Sound and Vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

Introduction

Discover more about the British Library's 6 million sound recordings and the access we provide to thousands of moving images. Comments and feedback are welcomed. Read more

23 March 2021

True Echoes: Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to New Guinea, 1904

The Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to New Guinea 1904 Cylinder Collection (C62) is a collection of 40 wax cylinders recorded in what is today Papua New Guinea. The collection – formerly known as the ‘Seligman New Guinea Cylinders’ – came into the Library in the 1950s as part of the Sir James Frazer Collection from the University of Cambridge.

This collection is part of the research focus of True Echoes, a three-year research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Learn more about True Echoes in a previous post. It is the second oldest of the eight collections researched by the project, and one of three from Papua New Guinea. The project is overseeing the reorganisation of some of the cylinders within these collections and also the renaming of some of the collections. These changes will be implemented in the British Library catalogue towards the end of the project.

The Daniels Ethnographical Expedition was led and financed by Major William Cooke Daniels (1870–1918), a wealthy American retailer who met the British anthropologist Charles Gabriel Seligmann (1873–1940) by chance on a fishing trip in Hampshire, UK. Seligmann had taken part in the 1898 Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits and had visited what was then British New Guinea. His interest continued after his return to the UK. The other members of the Daniels expedition were Walter Mersh Strong (1873–1946), a doctor who left midway through to become Assistant Resident Magistrate in Mekeo district, and Arthur Henry Dunning (1884–1959).

Seligmann, Strong, and Dunning arrived in the capital, Port Moresby, on 19 December 1903. The first recordings were made on 5 January 1904 in Port Moresby, when Dunning, assisted by British Resident Magistrate Francis Rickman Barton, recorded three cylinders of lagatoi songs. Lagatoi are the double-hulled sailing canoes used in the hiri, the annual trading expedition that Motu/Koita people took to the Papuan Gulf to trade their clay pots for sago; the hiri is still celebrated today and remains an important symbol for the Motu/Koita people.

Lagatoi canoe, 1904. Photo taken during the Daniels expedition, 1904. British Museum Oc,B119-150 © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: Lagatoi canoe, 1904. Photo taken during the Daniels expedition, 1904. British Museum Oc,B119-150 © The Trustees of the British Museum

Seligmann, Strong, and Dunning joined a government expedition to the western part of British New Guinea in January, but left early when Seligmann and Dunning fell ill. They did not take the phonograph, the machine used to record and play wax cylinders, on this trip as they could not find any spare cylinders.

Daniels and his yacht, the Kori, arrived in Port Moresby on 23 May. Over the next five months, the team visited Hula and the Mekeo and Rigo districts in what is now Central Province, and islands in Milne Bay including Samarai, Tubetube, Muyua, Gawa, Kwaiawata, Iwa, and the Trobriand Islands. They also visited Dogura in Bartle Bay, and Wagawaga, a village on the coast of Milne Bay.

Seligmann and Dunning recorded eleven cylinders in the Rigo district, including songs in the Sinaugoro, and possibly the Uare and Doromu-Koki languages. They travelled from Rigo to the village of Hula, where five cylinders were recorded. In what is today Milne Bay Province, they recorded five cylinders on Tubetube, two on the Trobriand Islands, and six at Wagawaga.

Map of recording locations from 1904 expedition. Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors.

Above: Map of recording locations from 1904 expedition. Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors.

In October, the expedition returned to Port Moresby and Daniels left. Seligmann and Dunning stayed in Port Moresby, spending time with Barton and Ahuia Ova, the Koita Chief and Village Constable of Hanuabada, the Motu/Koita village near Port Moresby. Ahuia had previously worked with members of the 1898 Cambridge Expedition. Seligmann and Dunning recorded seven cylinders in the Koitabu language, including one by Ahuia Ova himself. Two other lagatoi songs were performed by a Motu man named Igo who had travelled with the expedition in Central district.

