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Creator and Artist Stories

Music Tuesday: Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork, “Occupy” songs and more

By Sarah Bardeen

Music Community Manager

It’s a short holiday week in the United States, and as a chunk of the North American continent prepares to gorge themselves this Thursday for Thanksgiving, we threw together what we hope is an inspiring playlist of...well...feast-oriented music videos. In the meantime, we thought it was a good week to celebrate America’s musical history, pre-YouTube.

An American Patchwork
How do you describe Alan Lomax? The man was committed to capturing the music of ordinary people around the world: songs that had passed down through the family, sometimes played on instruments people had made themselves. Much of what we know about early American music comes from his efforts (and those of his folklorist father John Lomax). Between 1978 and 1982, Lomax traveled through the American South with a video camera for the first time, catching on film a breathtaking array of music talent and traditions. The 400+ hours of footage were edited down for a 1991 PBS special called American Patchwork but were never made available to the public. Over the past few years, the Alan Lomax Archive has been painstakingly uploading these videos. Find this cultural treasure trove at

Songs of Occupation
The Occupy movement shows few signs of slowing down -- even as encampments are cleared out in certain cities, other protests and encampments spring up. It’s a many-headed hydra of a movement, and we wondered if any songs have emerged as anthems for the protesters the way they did for Tunisians during the Arab Spring. The short answer is: no. But there are certainly a lot of interesting songs being uploaded -- including one that the Hawaiian artist Makana performed recently for 19 unsuspecting world leaders during the APEC summit.

Michael Kiwanuka: Home Again
Haven’t heard of Michael Kiwanuka? Now’s the time to start listening. This young singer-songwriter has opened for Adele and garnered comparisons to no less than soul great Bill Withers. Yep, he’s got a voice, a viewpoint, and a way with a guitar. 21st-century soul music? Sounds like it to us.