Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933, singer Ernst Busch (1900-1980) spent four years in the Soviet Union before heading to Spain to fight General Franco (1892 –1975) in the Spanish Civil War. In Spain, Busch met fellow German expatriate and writer, Erich Weinert (1890 – 1953). Together, they produced many of the songs and poems written about the International Brigades fighting in the war.

Busch wrote many anthems for the Brigades and transcribed the “Ballad of the XI Brigade,” for which Weinert wrote:

Always in world history, when freedom engaged tyranny, when right engaged wrong, the mood of people rebelling was most clearly and most beautifully mirrored in their songs. The poets, who were on the side of the people, wrote these songs; and where there were no poets, the people them themselves.

 In the war of the Spanish people against their enemies, innumerable songs were composed. Their language was not Spanish alone; for the soldiers of the International Brigades contributed songs in their own languages which became alive and popular in the army and amongst the general population.  

Ernst Busch transcribed some of the best and most popular songs of the Eleventh International Brigade and had them put on records under the most difficult conditions.

Those who hear them should remember that these records were not made in the quietude of peaceful conditions. How often were the recording session or the actual pressing of the records interrupted while Franco’s bombs fell on Barcelona breaking the electric current. However, precisely because of this, the songs which originated in the heat and fire of battle have retained their special flavor.

We hope, that wherever they are heard in the world, they will again kindle something of the spirit of the struggle and revive the fire out of which they were born.

Barcelona, July 1938

Listen to “Ballad of the XI Brigade,” from the newly released album, “Songs of the Spanish Civil War: Volumes 1 & 2.”


Lesson Plan Wednesday: Watch Suni Paz continue the nueva canción tradition in her performance of “Bandera Mía” (“Flag of Mine”), which speaks to the conflicting meaning the flag has for Argentineans who fled military dictatorships.


There’s a lot of good music in our country you never hear on the radio. You don’t hear it on the juke boxes or on TV. Just ordinary old-fashioned songs which one person teaches to another.

from the liner notes to Pete Seeger’s Folk Songs for Young People

Of all the things that Pete Seeger did to promote American Folk music, one of the most lasting has to be performing for and with children, and putting out albums of folk songs just for kids.

How many of us in the U.S. learned classic songs like Jimmie Crack Corn or On Top of Old Smokey from listening to Pete Seeger albums at home or at school?

[Album art all courtesy Smithsonian Folkways which also has a TON of Pete Seeger albums available, including those above.]

“Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips” is a multi-media exhibit in the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery running Oct 11, 2014 - June 7, 2015. While Phillips was conducting field work in present-day Yemen in 1950, scholar Wolf Leslau (1906 – 2006) visited the same area to record the Folkways album, “Music of South Arabia.” Listen to “Love Song,” from that 1951 release: http://ow.ly/CA0SG

For information about the free gallery, visit: http://ow.ly/CA0HK

Smithsonian Folkways remembers award-winning mariachi band leader and teacher Natividad “Nati” Cano (1933 – 2014). Read Folkways Director Daniel Sheehy’s tribute to his longtime friend and founder of Mariachi los Camperos.

Smithsonian Folkways remembers award-winning mariachi band leader and teacher Natividad “Nati” Cano (1933 – 2014). Read Folkways Director Daniel Sheehy’s tribute to his longtime friend and founder of Mariachi los Camperos.


Celebrate the 48th anniversary of independence in Botswana by listening to this healing drum dance of the Kalahari San people. As the singing and dancing intensifies, healers build their n/um, or spiritual energy, in order to alter their consciousness, a process known as !kia. In this 11-minute recording, women sing, clap, !kia, and are accompanied by a male drummer.

Shanah Tovah! Last evening began Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year. Listen to Polish-American Cantor Abraham Brun (1909–1998) sing “Berosh Hashono,” or commonly spelled “Berosh Hashana.”

Listen here: http://ow.ly/BUYfJ

The introductions of some versions of “Berosh Hashana” have a horn call, traditionally using the shofar, a musical instrument made from a ram’s horn. As cantor at Temple Beth-el in Long Beach, New York, Abraham Brun is accompanied by an organ, which plays the horn call before the singing begins in his rendition of “Berosh Hashana.”



Celebrate Papua New Guinea’s Independence Day by listening to the 2006 Smithsonian Folkways Anthology, “Bosavi: Rainforest Music from Papua New Guinea.” According to ethnographer Stephen Feld, many in the rainforest hear the Bosavi language spoken by local residents and birds alike. What do you hear the birds say?