The British Library’s Save Our Sounds project aims to save UK recordings from extinction. Andy Linehan, Curator of Popular Music, digs through the archive’s priceless audio treasures. This month: Culture&
The ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is part of the British Library’s Save Our Sounds programme and aims to digitise sound recordings across the UK. While the majority of recordings are part of The British Library’s collections, a number of regional hubs have been established to preserve audio material held in other institutions and organisations.
One of the hubs is based at the London Metropolitan Archives and has digitised over 7,000 recordings so far.
This figure includes more than 500 items from the archive of Culture&, an independent arts and education charity working to promote diversity in arts and heritage institutions. Originally founded in 1987 as Cultural Co-operation, the organisation established free festivals featuring both UK-based and international artists with programmes of music, performances, talks, workshops and visual arts, giving audiences the chance to engage with non-western cultures.
One very successful Culture& project was ‘London: Diaspora Capital’, initiated in 1998 to generate greater visibility and opportunities for BAME and diasporic artists, and to provide an infrastructure for a neglected cultural sector. It aimed to promote London-based performers from around the globe and their music, and to encourage cross-cultural networking and collaboration between these musicians. It created a network that brought together 283 groups and individual artists – around 800 creative practitioners in all – from 82 national and faith communities in 29 London boroughs.
Musicians were interviewed about their style of music, and recordings were made of performances and collaborative sessions. These produced more than 200 CD-Rs, 200 MiniDiscs, 100 CDs and 75 Digital Audio Tapes, which were donated to the LMA and needed digitisation. They have now been catalogued by Heritage trainees from Culture&, revealing a wide range of genres including Algerian raï, salsa, tango, electroacoustic, calypso, soca, spoken word, Sufi, Qawwali, baladi, gamelan, bhangra, garage and Balkan folk, all of which have now been preserved for future generations.
For more about Save Our Sounds visit bl.uk/save-our-sounds