MRE World Pop Archive


The Music-Race-Empire World Pop Project represents an attempt to document the global presence and circulation of jazz and popular music recordings prior to 1940. Almost immediately after its genesis in the United States, jazz spread via the routes of global capital to Europe, South America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Japan, China, India, and the Middle East. Recording companies helped fuel the burgeoning industry of recorded music in the West's colonial possessions by creating markets for musical commodities in the financial capitals of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kolkata, Tokyo, and elsewhere; just as important in aiding jazz's rapid global dominance were the travels of musicians - especially African Americans and Filipinos - between colonial metropoles. This project supplies the material evidence of this musical transmission.

While the fields of Jazz Studies, American Music, and American Studies have made great strides in recent years to address the rise of the popular music industry and to consider jazz's early history as a cultural phenomenon driven by Western militarism and new forms of global capital and consumerism, less work has been done to document the circulation of this music beyond the borders of the United States, particularly in South Asia, China, Japan, and the Middle East. Geographically-specific projects, such as Andrew Jones's Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age and E. Taylor Atkins's Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan, have begun the critical task of re-thinking jazz and popular music's place within the new forms of global capital that accompanied imperial modernity. However, the aural evidence of jazz recordings in the non-Western world has been sparsely documented.

The impetus for this project arose from a course first taught by Ron Radano (School of Music) in the fall of 2010 on the transmission and reproduction of U.S.-based black musical forms in the global circuits of the popular. As part of that course, several students began exploring the existence of recordings in Japan and China prior to World War II, relying primarily on recordings uploaded to YouTube by private collectors. In the fall of 2012, Radano and Teju Olaniyan (English/African Languages and Literature) convened a group of graduate students (listed below) to continue procuring recordings from YouTube and other sites in order to secure a broad representation of jazz and popular music's early recorded history outside of the United States. To that end, we have defined "jazz" and "popular" as broadly as possible so as to best capture the myriad expressions of these musics as they were performed throughout the globe. This has meant the inclusion of musics as diverse as march-based compositions performed by military bands in Japan, Filipino kundiman, and rhumba recorded for the Beirut-baesd Baidaphon label.

Using the Archive

Due to copyright restraints, no audio is available on this site. We have, however, supplied as much discographic information as we have been able to ascertain as well as links to the recordings. We will continue to add recordings through the Fall 2012 semester.

It is our hope that the information represented in these pages will grant future scholars some initial steps towards filling this critical gap in popular music scholarship.

Scott A. Carter
Ph.D. Candidate, Ethnomusicology

Project Coordinator