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WOMAD festival sound recordings collection

The Sound Archive's world and traditional music recording programme aims to make good quality sound recordings of live concerts and lectures by visiting musicians and researchers. The primary activity in the programme has been to record the WOMAD festival at Reading .

The Sound Archive and WOMAD

The Sound Archive's relationship with WOMAD is nearly as long as the festival's existence. Since 1985, missing only 3 years, we have been present at at least one of WOMAD's annual events in the UK, usually their summer festival in Reading. Year after year, a small team of staff has devoted an entire weekend to recording as many as possible of the performances on show. We try to cover all the stages, and often record artists several times as they deliver different performances, including workshops and interviews, over the weekend. The concentration in one place of so many diverse and talented musicians allows us to document musical traditions from around the world right here on our doorstep. We are therefore able to keep a record of each performance for listening at the archive and at the same time document for the long term a significant event on the 'world music' scene.

The WOMAD collection

The British Library Sound Archive now has on tape and CD a significant number of early UK appearances by artists who, since their passage at WOMAD, have made great inroads on the international music scene; artists such as Baaba Maal (first recorded by the Sound Archive at WOMAD in 1991), Thomas Mapfumo (1990) and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1985), to cite only a few. Our first recording (on 20 July 1985 at Mersea Island, near Colchester) was of the Chinese sheng and flute players, the Guo Brothers, who had recently arrived in London to study at the Guildhall School of Music and were just beginning to create a name for themselves in this country. In total we hold around 1500 hours of music recorded at WOMAD, backed up digitally for preservation and access.

Other festivals recorded by the Sound Archive include the 'Music Villages' organised by Cultural Co-operation (C81 and C434) and a range of venues such as the Bhavan Centre (C347) and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (C404). The recording programme is also designed to record lectures such as the series of post-graduate ethnomusicology seminars arranged by the School of Oriental and African Studies (C735) and by Goldsmiths College (C1060).

The recordings are searchable on the Sound Archive catalogue and they can be listened to free of charge through our listening service in London and in Boston Spa, Yorkshire.

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