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World and traditional music: Australasia

The Sound Archive's world and traditional music collections include music from Australasia.

Collection overview

Unpublished recordings from Oceanic/Australasian in the Sound Archive comprise 21 separate ethnographic collections, including 12 wax cylinder collections. Published material include early recordings on 78rpm discs primarily of Maori choral music issued on the Columbia label. Later periods are represented by an array of western labels as well as the regional Kiwi and Larrikin publishing companies. We also hold full runs of the detailed publications issued by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Studies.

Published recordings

Published recordings of music from the Oceania/Australasian region include a number of examples of Maori traditions issued as 78rpm discs on Columbia label and as LPs on the Kiwi label. In October 2003 we received a copy of a CD from the National Library of New Zealand of classic concert party recordings of the Ngati Poneke Young Maori Club with solos by Witarina Harris, founder member. These recordings, dating from the late 1930s are accompanied in their own right by wonderful texts and photographs and the publication as a whole is produced in association with the book The Silent Migration: stories of urban migration, Ngati Poneke Young Maori Club 1937-1948 (Huia Publishers).

The majority of our holdings of Australian Aboriginal musics are on cassettes, LPs, CDs and videos produced by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Studies. These publications are presented regionally with several issues of 'Music from the northern territories', 'Songs from the Kimberleys', 'Songs from Yarrabah', etc.

Other Oceanic and Australasian material appears on the Larrikin label that publishes Aboriginal and European music from Australia and music from Papua New Guinea. The Dutch label Pan Record's publications of some 16 CDs in their Anthology of Pacific Music is notable in this context, particularly for its coverage of music from Tonga.

Unpublished recordings

The very earliest ethnographic recordings in the Sound Archive come from this region. These were wax cylinder recordings (C80) made by the first anthropological expedition, led by A.C. Haddon, that set out from Cambridge for the Torres Strait in 1898. The expedition resulted in some 100 recordings recorded among a number of communities on Murray, Saibai, Mabuiag (Jervis) and Yam islands. In fact the Oceanic region is well represented in the rest of our wax cylinder holdings, with recordings made in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia.

The remaining ethnographic collections date from the early 1950s to the late 1980s and cover Fiji, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Australia, New Britain, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. The collections are briefly described below.

Further information

Janet Topp Fargion
Curator, World and Traditional Music
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7427
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441


PDF files

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.