TITLE: Old Cultures/New Contexts: Presenting the Traditional Music and Dance of Urban Immigrant Communities
SPEAKER: Ethel Raim
EVENT DATE: 2008/06/20
FORMAT: Video + Captions
RUNNING TIME: 62 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)
Ethnographer and performer Ethel Raim, co-founder and artistic director of New York's celebrated Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD), discusses her five decades of work with community-based traditional artists in urban America. Beginning at a time when to most Americans "folk music" was practically synonymous with rural and Anglo-Saxon, Raim built on her own interests in Balkan music and dance to document and collaborate with a wide panoply of urban ethnic communities. These communities often had little in common with each other, except a strong commitment to their traditions and the presence of outstanding master artists. Through CTMD, Raim and her colleagues identified and documented performers and strengthened commitments and educational opportunities within communities. At the same time, they developed innovative approaches that introduced many previously in-group traditions to mainstream audiences. By educating Americans about the wealth of world cultures surrounding them, she literally and figuratively brought ethnic music from church basements to center stage. Raim shares stories about what it was like to be at the epicenter of the theoretical and applied folklore movements that rediscovered and revitalized numerous performing genres--including Irish, Albanian, Puerto Rican and Jewish klezmer musics--that are now integral to America's musical landscape.
Speaker Biography: Ethel Raim is artistic director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD), one of the nation's preeminent traditional arts organizations. CTMD has served New York City for the past four decades. Raim has also had a long-standing career as a performer, singing teacher and recording artist; she was a founding member and director of the pioneering women's vocal ensemble, the Pennywhistlers. From 1965 to 1975, Raim was music editor of Sing Out Magazine and served as music editor for numerous folk song collections. With funding from the Smithsonian Institution, the International Research and Exchanges Board, the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, Raim has conducted field research in the expressive folk traditions of urban American immigrant communities over the past 40 years. She was a researcher and program director for Balkan and Slavic cultures for the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival, and in 1975 joined Martin Koenig as co-director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. Raim has curated and overseen the production of hundreds of artistic presentations and has developed many of the innovative program models for which CTMD is best known, including their Community Cultural Initiatives--long-term projects designed to establish and nurture community--based documentation, presentation and cultural preservation in New York's immigrant communities. Under Raim's leadership, the center has become one of America's leading proponents of what the late Alan Lomax called "cultural equity," the right of every community or ethnic group to express and sustain its distinctive cultural heritage.
SERIES: Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series