The UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, a pioneering effort to make the world’s musical heritage more widely known and appreciated, takes on new life…
Viet Nam: Traditions of the South
This recording, compiled and annotated by Vietnamese musicologist Trần Văn Khê, collects two styles of music from the southern region of Vietnam (defined in the liner notes as the area between the 12th parallel and the country’s southern tip at Pointe de Cà Mau). The inclusion of both formal ritual and religious music, including prayers and a spirit possession song, and secular or “entertainment” music, which allows for improvisation, creates a great sonic variety.
This 1972 recording features Korean court music, or hyang-ak, which was codified in the 5th century. Hyang-ak is essentially pentatonic and is derived from a type of sung poetry. Vocal performances are accompanied by a variety of Korean string, wind, and percussion instruments.
North India: Instrumental Music - Rudra Veena, Vichitra Veena, Sarod, Shahnai
Noted musicologist Alain Daniélou observes that the classical Indian raga is a meditation on the states of the soul. “For this reason,” he writes in this album’s liner notes, “the development of a raga by an Indian master musician is not something to be analyzed but a means by which the artist and his listeners should let themselves be lifted up towards the highest realms of thought.” This collection presents four ragas performed by master Indian musicians on traditional instruments.
North India: Instrumental Music - Sitar, Flute, Sarangi
The classical music of North India (Hindustani music) has roots in Persian Musiqi-e assil folk music, Sufi songs, Vedic chants, and the region’s own folk traditions. Although it is primarily a vocal-based music, the classical Hindustani music on this album is played on a variety of traditional instruments. The tracks in this collection present three different ragas.
Tajik Music of Badakhshan
The traditional homelands of the Tajik people cover parts of modern-day Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. The Tajiks of the Badakhshân region of northeast Afghanistan and southwestern Tajikistan are Ismaili Muslims, and their particular religious faith has helped preserve their highly original musical forms.
Azerbaijan: Azerbaijani Mugam
This recording features Bahram Mansurov performing on the Azerbaijan tar, an 11-string lute. According to liner notes by Alain Daniélou, Mansurov is “unrivaled for his talent of creation and improvisation in the pure style of the traditional music of Azerbaijan.”
Nepal: Ritual and Entertainment
Nepalese music is used in ritual and entertainment to signify events in the lunar calendar, the seasons, and agricultural cycles. While the music for dance repeats melodic and rhythmic patterns, the music for religious ceremonies often features free-flowing, improvised melodies.
Folk Music of Cuba
The folk music of Cuba combines Hispanic stringed instruments like guitar and tres (a guitar-like instrument with six strings, paired in octaves like an American twelve-string guitar) with African percussion instruments, seasoned with a hint of Caribbean flavor. The result is a rich blend of song styles and dance rhythms. This collection, recorded during the 1980s, presents an array of music from across the island performed by both urban and rural ensembles.
Croatia: Traditional Music of Today
Croatia’s traditional music of today is the focus of this 1988 UNESCO release. In the liner notes, Svanibor Pettan, Secretary General of the International Council for Traditional Music, sheds light on the Croatian tradition’s contemporary evolution.
Iraq: Iqa’at - Traditional Rhythmic Structure
This compilation of recordings by ethnomusicologist Habib Hassan Touma features various musical genres from Basra Province and Baghdad that provide a glimpse into the varied iqa’at (rhythmic forms) in traditional Iraqi music.
Egypt: Taqâsîm & Layâlî - Cairo Tradition
Among the tracks presented here are two extended performances of taqâsim and layālī in the same mode, selected to provide listeners an opportunity to compare the instrumental and vocal styles of improvisation. The principal instruments employed in Egypt are the zither-like qanun, the oud, or lute (the word “lute” comes from the Arabic “al- 'ud”), and the nay, a vertical flute without a mouthpiece. All of them may be heard here.
Myanmar: Music by the Hsaing Waing Orchestra: The Burmese Harp
The music of Burma (officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar) is characterized by two types of music: chamber music played solo on instruments such as the Burmese harp, and orchestra music played primarily on percussion instruments.
