Smithsonian Folkways: Preserving, cultivating and sharing the “people’s music”

Some background on Carley Defranco’s project on Smithsonian Folkways

Smithsonian Folkways is a non-profit record label with the mission of enlightening and educating all peoples about folklore and cultural heritage. In this project, Carley strives to understand the role of Folkways in maintaining and enriching the public through folklore, understanding that folklore is not always necessarily musical. Carley also wanted to understand the role of Smithsonian Folkways as a D.C. institution. Folkways focuses on relaying the cultures of the world, which is best donein  D.C., a city with many diasporas and much cultural heritage.

As a musician, Carley has been interested in exploring the world of folk music for years. While taking this course she was introduced to Folkways, the not-for-profit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. Carley was most interested in answering questions about the folk genre like for example, what constitutes folk music? Looking at folk music through the lens of Smithsonian Folkways was extremely interesting and helpful in understanding folk music and the difference between it and world music.

Here are two podcasts concerning Folkways:

Podcast 1:

Podcast 2:

How the project changed over the semester

Carley was originally very interested in American folk music. She wondered about the early editions of the Anthology of American Folk Music and the American Folk Revival in the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s. Once she interviewed the Associate Director of Folkways Records, Atesh Sonneborn, her project took on a new goal: to discuss the logistics of folk music, its constitution, and attempt to predict its future path. Folkways Records is an essential component of understanding folk and world music today.


Carley would like to thank Atesh Sonneborn for his time and wise words.


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