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ABOUT OUR PROJECT

A History of Music

First and foremost, the World Music Library is the story of an encounter, a historical drama of many acts and stages, centuries in the making. The narrative begins with the seizure of the Americas and follows the evolution of European colonialism all the way to today’s present global economy. It can be told from many perspectives, most of them tragic. There is one thread of the story which brings no sorrow to the amateur historian, however, and that is music. From the arrival of the first slave-bearing ship to the Americas, to the creation of of rock and roll, music has stood as an unwavering testimony to resilience and joy. It is living defiance, it is the measure of our pulse.

In the centuries following the Age of Exploration, countries as geographically and culturally distant as Bosnia and Brazil became linked by a web of musical styles which had been traded between the territories of the growing international trade network. As the most fashionable dance trends in Europe incorporated New World rhythms, slaves and day laborers spent their evenings swapping techniques on fiddles and banjos. Different permutations of African, European, and indigenous influences began to incubate, growing into distinctive genres like cumbia, samba, rumba, and the blues. When the radio hit the scene in the 1920’s, these sounds exploded into the airwaves, and ricocheted throughout far flung corners of the world. By the end of the century, almost nowhere was left untouched. In this story, music is both the language and producer of a rich new global consciousness, the patrimony and pride of the twenty-first century.

The World Music Library follows these explosive strands of musical lineage from the beginning of recorded music. We seek out musical innovators with one eye on the past and the other on the future, who offer the rhythms and the melodies to keep us on our feet.