Ethiopia: Three Chordophone Traditions
These recordings, made by ethnomusicologist Cynthia Tse Kimberlin in 1972 in the capital city of Addis Ababa, showcase three Ethiopian chordophones: the bägänna, a large 10-string plucked lyre; the krar, a smaller 5- or 6-string plucked lyre; and the masinqo, a single-string spiked fiddle. The music represents styles of five Ethiopian ethnic groups—the Amhara, Dorze, Oromo, and two Tigre groups.
Portugal: Festas in Minho
These 1998 on-site recordings of two pilgrimages in northwestern Portugal capture the rich and varied music of the streets, squares, and pilgrimage sites of the Minho region at the end of the 20th century. Percussion ensembles, brass bands, intricate poetry and sung poetic competitions, concertina and stringed instrument-based ensembles, and the strong sound of women’s voices are all characteristic of this region of Portugal.
Portugal: Music and Dance from Madeira
Part of Portugal since its discovery in the early 15th century, Madeira developed music, dance, and festival traditions that reflect and shape its history and social life. Political and economic changes since the 1970s have stimulated a renewed appreciation of local traditions that are researched and performed today by many grassroots folk groups, such as the one featured here.
Anthology of Indian Classical Music: A Tribute to Alain Daniélou
First released in 1955 by Ducretet-Thomson (EMI), the LP anthology is said to be the "first of this music to become available in the West in which the recorded pieces were not presented as 'folklore' but as 'serious' music." The set includes the first recordings published in the Western world of Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan.
Bengal: Bengali Traditional Folk Music
Bengal, a historically important and culturally distinctive region in the northeast of the Indian subcontinent that today is separated by the India-Bangladesh border, is the source of the Baul song tradition. This album presents Baul songs, a boatmen’s song (bhatiyali), a bhajan, and a kirtan.
Uzbekistan: Musical Traditions of the Karakalpaks
The ancient, orally-transmitted epic tradition of the Karakalpaks, woven with the songs they sing in their everyday lives, forms a rich musical tapestry in the arid land of Karakalpakstan (an autonomous republic in Uzbekistan).
Turkmen Epic Singing: Köroğlu
The history of Turkmen music is closely linked with the narration of heroic epics. The ritual recitation of these epics is known as dastan and was the main means of transmission of Turkmen cultural heritage for several centuries, conveying behavioral patterns, elements of daily life, and shamanic and religious customs and beliefs. Those who perform the dastan are known as bakhshi.
Madagascar: Spirit Music from the Tamatave Region
Except for the period of French colonial rule from 1897 to 1960, the peoples of Madagascar have been free and independent. The Malagasy place great belief in ancestral power, evoking the spirits of ancient royalty, tromba, through possession ceremonies. These spirits are summoned to help solve problems, heal illness, and create a devotional base for a world often fractured by foreign intrusion and poverty.
Music Tradition of Malawi
The southeast African country of Malawi was a Bantu settlement in the 10th century, a British colony in the 19th century, and became an independent nation in 1964. A country of great cultural diversity, Malawi shares many musical traditions with its African neighbors of Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique. This recording, made in 1991 and originally released in 1996, presents diverse Malawian traditions of storytelling through song and competition through dance.
Japan: Semiclasssical and Folk Music
The traditional music of Japan comprises a rich variety of styles developed over the course of more than a millennium. Among them are ancient imperial court music (Gagaku), the 14th-century form of musical drama patronized by feudal lords (Noh), and “semiclassical music.”
Armenia: Liturgical Chants - Mekhitarist Community of Venice
The monastery located on the island of San Lazzaro in the Venetian Lagoon, serves as the headquarters of the Mekhitarist Order of the Armenian Catholic Church. Here, at one of the foremost centers of Armenian Christian culture in the world, the Mekhitarist monks recorded this collection of liturgical chants sung during Lent and Easter. This monastery, notes ethnomusicologist Alain Daniélou, has maintained the tradition of the Armenian chant in its most authentic form.