CBMR Digest is a publication of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago

ISSN # 2168-3301fall 2013 | Volume 26, No. 2

Black Europe Compilation Is Released

The first comprehensive documentation of the sounds and images of black people in Europe pre-1927 has been released by Bear Family Records of Germany, a leading specialist in the highest quality compilations of historic sound documents. The team of internationally recognized experts, compilers, and authors responsible for this project includes biographer Horst J.P. Bergmeier of the Netherlands; historian Jeffrey Green from the United Kingdom; discographer Dr. Rainer E. Lotz from Germany; researcher Howard Rye from the United Kingdom; and sound engineer Christian Zwarg from Germany.

The massive and superbly produced boxed set is comprised of two volumes of texts and images and a third volume that contains forty-four CD recordings. Recordings on phonograph cylinders, gramophone discs, and films, with both still and moving images, feature people of African descent in Europe from the earliest years of the recording industry and continued after the First World War. The contribution of these pioneering personalities on the modern mass media has not been adequately noticed, and recognition is overdue. Music, spoken word, and dance, from all styles, categories, languages, and natal lands provide a lost but rich resource. This compendium of images and sounds traces the surviving evidence of many artifacts that may have been lost forever without the dedicated work of the team of editors, researchers, and engineers.

The 12 × 12 inch coffee table books of 500 full-color pages contains a multitude of documents, artifacts, and curiosities—from passport applications, personal memorabilia, and letters, to sheet music, newspaper ads, and fabulous poster art, complemented by contemporary postcards and images of wax cylinders and disc records. In more than 100 chapters, the life and times of these pioneering entertainers, musicians, and linguists comes to life, from early film and sound examples to best-selling 78 rpm records, and from “human zoos” and minstrel shows to ethnological documentation and portraits of the (sometimes dubious) movers and shakers in European show business of the time.

From African-Americans comes an aural kaleidoscope of entertainers and music from the last days of minstrelsy through ragtime and music hall artists to string bands, spirituals, and the early days of jazz in Europe, including the earliest examples of stride piano and rhythm scat singing, and some of the first records made anywhere that document African-American folk music practices. From Africans come recordings of African languages and folk tales, religious music on both African and European models, and recordings of the popular music of the 1920s. Also documented is the involvement of those born in Europe of African descent in the wider culture of the African diaspora.

Send inquires by email to black-europe@bear-family.com.

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