From left to right: Unidentified man, Strong and Igo on a beach, 1904. British Museum Oc,B119.52 © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: From left to right: Unidentified man, Strong and Igo on a beach, 1904. British Museum Oc,B119.52 © The Trustees of the British Museum

27 Osebouta Trobriands [C62/1419]

According to the announcement, this recording is “A sung song at the Kaiwos Womilamala, by [Tobiga]. Trobriand Islands, September 1904”. The word Osebouta is written on the cylinder box lid, but the pronunciation in the announcement sounds more like osiboita.

linus digim’Rina, a Trobriand Islander and anthropologist at the University of Papua New Guinea, and collaborating researcher on the True Echoes project, has contributed this perspective on the two recordings from the Trobriand Islands in the collection:

“Given that Major Daniels’ yacht Kori visited the Trobriand Islands in September 1904, there is a good chance that Seligmann’s recording of the two songs Mamiepo C62/1420 and Osebouta C62/1419 occurred during the Kuboma (south-west coastal district including Luba) Milamala yam festival season. The season customarily falls between July and September. In the local parlance these would be within the moons (tubukona) of Khaluwalasi, Khaluwasasa/Iyalaki and Iyakoki, respectively.

Therefore I do not think Seligmann’s recorded pronouncement and notation of the songs being ‘sung at kaiwos Womilamala’ [‘sung at Milamala dances’] were completely off the mark. Although I do not have any definite recollections of the named songs, I do not doubt that these two songs belong to the Milamala festival dance songs genre. C62/1419 27 Osebouta is etymologically odd or warped although certain key parts of the lyrics like ‘batagava Bunita’ were recognisable alluding to marine life like sailing. The closest rendition of the name might be ‘wosi bwarita’ which means ‘song of seas’. The performer is Tobiga which, in the recording is repeated by Seligmann after a slip. And Tobiga is a common enough Trobriand male name. In fact the tune is very familiar to the ear as a cheerful Milamala song. There is a charming Kitava song called Yaulabuta but the lyrics and tone of Osebouta nowhere near resemble the former. As I cannot make much of the name Osebouta and its provenance I shall leave it at that.

On the other hand, C62/1420 26 Mamiepo appears rather interesting. Like Osebouta, Mamiepo is most probably a misspelling of the word for the pawpaw/papaya fruit, Momyepu. Although I have not come across a song within the Milamala dance song genre going by that name, the lyrics quite frequently mention the word rarana. This refers to raw pawpaw which due to lack of properly ripened pawpaw fruits available, people may be compelled to eat, sometimes by boiling or baking peeled pieces as a snack or dinner. Listening carefully to the repeated verse, it seems as if pawpaw fruit is metaphorically evoked to convey the image of one taking one’s chances way too early than is necessary. As a result there is this impression of regret over lost opportunity towards the end of the lyric.

Although Mamiepo is a dance song and as pronounced by Seligmann, there were no background sounds of backup by other singers or even drum beats. This might suggest that the recording came about as a result of Seligmann and/or his team’s request, solicitation and insistence.

Unlike Malinowski’s recordings which had a bit more related ethnographic material to augment their contexts, these two recordings will notwithstanding generate much interest and curiosity among the present locals in identifying the songs, performers, composers and place of recording.”

linus previously contributed to a Sound & Vision blog post on Malinowski's 1915 - 1918 recordings from the Trobriand Islands.

Vicky Barnecutt

True Echoes Research Fellow

22 March 2021

Recording of the week: Women’s lives in pre-war Leeds

This week’s selection comes from Daisy Lindlar, Marketing Manager for Sound.

Women’s History Month is marked in March every year to celebrate and recognise women’s contributions to society and history.

Our archives are full of sounds that lift the lid on the experiences of women through the decades. From Florence Nightingale’s voice, to Grace Nichols’ poetry, to accounts from Holocaust survivors like Elizabeth Abraham and Eva Neumann.

Oral histories about women’s day-to-day lives offer unparalleled insight into what life was like for them in days gone by. As the saying goes, “the personal is political”.

