decline. In 1975, Doucet applied to the National Endowment for the Arts for an apprenticeship grant to study with and document the master fiddlers of his region. As a result of this project, he was able to learn first-hand from the great masters of Cajun and Creole music with links to an earlier era.

"Pajarillo" by Grupo Cimarrón (Recio-Style Singing)

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While women in música llanera (plains music) have traditionally been encouraged to sing songs with emotional or romantic themes, Veydó is one of the few female singers that follow the recio (robust, coarse) style of singing usually associated with the male voice. Considered one of the most archaic forms of the Colombian plains joropo, the pajarillotype of golpe is the archetypical framework for recio-style singing. The lyrics usually allude to the singer's pride in their culture and homeland and in working with the earth.

"Orphan Child" by The National Cherokee Youth Choir at 2004 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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"Orphan Child" is a song of unknown origins but is believed to have been created on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, when the Cherokee people were forcibly removed to the American West. The song has come to represent a source of comfort to the Cherokee. The National Cherokee Youth Choir, formed in 2000, is based in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and is composed of around 40 youth in grade five to eight from across the Cherokee Nation.

"Oh, John the Rabbit" by Elizabeth Mitchell from Sunny Day

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Music video of "Oh, John the Rabbit" by Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower.

"O Canada" by Asani at 2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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Many cultures, ethnic identities, and languages flourish in Canada. French, English, Scottish, and Irish immigrants have maintained their cultural heritage across generations, as have Aboriginal peoples fiercely determined to preserve their ways of life in the wake of oppressive colonialism and its injustices. Recent American, Eastern and Northern European, and Asian immigrants also contribute to the cultural mosaic. "O, Canada," the Canadian national anthem, was originally written in French in 1880, and the English version was chosen as the country's official anthem in 1980. Here Asani, an Aboriginal women's a cappella group from Edmonton, Alberta, present a stirring rendition of "O, Canada," re-imagined to reflect the myriad peoples who call Canada their homeland.

"Night Thoughts" by Wu Man at the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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During the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Wu Man performed an original composition on the pipa entitled “Night Thoughts,” based on a work by Chinese poet Li Bo. She was accompanied by percussionist Haruka Fujii.

"México Lindo" by Natividad "Nati" Cano from ¡Llegaron Los Camperos!: Nati Cano's Mariachi Los Camperos

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Mariachi is an extroverted form of acoustic music that emerged in several western states of Mexico. Ensembles generally employ at least two violins, two trumpets, a five-string rhythm guitar called the vihuela, a large bass guitar called the guitarrón, and a Spanish guitar. Led by Nati Cano, Los Angeles-based Mariachi Los Camperos is one of the most accomplished modern mariachi bands in the world.

"My Better Years" by The Seldom Scene from Long Time…Seldom Scene

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Bluegrass legends The Seldom Scene record the wistful Hazel Dickens' song "My Better Years" for the Smithsonian Folkways album Long Time... Seldom Scene.

"Mujer Borinqueña" by Miguel Santiago Diaz of Ecos de Borinquen

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Traditional Puerto Rican jíbaro music is often improvised, sung poetry. At the core of the traditional song repertoire are the seis (in which the song form is based on six lines) and the aguinaldo (which is based on a decimal, or ten-line stanza). The aguinaldo is well-suited for detailed lyrical narratives of Puerto Rican history and culture and Biblical stories. Here Miquel Santiago-Diaz, founder of Ecos de Borinquen and one-time Puerto Rican national trovador(troubadour, or singer of seis and aguinaldo) demonstrates the aguinaldo style from the town of Orocovis with "Mujer Borinqueña," a song extolling the virtues of a Puerto Rican woman.

"Mother" by Ulali from Heartbeat:Voices of First Nation's Women

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Ulali is a group of First Nations women who combine drums, rattles, and other percussion instruments with their powerful voices to create a potent blend of traditional Native American roots music and contemporary styles. Pura Fé, Jennifer Kreisberg, and Soni Moreno formed the a capella trio in 1987 and have performed around the world, including work with the Indigo Girls and in the movie Smoke Signals. This performance of "Mother" exhibits the group's range and captivating talent.

"Me voy Lejos (I'm Going Far Away)" by Flaco Jiménez & Max Baca from Legends & Legacies

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The music of GRAMMY-winning conjunto artists Max Baca and Flaco Jiménez is steeped in the traditions of their families and region.

"Marina" by Los Texmaniacs from Borders y Bailes

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Los Texmaniacs add creative touches to bring traditional conjunto music to younger audiences. In this acoustic, back porch performance of "Marina," they substitute the guitarrónfor the electric bass.

"Margarita, Margarita" by Max Baca and Flaco Jiménez from Legends and Legacies

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The music of GRAMMY-winning conjunto artists Max Baca and Flaco Jiménez is steeped in the traditions of their families and region.

"M.V. Labadi" by La Drivers Union Por Por Group

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Por por (pronounced paaw paaw) is the name of honking, squeeze-bulb horn music which is unique to the La Drivers Union of Ghana, and which is principally performed at union drivers' funerals. Por por music is played with truck horns, tire pumps, and other everyday objects a truck driver uses. The sound is rooted in Ghanaian tradition and a broad range of musical influences from New Orleans jazz to Highlife. The song performed here honors and praises past drivers. The group then breaks into a jam session. The performance was filmed in Accra, Ghana, during ethnomusicologist Steven Feld's 2006 recording session for Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana.
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