Labels: Essential | Labels: Useful | Vendor Catalogs
Reviews | Books and Discographies
Broadcasting | Videos


Nonesuch Explorer Series. (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic distribution) For every library. Indispensable survey of non-commercial and verging-on-commercial styles; some originally on LP in the 1960s, some newly produced in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ocora. (Harmonia Mundi distribution) For the larger public library, or any academic library. Emphasizes non-commercial styles, both art and vernacular, with good coverage of Middle East, Oceania. More than ninety titles on CD; buy as many as you can.

JVC Ethnomusic Collection. Over one hundred CDs (and a video series, see below), with coverage centering on India, Indonesia, and Korean non-commercial styles.

Smithsonian Folkways. (Koch International distribution) National treasure is being commercially reissued on cassettes and CDs. In the meantime, the entire back catalog is available on cassette from: Smithsonian-Folkways Cassette Duplication Service/416 Hungerford Dr., Suite 320/Rockville, MD/20850. 301-443-2314. $10.95 per tape + $1.50 shipping.) Turnaround time is four to six weeks.

UNESCO. (Harmonia Mundi distribution) The gold standard. Thirty-three titles now on CD.


Canyon Records and Indian Arts. (4143 North 16th St./Phoenix, AZ/85016 602-266-4823.) Traditional styles, especially of the West and Southwest, on records and tapes.

Earthworks/Virgin. (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic distribution) Outstanding anthologies, especially of African, Caribbean, and Latin commercial styles.

Globestyle. (Rounder distribution) African, Caribbean, Latin, Middle Eastern, Asian commercial styles from the 1980s. Catalog blurbs give country of origin, primary instrumentation, and contents notes. Sixty titles; any or all would be an asset.

Green Linnet. Major player for Celtic styles; a new imprint, Xenophile, has begun coverage of West Africa, Latin America, Finland, Madagascar, and more.

Hannibal/Rykodisc. (P.O. Box 667/Rocky Hill, NJ/08553; also through City Hall or Roundup distribution) Similar in coverage to Shanachie, below, with some Balkan titles as well. Twenty-four page catalog includes blurbs, contents notes, and index.

Harlequin. (City Hall or Original Music distribution) Ear-opening reissue series, "Jazz and Hot Dance," reveals much about commercial world music during the 1910's, 20's, and 30's, especially in the volumes from Cuba, Trinidad, and Martinique.

Lyrichord. (Koch International distribution) More than 100 CDs of world music titles. Special pricing for libraries on the 25-disc Lyrichord Reference Center Library Collection.

Music of the World. (P.O. Box 3667/Chapel Hill, NC/27515-3667, or through Bayside distribution) Traditional and contemporary world music.

Rounder. (One Camp St./Cambridge, MA/02140. 617-354-0700.) Good current titles, mainly African and Caribbean, also some Tex-Mex and Hawaiian; wonderful reissues of commercial world styles from 30's through 70's.

Shanachie. (37 E. Clinton St./Newton, NJ/07860; also through City Hall or Roundup distribution) Strengths are Caribbean, African, and Celtic commercial styles. Eight-page catalog consists of numeric listing, no blurbs; index of Celtic, African, and World Beat best sellers. They also produce a video series, below.


Africassette Music . (P.O. Box 24941/Detroit MI 48224. 313-881-4108. E-mail: rsteiger@ Hundreds of CDs and cassettes, some videos; many direct imports; arranged by country, selected with taste, and annotated with style.

City Hall Records. (25 Tiburon St/San Rafael, CA/94901. 415-457-9080. FAX 415-457-0780.) Distributes (notably) Globestyle, Green Linnet, Hannibal, Harlequin, Qbadisc, Shanachie. Annual, with monthly updates.

Harmonia Mundi. (3364 South Robertson Blvd./Los Angeles, CA/90034. 213-559-0802.) Distributed labels include the greats: Ocora and Unesco, as well as Chhanda Dara, Chant du Monde, and Playasound for superior coverage of India, South America, Europe.

Koch International. (2 Tri-Harbor Court/Port Washington NY 11050-4617. 516-484-1000.) For Lyrichord, Shanachie, Smithsonian, Smithsonian-Folkways, and World Music Library.

Ladyslipper. (P.O. Box 3130/Durham, NC/27705. 919-634-6044. FAX 919-683-5601.) The place to go for hard to find music by women: e.g., Umm Kulthumm, Mahotella Queens, Celia Cruz. Reviews of each title (with more than 120 in this year's International section); issued annually, with irregular updates; indexed.

Multicultural Media. (RR3, Box 6655, Granger Road/Barre VT 05641. 802-223-1294.) Well-chosen array of audio, video, CD-ROM  and books from reliable imprints (Globestyle, JVC, Rounder, Island, Lyrichord, Nimbus) includes Africa, Asia, Americas. A good way to choose a core collection.

Original Music. (R.D. 1, Box 190/Lasher Road/Tivoli, NY/12583. 914-756-2767. FAX 914-756-2027.) John Storm Roberts's indispensable catalog of world styles, especially African and Caribbean. The most informative reviews anywhere. Books and videos too. Quarterly.

Pan-Asian. (29564 Union City Blvd/Union City CA 94587. 800-853-ASIA.) Full service Asian books distributor for bookstores, libraries and schools.