Tab Street to St. Mary's Roman Catholic Chapel
c.1930s, view along Tab Street to St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Chapel. Image courtesy of Leeds Libraries, Leodis.net

Dialect recording in Leeds West Yorkshire [BL REF C1829/598]

Download Transcript

This recording features Olive Metcalf talking about her life in working class Leeds before World War II. She talks about her weekly schedule of household chores, detailing how she ran her home in a time before gas ovens, loos in the house and electric irons. She also recalls reading her female neighbours’ letters out to them, as they couldn’t read themselves. One of them hadn’t had the chance to learn as she started working in a mill aged eight.

The recording is also full of laughter. My personal favourite moment is Olive remembering her “Romeo and Juliet act” to passers-by when sitting out to wash her windows. And with the Yorkshire accent regularly named one of the most friendly, trustworthy voices around, it’s simply a joy to listen to.

This oral history was recorded in 1981 and is part of the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (C1829). It’s from a collection of recordings from the former Institute of Dialect and Folk Life studies, and was gifted to us in 2019 to be digitised by our Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project (UOSH), which is generously funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

UOSH_Footer_2019_Magenta (004)

Follow @VoicesofEnglish, @BLSoundHeritage and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

15 March 2021

Recording of the week: A different kind of national anthem

This week's selection comes from Jim Hickson, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage.

Flag of Maldives 1926-1953
The flag of the Sultanate of Maldives, as used between 1926 and 1953

When we think of national anthems, we usually have in mind grandiose compositions performed by orchestras or brass bands; epic pieces based on European art music styles such as operas, marches and fanfares accompanying sincere and stirring songs of patriotism. Today’s 'Recording of the Week' is a national anthem with a bit of a difference.

‘Salaamathi’ is the earliest known national anthem of Maldives – the small island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It was originally an instrumental piece, performed by the Sultan’s band during official and state occasions at the royal palace, accompanied by a seven-gun salute. No-one knows when it was written.

Salaamathi national anthem (BL REF C996/2 BD 2)

This recording of ‘Salaamathi’ is played in its traditional style – no big European orchestra here. Unlike modern anthems, the tune of this version is not set in stone; instead, the player of the flageolet (a type of shawm, a woodwind instrument similar to an oboe) elaborates extensively on the core melody, with many extravagant ornamentations and improvised elements that make each performance unique. This melody is accompanied by a trumpet and two types of double-headed barrel drums, the funa beru and the maana beru. In Maldivian court music, the drum rhythms are often as important as the melody, and can confer meaning all on their own.

The ‘Salaamathi’ was rewritten in 1948, with lyrics and a tune based on ‘Auld Lang Syne’, and eventually replaced altogether with the current anthem, ‘Qaumee Salaam’, which was adopted in 1972. This particular recording is therefore very rare – it is possibly one of only two recordings of the original ‘Salaamathi’ ever made.

The musicians that you can hear are the surviving members of the royal band of the Sultanate of Maldives, recorded in 1979 by Hassan Ahmed Maniku. The Hassan Ahmed Maniku Collection (C996) is made up of 28 recordings by these musicians and includes pieces to accompany martial arts, military parades and official events, as well as to announce curfews and various Islamic calendar events. The Sultanate and its royal court were dissolved in 1968 when the country became a republic, and it is thought that these are the only recordings made of this music – including two versions of the original ‘Salaamathi’.

The music of Maldives is rarely heard on the world stage. With a population of about 500,000 people, its culture is often overlooked in favour of its larger South Asian neighbours. The Hassan Ahmed Maniku Collection is an invaluable resource to shed light on traditional Maldivian culture, including aspects of it that may no longer survive – as well as providing a fascinating look at a national anthem like no other.

Thanks to the Maniku family for their enthusiasm about these recordings and for allowing us to share them in this post.

