African Music and Related Resources

This guide is comprised of resources that relate to the study of African Music. Please direct all inquiries to


Note: Select their World category. Yields about 25 albums, including selected ambient sounds of the natural and social environments. Always exit Naxos by its red log out button. Available to BU-px.

Description: A cross-search of audio and full-text reference content from selected Alexander Street Press music databases: American song, Classical music library, Contemporary world music, The Garland encyclopedia of world music online, Jazz music library, and Smithsonian global sound for libraries.


African music on the Internet
Although this site does not attempt to provide a systematic overview, its vast compilation of links to other guides, radio or research sites, whether popular or scholarly in origin, is very useful. Part of the African Collection site at Stanford University Library.

Open Access Audio/Video

  • Digital Collection of East African Field Recordings (at Vanderbilt University Libraries)
    A treasure of over 1300 field recordings of contemporary performers from both rural and urban areas of traditional music, chiefly in the Uganda region. The recordings have been captured since 2000. Sort by instrument/voice, region, artists; content is indexed and described in detail. Stream via RealPlayer.
  • Internet Archive
    a growing resource for media files contributed by institutions and individuals.
  • Library of Congress, American Memory Project
    digital documents of American culture and society, you may include the words audio or video in among your keyword search terms.
  • Open Vault [produced by WGBH TV, Boston]
    Selected video clips and interviews from 1968 to 1993, chielfy current cultural, social, scientific and political events in context of the American perspective. It is important to view their Terms and Conditions of use of this online material. If your research involves more in-depth consultation, clarification of use or access to WGBH’s full Media Library and Archives, additional information and contacts are provided here.
  • Public TV [produced by Ten Alps Digital, London]
    Open access to view videos from wide range of public, private and government sector organizations; excellent.
  • The Virtual Gramophone: Canadian Historical Sound Recordings
    A multimedia website devoted to the early days of Canadian recorded sound. Selected recordings in the Library and Archives Canada collection of 78s, chosen for their Canadian content, were digitally reproduced for this site.
  • YouTube
    Includes numerous clips of staged and spontaneous music and dance, from traditional to contemporary. Try combinations of a few search terms, for instance: traditional botswana music.

Digital Audio/Video Lending

Boston Public Library – Overdrive
A valid Boston Public Library lending card is required (available to all residents of Massachusetts). Audio books, music and video are available for checkout and download.

Free Downloads

Alexander Street Press provides the public at large weekly free downloads of classical music. These are excerpted from their full Classical Music Library which full subscription is available to current BU affiliates only.

MP3 Purchasing

Reference works

Author: Merriam, Alan P.
Available at Reference (ML156.4.P7 F70 )
Note: This classic work, often referred to as Merriam, describes the content of nearly 400 authentic recordings on 70 labels. Its most useful aspect is the 18 detailed indexes offering addtional teminology to aid finding recordings of the represented instruments, languages, geographic areas, stylistic characteristics, and traditional type or purpose of songs or instrumental music. Use this as a locator tool to further search for recordings within the music library collection, within online audio subscription, the WorldCat, etc.

Author: Tracey, Hugh.
Available at Reference (ML156.4.P7 T7 )
Note: Another classic work, often referred to as ILAM (for International Library of African Music), these volumes give recording and content details of the Sound of Africa Series which series title was cited but not detailed in Merriams’ African Music on LP. Most of the ILAM recordings now stream online in Smithsonian Global Sound. Use the print volumes to identify specific recordings or, once online, browse by label and choose ILAM.