On the hunt for field recordings of traditional healing songs!!
February 12, 2015 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on a project with some friends collecting songs from traditional societies around the world and comparing their musical characteristics (tempo, pitch, etc.). We've found nearly everything we need, but we're left with five items, all of which are healing songs from various regions (a healing song is any song used for medicinal or healing purposes, often sung by a shaman or medicine-person). See specifics inside!

So, specifically we're looking for field recordings of healing songs from 1) an Australian aboriginal group, 2) the British Isles/Atlantic Archipelago (e.g. Celts, Highland Scots), 3) East Asia (e.g. Koreans - I've read that Korean shamanism still exists - these have to be out there!!), 4) Scandinavia (hopefully the Saami), and 5) Southeastern Europe (like the Serbs!). Many societies no longer have shamanic or medicine-person traditions, making these recordings hard to come by, but if anyone has any suggestions, I'd really appreciate it!! We've looked through the Archive of World Music and the Smithsonians Folkways collection.

Thanks, Hivemind!
posted by mrmanvir to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Re 5), is it established that songs per se are commonly used as part of folk healing traditions? I have a feeling incantations and spells might be more likely (though it might be you're counting these as songs?); some things I've just read seem to support that idea, but I don't know. Anyway, these may be helpful as starting points

B. Kerewsky-Halpern - Trust, talk and touch in Balkan folk healing; Healing with Mother Metaphors: Serbian Conjurer's Word Magic; with collaborator Foley - The Power of the Word: Healing Charms as an Oral Genre; Conrad, Bulgarian Magic Charms; Ritual, Form and Content & Russian Ritual Incantations: Tradition, Diversity and Continuity
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:17 PM on February 12, 2015

There's plenty of recorded sound archives left for you to check.
Indigenous Music at Australian Screen
British Library Sound Archive and their Catalogue
New Zealand Sound archives
Library of Congress list of archives
posted by Ideefixe at 12:36 PM on February 12, 2015

For Bulgaria, you'll want to look for recordings of the kukeri in particular. It's absolutely killing me that I can't find it online right now, but there was a vintage LP of kukeri recordings put out by the Bulgarian label Balkanton in the '50s - '60s ... but here's a short documentary [Vimeo] and a different one on YT. I made some recordings of my own at the Koprivshtitsa festival in 2010, but they were performing among a crowd of thousands, so it wouldn't have the same effect.
posted by mykescipark at 1:42 PM on February 12, 2015

You may have some issue finding Sami healing song recordings. My understanding is that most of the noaidi (Sami "shamans") primarily used drums and jojks in their practices, but that the majority of the drums were confiscated or destroyed in the 1600s/1700s when priests traveled through Sápmi in an attempt to bring Christianity to them. Jojking of any kind (because the priests couldn't tell the difference between a noaidi jojk and a personal or place jojk) was forbidden for a long time.

From 1913-1915, Karl Tirén traveled through the Swedish part of Sápmi and recorded jojks of all kinds on phonograph cylinders. But looking through the list of his recordings at the Swedish Song Archive (some of which you are supposed to be able to listen to, and some of which were released on an album called "Samiska röster" or Sami voices), I don't see any noaidi or healing jojks among them.

There are still people who use the Sami drum for music, and joik has become a part of the musical landscape of Sweden at least (e.g. the most recent winner of Sweden's Got Talent). But I believe those are often more modern expressions of the traditional art-forms.
posted by gemmy at 3:55 PM on February 12, 2015

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