UOSH_Footer_2019_Magenta (004)

Follow @BL_WorldTrad, @BLSoundHeritage, and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

09 March 2021

A Covid-19 radio archive

In September 2019 the British Library started recording radio. The Library already had a substantial collection of radio programmes, going back to the 1920s, and has been recording radio off-air – that is, from the live broadcast – since the 1960s. But this was a new project intended greatly to increase the amount of radio captured live, with a particular focus on local and community radio. Too great a proportion of community radio has not been archived in the past and has been effectively lost soon after broadcast. The National Radio Archive, as the pilot project is called, should go some way towards rectifying this significant gap in the national audio collection. What we had not calculated for was the Covid-19 pandemic, and radio’s extraordinary response to a national crisis. Broadcast Recordings Curator Neil McCowlen describes some of the Coronavirus-themed radio programmes preserved for the nation over the past year.

Some National Radio Archive stations

Some of the stations selectively archived by the National Radio Archive 

With our National Radio Archive pilot barely six months old, the world suddenly fell into the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. Radio has often been seen as a great companion and full of friendly voices to lighten the mood, so with a national lockdown in March 2020, many turned to the radio to see them through the long days spent at home. National stations such as the BBC, LBC and talkRADIO had already documented the spread of the virus from its early outbreak in Wuhan, but now more local information was needed to give support, guidance and opportunities to help within the local communities as lockdown developed.

The National Radio Archive archives selectively from fifty radio stations at any one time (from over 700 operating in the UK). It strives to capture a good cross-section of the country’s response to the pandemic, through national stories, local news and community broadcasts to help those in need in the local areas. This output, sometimes produced at home, shows a great insight into how the communities helped each other with entertainment, support, guidance and activities to help in what was an isolating and, for some, a frightening time. The collection documents the ways in which radio delivered an immediate response to people’s needs, providing news as it happened, and giving a voice to those who needed it most.

After a year of recording since the start of the first lockdown, The British Library has recorded many thousands of news broadcasts, talk shows, phone-ins and general commentaries broadcast by UK radio stations on the pandemic, an ever-expanding reflection of not just the UK’s reaction to the pandemic, but how it has affected people across the world and the many smaller communities that live within that world. With the British Library’s complementary Broadcast News service adding television content to this archive, there is an enormously rich vein of first-hand experiences and reactions for researchers to dig into to tell them about how the world reacted to the first global pandemic for a century.

The National Radio Archive pilot records selectively from BBC network stations, BBC nations, the World Service, BBC local, commercial stations, community radio and Restricted Service Licence (RSL) stations, and internet radio. Over 110,000 programmes have been recorded since the start of lockdown as UK radio to responded with such inventiveness and immediacy. Here are three examples of this from stations whose response to the crisis has been particularly noteworthy.

Manx Radio (www.manxradio.com)

FM 89, 89.5, 97.2, 103.7, AM 1368

Manx Radio is the national commercial radio station for the Isle of Man. Because the island has an independent government, the station has access to all the local politicians with ministers appearing regularly on The Mannin Line, the daily phone-in show to answer listeners questions, plus a daily Update show that reports on the latest Covid-19 situation and Manx related news. The Breakfast Show also has Coronavirus specific interviews and local stories and news. There was also a short series recorded by a student returning to University at the start of his first year called Life as a Fresher. It is a snapshot of a unique experience of starting university life in a pandemic.

Manx Radio also broadcasts a regular Isle of Man Government Coronavirus Briefing, along the lines of the Downing Street, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Government briefings which have continued regularly into 2021 on radio and television.

Isle of Man Government Coronavirus Briefing, 9 April 2020

Manx Radio

Briefing held by Health Minister David Ashford

Isle of Man coronavirus briefing - Manx Radio - 9 April 2020 - extract

Transcript: The first is a statement the chief minister has asked me to read out on his behalf and the statement is as follows: Good afternoon. First of all I would like to thank everyone for their support and kindness over the past few days.  I have been humbled by the volume of messages.  It was important to me to keep everyone updated and I have today received my text message to say that I have tested positive for Covid-19.

