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The Social Power of Music: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Releases New Box Set

Fannie Lou Hamer by Diana Davies

February 26, 2019 | by Jocelyn Hoppa [Fannie Lou Hamer, photo by Diana Davies]

Many of the tracks featured on The Social Power of Music box set from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings highlight the global struggle for civil rights via many outlooks and voices. Over four CDs, 80-plus tracks, and an illustrated 124-page booklet, this collection of music is packed with powerful moments.

The Social Power of Music presents four different perspectives over four discs:

Disc 1: Songs of the Struggle features songs about the fight for civil rights and features the likes of Woody Guthrie, The Freedom Singers, and Pete Seeger.

Disc 2: Sacred Sounds dives deep into music from various religions and spiritual practices, with some surprises of rarely heard or known ceremonies.

Disc 3: Social Songs and Gatherings showcases how humanity has used music to come together, as a form of solidarity and, even in hard times, celebration.

Disc 4: Global Movements explores roots music in key political movements from all over the globe, with themes ranging from anti-fascism, working class blues, and rallying against political violence and corruption.

The Chambers Brothers, photo by Diana Davies

[The Chambers Brothers, photo by Diana Davies]

Jeff Place, the curator and senior archivist at Smithsonian Folkways, told Billboard:

"Every celebration has music, from birthdays to bar mitzvahs. There’s sacred music that goes along with people’s beliefs. Certainly in social justice movements, people have found the power of music. There’s even work songs, where people use music to coordinate their work. When you look at the civil rights movement, that’s what cemented people together. As they were marching, they were singing songs.

"This project," says Place, "is all about people using music as a community, together, for a purpose."

Check out the full track listing and buy the box set at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

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