World and Folk Music

Online Resources

These resources will appeal to members who are keen to extend their knowledge of world music traditions, gain insight into the meaning of different kinds of music and music-making in their cultural context, or simply enjoy listening to some classic archival recordings.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

If you haven’t yet come across this treasure trove, you’re going to love it! Smithsonian Folkways is the not-for-profit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, which was gifted the entire catalogue of Folkways Records (founded by Moses Asch in 1987), on condition that the 2,000+ albums in the collection remain in print forever, regardless of sales. It has since added a further six record labels to the collection, as well as releasing new recordings of ‘people’s music’. Smithsonian Folkways has been doing a fantastic job of making huge swathes of this material open-access. Ranging from original versions of much-loved old favourites to astonishing new discoveries, the website offers hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of free listening. Materials on offer include:

The Folkways Collection (podcast series)

24 one-hour programmes (originally aired in 1999) featuring music and interviews. Some episodes are dedicated to individuals (e.g. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger), some to genres (e.g. country and bluegrass, children’s songs), and others to the music of social movements (the labour movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement).

Sounds to Grow On (podcast series)

One-hour features on all sorts of topics, ranging from work songs and love songs to songs about dogs and songs beginning with the letter J (first up: Ella Jenkins singing ‘Jambo’)…

Themed playlists

There are scores of these, so here’s just a taster:

Songs of Polynesia – Sounds of Haiti – Throat Singing – Ballad Songs – Lullabies – Traditional European Christmas Music – African American Gospel – Sounds of the Civil Rights Movement – Peace Songs of the 1960s – Women’s Liberation – Anti-Fascism and Racial Struggle in Song (this one has to be a favourite – listen, weep and dance!) – Songs from the Solidarity Sing Along Songbook (street choirs will love this one).


British Library Sound Archive: World and Traditional Music Collection

More free listening! There’s less here by way of songs that might be sung by choirs but if you like the idea of a window onto past worlds, often with a vintage kind of aura, you’ll enjoy dipping into this. The website functions as an archive of historic and more recent collections of field recordings (rather than professionally made records), complete with chitchat, babies babbling, over-enthusiastic cockerels, and so on.

There are sections on Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, The Americas, The Middle East, and Worldwide. There are some classic English collections, including those of Peter Kennedy, Reg Hall and Percy Grainger (wax cylinders from the early 1900s). Listeners have the option of creating their own playlist.

BBC Radio 3: World Routes

This collection features 133 one-hour radio documentaries, the majority presented by the one-and-only Lucy Durán. Episodes featuring the most fabulous multipart singing traditions include: Iso-Polyphony in Southern Albania, Polyphonic Drinking Songs and Choral Music (Georgia), Svaneti Polyphony and Guria Yodelling (Georgia), and Cameroon ­– The Baka Music House.

Fair Folk Podcast

Danica Boyce offers a series of engaging, well-made and personable programmes featuring stunning recordings and fascinating insights and reflections. Episodes include: Ancient Multi-part European Folk Singing – Polyphony Worldwide – Kulning and Other Herding Calls – Ballads of Scandinavia – Rarer Carols – Winter Solstice, Queen of Feasts – Saints and Demons of December.

Sing Out!

In existence for more than 60 years, Sing Out’s mission is ‘to preserve and support the cultural diversity and heritage of all traditional and contemporary folk musics, and to encourage making folk music a part of our everyday lives’.

The Radio section of the site features episodes of Sing Out! Radio Magazine, a weekly hour-long programme hosted by Tom Druckenmiller that combines music and interviews. Recent episodes include: British Folk Invasion – Bluegrass Festival Time – Here’s to the Women – Black History Month – Play Ball! (songs about baseball) – All For Love.

The Resource Center section of the website includes The People’s Songs Archive and the Broadside Magazine Archive. The Broadside magazines (1960s to 1980s) are devoted mainly to the scores and lyrics of topical songs – there are hundreds of songs here!


This is the website for Songlines magazine, devoted to world music. There are sections on Artists, Genres and Countries, with each bite-sized entry including a video clip.