Academy FM (www.academyfmfolkestone.com)

FM 105.9

Academy FM is a charity community radio station based in Folkestone, Kent. Its programme Folkestone Virus Update ran for the first months of the pandemic with local information and important messages as well as stories and interviews about life and services available in the community. The twice weekly Folkestone Status shows also contain local news and interviews, although there is a lot of music as well. The Folkestone Radio Church is a virtual church service (“When you can’t come to church, the church comes to you”).

Folkestone Virus Update, 30 March 2020

Academy FM

Councillor Jenny Hollingsbee talking about the Community Hubs set up in the Folkestone area and what they offer residents facing hardship during the lockdown.

Folkestone Virus Update - Academy FM - 30 March 2020 - extract

Transcript: The sorts of things they can do is: to provide food for those not able to get, or to prepare it, for themselves; food delivery in all the three hubs; assist with collection and delivery of food orders; collect and deliver medical supplies; walk dogs and other pets; offer to talk to someone for advice and reassurance. But it’s not limited to all of that, I mean in fact, what any vulnerable person needs.

BCB (www.bcbradio.co.uk)

FM 106.6

Community radio station BCB, or Bradford Community Broadcasting, produces an extraordinary amount of local programming. It has two hourly shows a day called About Bradford and Bradford and Beyond. These cover all important local news stories, plus messages and support for residents in the Bradford area. There are interviews with a large variety of people involved in caring and those isolated during the pandemic. Guests range from local councillors giving official advice to ordinary citizens helping the community to cope at home with ideas, support and contacts.

Programmes are also made for the elderly, mental health sufferers, carers, academics, migrants, LGBTQ+ community, gardeners, businesses, programmes on specific racial matters, environmental matters (Women and Climate), work undertaken at the University (Research Matters), local landmarks and shows on computer games and entertainment. There is also a strand of programmes made by under sixteen-year-olds, the youngest presenter being seven, sharing their experiences of life during the pandemic, including a young carers show, Who Cares. Bradford Spice provides specific programmes for the Asian and Arab communities and also has programmes in Urdu.

The station also broadcasts Democracy Now! which is broadcast Monday to Friday. This is a syndicated current affairs programme from New York and covers the US and the world’s reactions to the virus and the political response to it. With New York being the epicentre of the pandemic in America through 2020, it serves a useful role in showing how the outbreak developed in the United States.

Research Matters, 6 April 2020

BCB 106.6fm

Professor Marcus Rattray, Bradford University explains the structure of the Coronavirus.

Research Matters - BCB - 6 April 2020 - extract

Transcript: Covid-19 as we all know is a virus and viruses are really tiny, really, really, really tiny.  Some people say they’re microscopic but that's a major exaggeration.  The Coronavirus is smaller than can be seen under a regular high-powered microscope. It's around 10 nanometres long. Over 1 thousand times smaller than a human cell and a human cell itself is tiny. In our bodies we have about 37 trillion cells.

Broadcasting in a pandemic has been a great challenge for many community radio stations, existing on slender resources, run by volunteers, and with hastily-improvised recording operators as staff were in many cases forced out of the studios and obliged to produce programmes from home. It has also been challenging at times to archive such programmes. In the crisis conditions of the early months of lockdown, regular schedules were often abandoned and the metadata essential for catalogue descriptions could be difficult to locate (we often found social media to be the most useful source for programme information). Catalogue data and the brief programme descriptions that are available were also enhanced by speech-to-text transcriptions for some programmes.

UK radio’s response to the pandemic has generated much praise. A #ThankYouRadio campaign, has been launched by Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio, to mark the anniversary of lockdown, with contributions from the chancellor Rishi Sunak, health minister Matt Hancock and Dame Judi Dench. The academic research community has also taken note, Brunel University being quick off the mark with its UK community radio responses to COVID-19 project. Radio responded boldly to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the archive will greatly inform understanding of the impact the virus on UK society, for years to come.

Neil McCowlen

Broadcast Recordings Curator

Background information on this project, including a listing of all radio stations included so far, can be found on our blog post Piloting a National Radio Archive.

