Folklife Friday is a weekly digest of arts and culture articles, podcasts, and videos from across the web. Read on for a selection of the week’s best cultural heritage pieces, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for a new set of weekly picks.
Ballet Hispánico Dances the “Identity Mambo”
Founded in 1970 by Venezuelan-born dancer and choreographer Tina Ramirez, Ballet Hispánico is lending nuance to the “increasingly hybrid, complicated, and personal” elements of Latin American dance and, by extension, individuality. Eduardo Vilaro, who oversees the company, defines Ballet Hispánico’s work as an “identity mambo,” itself a product of countless cultural confluences. “There are so many intersections,” Vilaro adds. “I think it’s our duty as a longstanding cultural organization to really spotlight this depth and breadth of culture.”
Alan Lomax Recordings Are Digitized in a New Online Collection
The Global Jukebox, a new online database from the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), boasts 6,000 songs from 1,000 cultures, many from folklorist Alan Lomax’s personal collection and some from Smithsonian Folkways. The interactive website, categorized by region and culture, is free to the public and includes myriad field recordings, harvest songs, ballads, and more for public listening. “[Alan’s] vision couldn’t match the technology that he had at the time,” Kathleen Rivera, a research associate for ACE, said. “Today, we have the system that can make it all very clear for people.”
How to Be Torn-Between
In the new essay collection Too Much and Not the Mood, author Durga Chew-Bose explores issues of identity, privilege, and the euphemism-laden language in between. “What does it mean to assume you belong, are equal citizen and human of a place, only to be asked…where you are from,” Chew-Bose writes, “which is not only to alienate, but also to imply you owe an explanation.” In this review, which traces the subtleties of Chew-Bose’s language, Emily LaBarge brings to light these and other questions of place. “Nobody ever teaches you how to be a person torn-between. How to shape your breaths so as to accommodate both the solitude and the stampede.”
Meet One of the Last Shrimp Trawlers in Morecambe Bay
In Morecambe Bay, Lancashire, sixty-seven-year-old Ray Edmondson is keeping alive a decades-old shrimping tradition—a practice falling out of favor with the addition of new fishing license laws. In fact, the Slow Food movement recently recognized Morecambe’s potted shrimps as one of Britain’s forgotten foods. Edmondson’s response to the changing tides is a renewed commitment to this often arduous tradition. “Edmondson doesn't have to shrimp,” Gareth May writes. “He's not financially dependent on it. He wants to do it. He wants to keep the craft alive.”
Keep Folk Music Weird
For Eli Smith, curator of the Brooklyn Folk Festival, what sets the event’s music apart from “sanitized, overly earnest, and fake-sounding stuff” is its “diverse, spontaneous, and countercultural” sound. As Amanda Petrusich writes in this New Yorker piece, the draw of folk music in general, and Smith’s work in particular, is its embrace of the “radical convictions of the genre’s forebears.” At the very least, it is a genre that requires a person to “expand his or her thinking.”
Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough for her contributions to this week’s digest.