About the Archive

The Archive of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance

The Archive of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance documents and preserves the research recording sessions and performance projects of the organization. The archive contains a major collection of audio and video tapes, photographs and printed matter documenting research and programming of folk, ethnic and immigrant performing arts traditions of cultural communities in New York City from the founding of CTMD in 1968 to the present.

The materials in the Archive include audio and video recordings in multiple formats and paper records of more than 500 performance events. Over 950 performing artists from world wide cultures and traditions are documented in performance and in some cases, in interviews and transcriptions.

In 1997-98, CTMD began cataloging the Archive through a Documentary Heritage Program grant from the New York State Archive and Records Administration. Support from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) Foundation made possible the creation of a digital archive of the at-risk analog audio collection and more recent digital recordings. With support from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2003-4, CTMD upgraded and updated the archival database to allow for searches on site, by appointment. In 2007, the Center received support through the special digitization initiative of the New York State Council on the Arts to digitize and make accessible the bulk of the collection. Additional major support for the Archive has been provided by the Booth Ferris Foundation and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Documented Projects and Contents of the Archive

The collections are described as follows according to the chronological order of acquisition:

Balkan Arts Center (1968-1981): The organization focused on performing arts of communities from the Balkans, Eastern and Southern Europe. Collections from this period were assembled by Center staff members and some were acquired by donation. These include an extensive collection of 78 rpm recordings of Serbian music; home audio recordings made by tamburitza musician George Skrbina; production material for the 1977 film The Popovich Brothers of South Chicago (available on video cassette) and a series of field recordings of Bulgarian songs made by Martha Forsyth, 1980-81. Also included are recordings, photographs and printed matter from major programs of the period.

Ethnic Folk Arts Center (1981-1998): The organization expanded its focus, as well as the number and frequency of its programs. The Center released LPs of the Epirot Greek Halkias Family Orchestra and Jewish klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras. Three recordings were produced for the Shanachie label, including the first album of Irish-American women’s supergroup Cherish the Ladies, the follow-up Fathers and Daughters album, and Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Mi Tierra Natal, featuring jibaro/bomba and plena by with Conjunto Melodía Tropical and Los Pleneros de La 21. Additionally, CTMD worked with Smithsonian Folkways to release an album by the Bukharan (Central Asian) Jewish Ensemble, Shashmaqam. All of these recordings are available for sale.

The Center also coordinated major tours of Shashmaqam and Cherish the Ladies, as well as other tours with Greek and Italian musicians. Many of these performances were documented through audio recordings. In addition, the Rhythms of New York concert series, held at the New York Historical Society (1990-1993) resulted in two concert video productions of Los Pleneros de la 21 and Music From China, both of which are available from CTMD. The Center also produced an hour-long video documentary about ethnic music and musicians in the United States, The Spirit Travels: Immigrant Music in America, narrated by Linda Ronstadt.

Other documentation from this period includes recordings, photographs and printed matter of major multicultural festival events, including the Spring Folk Festival (1969-1977), the Winter Folk Festival (1969-1985), Folk Parks festivals (1993-1998), the Queens Ethnic Music and Dance Festival (1976-1991), and the Salute to Immigrant Cultures, a three-day festival in celebration of the Statue of Liberty Centennial (1986).

Center for Traditional Music and Dance (1998-present): Documentation includes photographs, sound and audio recordings of the Folk Parks festivals (1998-2000) and the New York World Festival (2002, 2004 and 2007).

Since 2001, the Center has released three CD albums on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings under its Global Beat of the Boroughs series: A 2 CD Compilation entitled New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs with performances by leading artists representing 20 different cultural communities on 31 tracks of both traditional and innovative interpretations (2001); Badenya: Manden Music in New York City (2002), documenting leading West African artists from Guinea, Mali and the Gambia; and Quisqueya en el Hudson: Dominican Music in New York (2004). The archive contains all the master recordings and documentation about these projects.

The Community Cultural Initiatives projects (1990-present), now known as Sustaining Cultures Initiatives, offer a wider range of documentation, including field recordings, interviews, audience evaluations, and complete program audio and video recordings. These materials document performance traditions of many New York-based communities, including Albanian, Arab, Asian Indian, Chinese, Dominican, Filipino, Former Soviet Jewish, Indo-Caribbean, Mandeng West African, Mexican, Peruvian and Ukrainian. A tape of the second Festival Shqiptar (Albanian) is available on video cassette as well. Four of the Community Cultural Initiative programs have been taped for inclusion in the Jerome Robbins Archive of Dance at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. These programs are the Mandeng/West African Niani Badenya (1997), the Indo Caribbean Kitchrie (1998), the second West African Community Cultural Initiative program, Badenya ’98 and the first Mano a Mano Mexican program of 2001. Copies of these video recordings are also housed in the CTMD archives. More recent projects include Pachamama Pervian Arts, the Chinese Community Cultural Initiative, the Ukrainian Wave Community Cultural Initiative. Current projects include Sri Lankan Soorya NYC and the Inner Asian Sustaining Cultures Initiative.

Finally, in 2002, 2004 and 2007, the Center collaborated with World Music Institute and Central Park SummerStage to produce the New York World Music Festival. The 2002 and 2007 festivals featured music and dance of the cultures of the Mediterranean. The 2004 festival focused on the connections between the rich musical traditions of the Western Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.


All of the artists, events and archival materials are catalogued in a searchable archival database. Search fields include: artist name, culture, instrument, geographic origin, and performance date.


Material in the CTMD archive is available to academic researchers, the media, artists and their families, community members, and arts programmers. Searches are done through a request to CTMD staff and can be viewed by appointment. Please forward inquiries to the email address below. Include the subject of your inquiry and intended purpose or use of materials you intend to review.


Most of the items in the archive are unique recordings and photographs. No reproduction or sale may be made of any item without written permission. Those media to which CTMD maintains copyright are available for licensing. Please contact the CTMD Archive for more information.

Contact Information

For further information about the archive please email traditions@ctmd.org.