08 March 2021

Recording of the week: Mohamed Choukri at the ICA

This week's selection comes from Steve Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary and Creative Recordings.

Tangier  Morocco - photo by Brett Hodnett
Tangier, Morocco by Brett Hodnett – used under Creative Commons license CC-BY-SA-2.0

Today’s selection features the Moroccan writer Mohamed Choukri (1935-2003), recorded at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, 22 September 1992.

Choukri’s first volume of autobiography, published in English as For Bread Alone, tells the story of a harsh and poverty-stricken upbringing in Tangier. Choukri was in fact illiterate until the age of 20. Two further volumes, Streetwise and Faces, continued the story.

Choukri is also known for his personal accounts of friendships with Paul Bowles, Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams – all foreign-born writers who resided for varying durations in Tangier.

In this excerpt, Choukri talks (in Arabic) about his motivation for being a writer.

Listen to Mohamed Choukri at the ICA

The live English translation is provided by Owen MacMillan.

Download English-language transcript

This recording excerpt comes from our ICA Talks collection, which comprises recordings of more than 800 talks and discussions held at the ICA, London, during the period 1982-1993. These events featured leading writers, artists and filmmakers. Almost all of the recordings are available to listen to online.

Follow @BL_DramaSound@BLSoundHeritage and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

03 March 2021

Alan Bowness and Artists’ Lives

Sir Alan Bowness, one of the most influential figures in post-war British art, has died, aged 93. His loss is keenly felt by the team at National Life Stories, where from 1990 he was continuously a member of the Advisory Committee for our oral history project, Artists’ Lives.

With NLS’ backing, in 1989 I went to see Mel Gooding with the idea of setting up a project offering an opportunity for artists to tell the story of their lives to counterbalance accounts by art historians and critics. It seemed vital there should be a forum where they could speak their own testimony, an audio document for posterity as well as for contemporaries. Two immediate problems confronted us – where to begin given the plethora of possible artists, and how to find sponsors (NLS has to raise all its funding).

Mel suggested we go to see Alan, who was immediately supportive. We discovered that whilst Director of the Tate Gallery (1980-1988) he had begun to think of a similar project and had drawn up a list of nominees to record but the idea hadn’t been taken further. We inherited Alan’s nominees, the backbone of the first ‘wish list’ for Artists’ Lives.

Alan’s participation on the Advisory Committee gave the project instant standing. With his help the Tate Library and Archive, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Henry Moore Institute and the Yale Center for British Art became early stage supporters and have, crucially, continued ever since.

Between 2007-2010 Alan made his own Artists’ Lives recording, charting the way his personal and working lives became unified (in 1957 he married Sarah, daughter of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson). Following a degree at Cambridge, he had studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art, going on to work for the Arts Council before returning to the Courtauld to teach, a role he loved. In an extract from his recording that forms part of an essay by his colleague and long-standing friend, the art historian Duncan Robinson, The London art world 1950-1965, Alan recalls the way in which opportunities to study art history evolved in Britain.

Alan Bowness on the small art world in the 1950s C466/179

Download transcript Alan Bowness on the small art world in the 1950s

Alan and Sarah Bowness
Alan Bowness and Sarah Bowness, 1958, Trewyn Studio garden, St Ives, Cornwall. Courtesy Bowness Collection. Image not licensed for reuse.

Alan quickly became a dominant figure, author of many catalogues, and a long-standing member of the British Council, where, for example, he was on the selection committee for the 1964 Venice Biennale. With Philip James and Lawrence Gowing he curated 54:64 Painting and Sculpture of a Decade at the Tate, one of the most referenced exhibitions in Artists’ Lives.

Alan was the first trained art historian to become Director of the Tate, as detailed in his recording, but a further extract gives a perhaps surprising view of what most mattered to him.

Alan Bowness on the role of the museum director C466/179

Download transcript Alan Bowness on the role of the museum director

Alan Bowness and Norman Reid, 1976
Alan Bowness (left), John Summerson and Norman Reid, at the opening of the Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives, 1976. Photographed by Peter Kinnear. Courtesy Bowness Collection. Image not licensed for reuse.

