Yarngo Music is proud to announce the release of Songs of the African Coast: Cafe Music of Liberia. This unique recording includes music recording in the late 1940's in Liberia by the noted ethnomusicologist, and my late Great Uncle, Arthur Alberts. Arthur Alberts recorded music throughout Africa and in 1950 released the landmark 78 rpm set Tribal, Folk and Cafe Music of West Africa. The music on this release included a mix of genres as well as detailed notes by leading academics. The recording showed the intricate connections between African and American music. Many of these songs have not been heard in the United States since Arthur's 1950 release and six were never released commercially. Also accompanying the CD are extensive liner notes and never before seen photographs of the artists. This recording includes some the best known musicians from Liberia at the time including the blind Prof. Howard B. Hayes, Malinda Jackson Parker, and the Greenwood Singers. Not only were these noted artists, but all were well respected professional citizens of Liberia. The compositions in many cases sounds almost like Calypso, or even early Jazz, and clearly illustrate the ties between American and African music. The 18 tracks on the CD were recorded live and have a warm feeling almost as though the listener is with the musicians as the music is being played. The importance of these recordings has been underscored many times in recent years. Martin Scorsese cited the work of Arthur Alberts in his documentary The Blues – Feel Like Going Home. Mickey Hart, of the Grateful Dead, with the Library of Congress, released in 1998 a selection of work entitled The Arthur S. Alberts Collection: More Tribal, Folk and Caf? Music of West Africa which featured rural and bush music. And in the 1960's both Joan Baez and Dave Van Ronk covered some of the songs on this new release (Chicken Is Nice and All Fo' You respectively).
Arthur S. Alberts Bio
b. 1910 – New York, NY
c. 1986 – Barnstable County, Massachusetts
Arthur was born into a wealthy family and was the second oldest of five brothers. His parents were Lithuanian Jews who immigrated to Boston in the late 19th century and many other members of the family became esteemed in business, the arts and academia.
The family eventually settled in Yonkers, NY and owned a highly successful brassiere manufacturing concern which allowed the brothers to have the freedom to attend elite schools and Arthur graduated, like his older brother Sydney, from Williams College in Massachusetts.
The family's money also allowed them the freedom to travel throughout the nation including to Arkansas, Georgia and also to Cuba. While it cannot be confirmed, I believe it is during these travels that Arthur first may have become exposed to music of the African diasporas which he eventually tied to the origins of the music in Africa.
During World War 2 Arthur served in the French division of the Office of War Information and was stationed in positions throughout French West Africa. It was during the war that he also made some preliminary recordings of African music for the US Library of Congress.
Arthur also was a recipient in WW2 of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for counter intelligence work prior towards the liberation of Southern France. After the war Arthur served as a speak writer for General Eisenhower when Eisenhower was Chief of Staff.
In 1949 Arthur and his second wife Lois returned to West Africa and traveled for several months through what is now for many months through W. Africa including Liberia, Ghana and French West Africa to record and document music which later resulted in the 1950 release "Tribal, Folk and Caf? Music of West Africa" on his own label. This historic release documented ties between W. African and American music and including extensive information from leading academics of the day. Dozens of hours of material was recorded, and the 1950 release was just a glimpse of these important recordings.
In 1951 he wrote "Hunting Musical Game in West Africa" for National Geographic which included many of his photos and his own writings on his music expedition.
Arthur later served as American Consul General to Liberia, Belgian Congo (Zaire), Angola, French Cameroons, Ruana-Urundi (Rwanda and Burundi) as well as French Equatorial Africa (Congo, Chad, Gabon, Central African Rep.) and the French Cameroons
Arthur later also recorded music, now on deposit in libraries, in the American South and had a strong role in early years of the Music Inn in Lennox, Massachusetts – an important incubator of modern Jazz music.
In the 1960's he promoted French culture with his project "French Civilizations as Reflected in the Arts" for which he won a citation from Charles de Gaulle. The project documented nearly 2,000 years of French history and culture.
Arthur's work has had a strong influence on ethnomusicologists. Mickey Hart used his material, and with the Library of Congress released in 1998 a CD entitled "The Arthur Alberts Collection: More Tribal, Folk and Caf? Music of West Africa." Martin Scorsese also cited his work in his documentary "The Blues" on PBS. And researchers throughout the world have referenced Arthur Alberts on academic papers and research.