Rounder Label Group. (P.O. Box 154/North Cambridge, MA/02140.) Distributes Corason, Globestyle, Omnium, Rounder, Traditional Crossroads, World Circuit.

Stern's USA. (500 Broadway/New York, NY/10012. 212-925-1648. FAX 212-925-1689.) Look to this London-based firm for African, Caribbean, North African and Middle Eastern, with some So. American. Lots of elusive direct imports. Arranged by country, which is helpful.

World Music Distribution. (619 Martin Ave., Unit 1/Rohnert Park CA 94928. 800-900-4527. E-mail: This importer began as a French and European music specialist and branched out--first to Zaire and North Africa, then to Brazilian, Latin American, and Caribbean. Notable labels: Sonodisc, Lusafrica, Polygram France, BMG Italy.


Beat. (P.O. Box 65856/Los Angeles, CA/90065. 6 issues/year, $12.00) Fan magazine for the African and Caribbean scenes, with lots of ads.

Billboard. Has instituted a monthly world music chart and includes a world music category among its album reviews.

Dirty Linen. (P.O. Box 66600/Baltimore, MD/21239-6600. 6 issues/year, $22.00) Covers "folk, traditional, and world music" with articles, new releases lists, and numerous reviews of recordings that include label numbers and addresses; also video and book reviews.

Ethnomusicology.(Society for Ethnomusicology/Morrison Hall 005/Indiana University/ Bloomington, IN/47405. 3 issues/year, $40.00.) Bibliography, discography, and filmography sections in addition to scholarly book, recording, and film/video reviews.

Ladyslipper: See Vendors, above.

Option. (2345 Westwood Blvd. #2/Los Angeles, CA/90064. 6 issues/year, $15.00.) Considerable coverage of world music in articles and reviews; if it's on an independent label, they review it. Include this in your regular reading.

Original Music: See Vendors, above.

Roots & Rhythm Newsletter. (6921 Stockton Ave./El Cerrito, CA/94530. 415-525-1494. FAX 415-525-2904. 6 issues/year. Free.) Retailer is strong in commercial world styles as well as in reissues of vernacular American music. Bimonthly newsletter has brief reviews in subject order--go straight to "Ethnic," where their latest issue listed 100+ recordings (including LPs), videos, books and magazines. Includes titles from Bayside, City Hall, Roundup, and Harmonia Mundi, as well as major labels. Essential.

Tower Pulse. (2500 Del Monte St., Bldg C/West Sacramento, CA/95691; 12 issues/ year, $29.95) Tower Records' publicity tool includes a column on world music, focused on current commercial releases. Useful for Caribbean, Balkan, African.

Village Voice. Robert Christgau's approximately monthly column, "Christgau's Consumer Guide," includes choice world titles and label addresses. Nonpareil.


American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. (Washington, D.C./20540.) American Folk Music and Folklore Recordings: A Selected List. Annual best-of list for recordings of traditions that flourish in the U.S. Write for a free copy. Choice. The Center also issues bibliographies. Laurel Sercombe of the World Music Roundtable recommends their "Inventory of the Bibliographies and Other Reference and Finding Aids Prepared by the Archive of Folk Culture."

Graham, Ronnie. Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music. New York: Da Capo Press, 1988. 315 p. ISBN 0-306-80325-9. Book-length country-by-country discography. Includes label numbers. Indexed. Maps. Originally published as Stern's Guide to Contemporary African Music. Put one in your collection and have a working copy for yourself.

Schaefer, John. New Sounds: A Listener's Guide to New Music. New York: Harper and Row, 1987. 295 p. ISBN 0-06-097081-2. Includes Ethnic Music section, brief reviews of 200 titles (complete order information provided) arranged geographically. Slightly old, but useful for collection building.

Stapleton, Chris. African Rock: The Pop Music of a Continent. New York: Dutton, 1990. 373 p. ISBN 0-525-48554-6. Knowledgable history and survey of current styles, with a useful chapter on recording companies. Very nice 100-title selective discography includes many British releases; try Stern's as a source. Table of contents doubles as a concise list of leading styles and their exponents.


National Public Radio. (2025 M St. NW/Washington, DC/20036.) Weekly program, "Afropop Worldwide," and a related 39-page listeners' guide, with glossary, map, discographies. Send $0.75 and SASE.

Univision. Spanish-language cable television channel. Abundant musical programming.

VIDEOS: For reviews, see Roots & Rhythm and Multicultural Media catalogs

Flower Films. (10341 San Pablo Ave./ El Cerrito CA 94530. 510-525-0942.) Les Blank's production company. Mexican, Cajun, zydeco, and a foray into polka.

JVC Video Anthology of World Music and Dance. (Dept. SEM/61 Prospect St./ Montpellier, VT/05602.) Gorgeous footage surveys E. Asia, S.E. Asia, S. Asia, Middle East and Africa, Soviet Union, Europe, Americas, and Oceania; 30 videos sold only as a set.

Shanachie. (37 E. Clinton St./Newton, NJ/07860, or through City Hall or Roundup) Eight-title "Beats of the Heart" series looks at African and Afro-Caribbean commercial styles and Appalachian religious music. Worthwhile.

Questions? contact:
Anna Seaberg, Music Librarian
King County Library System

Copyright © 1992, 1996 Anna E. Seaberg

Last updated November 3, 1997