Artists’ Lives has over 400 recordings with artists and those whose careers overlap with them. Alan’s full recording will be added online later in 2021.

Blog by Cathy Courtney, Project Director for Artists’ Lives.

01 March 2021

Recording of the week: Friction drum song from Botswana

This week's selection comes from Dr. Janet Topp Fargion, Head of Sound and Vision.

This song, based on the lyric 'The children of the traditional doctor can kill the medical doctor', is performed by Sebata on the sevuikivuiki friction drum and other Mbukushu villagers in the Tsodilo Hills, in the far north west of Botswana. It was recorded by John Brearley in 1982 during his first field trip to the country, one of many he conducted over the following decades.

The sevuikivuiki is a friction drum constructed over a hole in the ground. A hole is dug, about the size of a bucket, and a fairly flat woven mat is placed over it acting as the drum skin. On top of this sits the core of a corn-cob and a long notched stick kept in place by the performer’s foot. The instrument is played by rubbing two smaller sticks along the notches, producing a percussive sound that is deepened through a resonating hole in the ground.

Performer playing friction drum
Sebata playing the sevuikivuiki friction drum, Botswana, 1982. Photo by John Brearley

Sabata on sevuikivuiki with singing (BL REF C65/4 C5)

John Brearley describes the instrument in detail in his article ‘A musical tour of Botswana’ in Botswana Notes and Records (Volume 16, 1984, pp45-57).

The Tsolido Hills were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001 on account of the roughly 4000 examples of rock art dating back almost 100,000 years. These are beautifully described and illustrated on the British Museum’s African Rock Art website.

Although the Mbukushu, a Bantu people, only moved into this Tsolido Hills region within the last 200 years or so, they live amongst the various hunter-gatherer peoples who would have been responsible for the art works. Indeed hunter-gatherers and farming Bantu peoples have lived in this location for centuries: it is thought that many of the paintings were created by Bantu farmers as early as 800 - 1200 AD.

The recording forms part of the John Brearley Collection (C65). More recordings from this collection can be listened to on British Library Sounds.

Follow @BLWorldTrad@BLSoundHeritage and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

23 February 2021

250,000 sounds preserved by Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

By Katerina Webb-Bourne, Communications Intern for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage.

Time is running out to preserve some of our most endangered sound recordings. The Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) project is now four years into an ambitious, National Lottery Heritage Funded five-year project to safeguard at-risk recordings.

Despite the challenges of another lockdown, the resilience and perseverance of the UOSH team has paid off. While navigating national restrictions we have reached a key milestone to save our sounds. 250,000 recordings from across the UK are now safely preserved in our sound archive.

You will soon be able to dip into our collections on our new Sounds website and enjoy sound heritage as diverse as folklore from the Isle of Man to Uyghur music with the electric guitar. The sound items we have preserved also come from ten partner hubs located around the UK, who have contributed over 35,000 recordings of their own and are helping to manage collections from 59 organisations spread throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The UOSH team has adapted to current conditions to continue to provide access to sounds that inspire us and audio we can all enjoy in difficult times. Our Learning and Engagement teams and ten hub partners have launched sound websites, workshops, and a number of creative listening sessions for everyone.

To celebrate all these impressive achievements we want to share the 250,000th sound to be preserved by the UOSH project with you. In this recording you can hear Maeve and Dick discussing how one goes about making ‘Pig Lug’, a Yorkshire dish from the coastal town of Filey similar to a pie or pastry containing currants.

