This playlist features all songs from the extensive Smithsonian Folkways Recordings catalog, including many artists who performed at the 2016 Folklife Festival as part of the Sounds of California program.
1. Llorar, Llorar, Llorar
By Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano
From Amor, Dolor y Lágrimas: Música Ranchera
A song about departure, about leaving the one we love, but not regretting the decision to leave. “Crying is my only consolation, remembering my early life. The hour of my departure has arrived, and the cruel moment I have to abandon you.”
2. El Quinto Sol
By Los Peludos
From Rolas de Aztlán: Songs of the Chicano Movement
A classic Chicano anthem and protest song, filled with a rich sense of history, but also a solid music tapestry, combining several instruments from different traditions.
3. Do Re Mi
By Woody Guthrie
From Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection
Pure and simple, this is the song that defined generations of migrants who came to California in the twentieth century. The song has never lost its currency.
4. Comments on the Raga with Musical Illustration
By Henry Jacobs
From Radio Programme, No 1: Henry Jacobs’ “Music & Folklore”
Experimental radio program from Berkeley’s KPFA station produced this series of “audio collages,” which includes an eclectic mix of electronic music, a “sonata for loudspeaker,” a polyrhythmic improvisation created by sampling “primitive percussion instruments and voice,” and spoofed interviews with a phony scholar and musicians.
5. Son de la Danza de los Mixes
By Zapotec Singers from Oaxaca, Mexico
From Creation’s Journey: Native American Music
This is a traditional son, a musical genre heard all over Mexico. In this track, an indigenous Zapotec group performs a satirical piece about their indigenous neighbors, the “Mixes.” For more than two decades, Oaxacan brass bands have become a musical force in Los Angeles. Today, the region has more than twenty brass bands, and the number keeps growing.
By Homayun Sakhi
From Music of Central Asia Vol. 3: Homayun Sakhi: The Art of the Afghan Rubâb
Based in Fremont, home to the largest population of Afghans in the United States, Homayun Sakhi is a master of the Afghani rubâb. This is a traditional piece from Kataghan, in northern Afghanistan, typically played in teahouses during market days.
7. Tragafuegos (Fire Breathers)
East L.A.’s Quetzal artfully blends the stomping roots quality of son jarocho with the urgency of a song about the fire-eaters who work in the dangerous crossroads of Mexico’s urban streets to earn a living.
8. Mehriban Olaq
By Kronos Quartet with Alim & Fargana Qasimov and Homayun Sakhi
From Music of Central Asia Vol. 8: Rainbow
The avant-garde San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet, in collaboration with Azerbaijan’s Alim & Fargana Qasimov and Afghani master rûbab player Homayun Sakhi, reimagine a song by composer Shafiqa Akhundova.
9. Kazakh Song
A traditional Kazakh tune originally recorded by the Beijing-based Uygur singer Mamur, rearranged for pipa, a Chinese lute, by Southern California-based musician Wu Man.
10. El Son de Sánchez
Based in the town of Atwater, California, in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley’s Michoacán community, Arpex plays music from the Tierra Caliente of Michoacán. This is a perfect example of son calentano, the sound of the original mariachi: no trumpets, all strings, played in the deepest, funkiest style and meant to be danced with as much passion and energy as can be mustered.
11. Traditional Wedding Dance
By Richard Hagopian
From Armenian Music Through the Ages
Armenian American musician Richard Hagopian is California’s living master of the oud. Born in Fowler, a town in the Central Valley, he plays classical and folk styles of the oud, an instrument usually associated with Arab and Turkish music, but also a part of Armenia’s musical tradition. This piece is a joyful wedding dance.
12. El Zacamandú
By Los Camperos de Valles
From El ave de mi soñar: Mexican Sones Huastecos
Los Camperos de Valles are a son huasteco trio based in Ciudad Valles, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. For this album, the trio collaborated with San Jose-based musician-composer Artemio Posadas in a completely new interpretation of the genre. Posadas wrote all the lyrics in this album, including “El Zacamandú.”
13. Ife L'oju Laiye
By Babatunde Olatunji
From Drums of Passion: The Beat
Nigerian master Babatunde Olatunji was a mentor and teacher to many musicians in California, in many genres—acid rock, jazz, Latin music, and everything in between. In this album produced by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, Olatunji is joined by two major figures of California’s diverse music scene, Airto Moreira and Carlos Santana.
14. Divide and Conquer
By Chris Kando Iijima, Joanne Nobuko Miyamoto, Charlie Chin
From A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America
This track—a call for unity and collaboration among people and causes—is from an album recorded in 1973 in New York City, where the artists first met and were active in anti-war and civil rights activism. Both Miyamoto and Chin have been based in Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, for decades now, continuing to use the performing arts as a means for building community and teaching Asian American history.