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AFS Review: News

Arhoolie Records Acquired by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Wednesday, May 11, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Shannon K. Larson

The following is a message from Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz:

Thanks to the generosity of Laura and Ed Littlefield of the Sage Foundation, and the encouragement of the Savoy Family (the First Family of Cajun Music), Arhoolie Records has been acquired from me and my business partner Tom Diamant by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the national museum. The acquisition includes more than 350 albums released in various formats and on various labels by Arhoolie as well as recordings from three South Texas regional labels specializing in Mexican music (Ideal, Falcon, and Rio), and Andean Huayno music from the Peruvian label Discos Smith.

All Arhoolie Records business from now on will be handled by Smithsonian Folkways and should be directed to Once the transition is completed, all Arhoolie albums will be available on CD and digital formats, along with selected LPs, at  

The Down Home Music Store, my retail record store in El Cerrito, CA, will continue to do business as usual, and will remain a prime source for all currently available Arhoolie releases, both in person and by mail order. Visit our website at, our storefront at 10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, CA 94530, or reach us by phone at (510) 525-2129.  

The Arhoolie Foundation will also continue to be based at 10341 San Pablo Ave in El Cerrito. Please visit our website at to find out about our work and ways you can participate or contribute.  

Since I’m not King Tut, I can’t take my Arhoolie baby with me. It was Moe Asch, founder of Folkways Records, who told me in so many words, “Chris, you’ve got to think about what you are going to do with all your stuff when you kick the bucket.”  I am very pleased that Arhoolie has found a new home at the Smithsonian, where they are committed to keeping everything in print and available to the public by one method or another. It has been fun running Arhoolie Records for the past 55 years. I plan to continue to produce records and assist the staff at Smithsonian Folkways where I can.  

Chris Strachwitz

About Smithsonian Folkways:  

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. As part of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among people through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound.  

The mission of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948 to document "people's music," spoken word, instruction, and sounds from around the world. Smithsonian Folkways has continued to expand on Asch's legacy, adding several other record labels to the collections, such as Cook, Monitor, and the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, and releasing over 400 new recordings that document and celebrate the sounds of the world. With the acquisition of Arhoolie Records, the collection consists of more than 3,500 albums and 50,000 tracks along with videos, playlists, podcasts, lesson plans for teachers, and Smithsonian Folkways Magazine.  

NOTE: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings retail distribution in the US is through ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance) at 800.239.3232. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings releases are available through record and book outlets. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, as well as Folkways Records, A.R.C.E., Arhoolie, Banjo Builders, Blue Ridge Institute, Cook, Collector, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, I.L.A.M., The Mickey Hart Collection, Monitor, M.O.R.E., Paredon, and UNESCO are available via mail order at 888.FOLKWAYS or 800.410.9815. Visit the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website at or write to 600 Maryland Ave. SW, Suite 2001, Washington, DC, 20024.

U.S. media inquiries: Matt Hanks ( and Ally Norton (, Shore Fire Media, (PH) 718.522.7171.

All other inquiries:

See also:

Ben Sisario, "Smithsonian Folkways Acquires Arhoolie Records Catalog," The New York Times (May 10, 2016),

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