Grab a pen and some paper, and listen closely for the recipe:

Listen to Maeve and Dick

Maeve: aye but now then what about pig lug [= ‘type of pie with currants’] have I tae [= ‘to’] tell thee how tae mack [= ‘to make’] it and then if thou ever gets a wife thou knowest thou can tell her how tae mack it
Dick: aye why
Maeve: have I tae tell thee why dost thou think thou could tell me better Dick
Dick: I daen’t [= daePRESNEG (dae = ‘to do’)] know I daen’t know how tae mack it
Maeve: I know you you mack you mack pastry fost [= ‘first’] though knowest how tae mack pastry Dick
Dick: yes mm
Maeve: you get a bit o’ saim [= ‘lard’] and a bit o’ flour and a bit o’ salt put in and then you mix it in thou knowest and then you get a drop o’ watter [= ‘water’] and mix it tiv [= ‘to’ + vowel] a nice you know a nice movable consistency they call it these days
Dick: aye
Maeve: anyway you get that in
Dick: paste [= ‘dough, esp. pie crust’] aye
Maeve: paste aye and then you roll it out Dick then you put a bit of old blather [= ‘batter/pancake mixture’] on it butter margarine … (aside) go on tae them buns lass … (continues) and then you put some sugar on and then you put it wiv [= ‘with’ + vowel] a few currants your Joan daesn’t [= daePRESNEG (dae = ‘to do’)] like a lot o’ currants course she hae [= ‘to have’] tae she has tae heve [= ‘to have’] her own way like sae [= ‘so’] we put ’em we put ’em as though they were birds flying i’ t’ air thou knowest now and again
Dick: aye
Maeve: but thou likest uh raisins best daesn’t thou
Dick: I dae [= ‘to do’] I like raisins
Maeve: aye well next time we mack em Dick we’ll put raisins in ne’er [= ‘never’] mind about what she likes
Joan: no no no we shan’t cause I daen’t like it
Dick: thou’ll hae tae mack a special ‘un for me then wi’ nowt [= ‘nothing’] but raisins in it
Maeve: aye that’ll be better then I rolls it up and I puts it on a baking sheet thou knowest Dick puts a bit mair [= ‘more’] sugar on top and a drop o’ milk and by thou should see what a shining paste they heve when they come out o’ th’ oven
Dick: oh aye
Maeve: oh they’re grand I know there’s ya [= ‘one’] fella comes tiv our house and if you daen’t put em out o’ road [= ‘out of the way’] there’s nane [= ‘none’] for you he’ll eat lot
Dick: aye that Griffiths fella
Maeve: aye

An illustrated map of Yorkshire with Filey pictured on the coastAbove: An illustrated map of Yorkshire, featuring Filey on the coast between Scarborough and Bridlington. 

Our team enjoyed listening to Maeve and Dick revel in the comforts of baking at home, and it resonated with those of us who picked up new skills during in lockdown. We also found familiar joy in hearing them debate one other about the perfect amount of currants to include in their favourite dish. Perhaps it is time for all aspiring bakers to rediscover an old favourite like Pig Lug?

This recording featuring food from Filey was captured by John Widdowson and is part of the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (C1829). The collection is a diverse and absorbing treasure trove of sound recordings from the former Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies (IDFLS), part of the University of Leeds from October 1964 to September 1983. It also contains dialect-related recordings made prior to the establishment of the Institute, as well as many sounds recordings made for the Survey of English Dialects (SED), the first ever comprehensive, nationwide survey of vernacular speech in England. The collection was donated to us in 2019 for digitisation as part of the UOSH project.

Over 300 examples of dialect are represented in the SED, forming an important and moving record of life in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. These sound recordings provide us with a window to a vanishing world at a point where many (though not all) the old ways were dying out.

It also provides us with a timely reminder of the vital work we are carrying out and spurs us on to keep preserving sounds, as there is lots more work to do. Look out for new websites exploring the History of Recorded Sound and the speeches of famous orators on Speaking Out in the coming months.

Thank you to Jonnie Robinson, Charlotte Wardley and Andrew Ormsby for your contributions to this article, and the Leeds University Dialect and Heritage project for giving us permission to use this recording.

Congratulations are due to every member of the UOSH team at the British Library and partner hubs for all that has been achieved over the past year.

Follow project updates @BLSoundHeritage on Twitter and Instagram.

UOSH banner