Folkways Recordings Recommendations
Lincoln at the Smithsonian

Just like the Smithsonian Associates, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings—the nonprofit record label of the Institution—covers every area of interest, from musicals to humor to American history to science and nature. In more than 40,000 recorded tracks ranging from Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie to the Mbuti pygmies of the Ituri rainforest, you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy.

Smithsonian Associates is pleased to offer Smithsonian Associates members a 10% discount on Smithsonian Folkways recordings. The 10% applies to both CDs and/or digital downloads, and can’t be combined with any other discounts.

How to claim your discount:

During the Smithsonian Folkways checkout process, enter the code "SIRESMEMBER" in the discount coupon box.

For a limited time, get started on or add to your Smithsonian Folkways collection with a free download of the jaunty blues improvisation "On My Way to See Moe Asch", by Champion Jack Dupree. This song was inspired by Folkways Records founder, "Moe" Asch—scroll down to learn more.

Smithsonian Folkways History

Folkways Records & Service Co. was founded in 1948 in New York City by Moses Asch (1905-1986) and Marian Distler (1919-1964). Under Asch's enthusiastic and dedicated direction, Folkways sought to record and document the entire world of sound. Between 1948 and Asch's death, Folkways' tiny staff released 2,168 albums. Topics included traditional, ethnic, and contemporary music from around the world; poetry, spoken word, and instructional recordings in numerous languages; and documentary recordings of individuals, communities, current events, and natural sounds.

Moses AschAs one of the first record companies to offer albums of "world music," and as an early exponent of the singers and songwriters who formed the core of the American folk music revival (including such giants as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Lead Belly), Asch's Folkways grew to become one of the most influential record companies in the world.

Following Asch's death, in 1987 the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington D.C. acquired Folkways Recordings and the label's business papers and files to ensure that the sounds and genius of its artists would continue to be available to future generations.

As a condition of the acquisition, the Smithsonian agreed that virtually all of the firm's 2,168 titles would remain "in print" forever--a condition that Smithsonian Folkways continues to honor through its custom order service. Whether it sells 8,000 copies each year or only one copy every five years, every Folkways title remains available for purchase.

In the years since 1987, Smithsonian Folkways has continued to expand on Asch's legacy, adding several other record labels to the collections and releasing over 300 new recordings that document and celebrate the sounds of the world around us.

Smithsonian Folkways Mission

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. We are dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound. We believe that musical and cultural diversity contributes to the vitality and quality of life throughout the world.

Through the dissemination of audio recordings and educational materials we seek to strengthen people's engagement with their own cultural heritage and to enhance their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others. Our mission is the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948 to document "people's music," spoken word, instruction, and sounds from around the world. The Smithsonian acquired Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has continued the Folkways commitment to cultural diversity, education, increased understanding, and lively engagement with the world of sound.

Learn more about Smithsonian Folkways Recordings!

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