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COLLECTION Identifier: AWM Spec Coll 93

Collection of Ethiopian Music


Recordings of Ethiopian music collected by ethnomusicologist and Harvard University Professor of Music, Kay Kaufman Shelemay. Included are recordings made in Ethiopia and New York by Prof. Shelemay as well as recordings from the Radio Voice of the Gospel in Addis Ababa. Also included are accompanying materials such as logbooks and interview notes.


  • Creation: 1975

Conditions Governing Access

Permission to use this collection must be requested from Professor Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Music Department, Harvard University. To request access, navigate to the "COLLECTION INVENTORY" tab of this finding aid to add individual items to your request list.


1 collection (Sound recordings and accompanying materials .5 linear feet, 1 box)

The Collection consists of 83 reel-to-reel tapes, plus logbooks, interview notes and/or contents lists for most items. Represented primarily is the Orthodox Christian liturgy recorded by Professor Shelemay at church services or as comprehensive sung examples of the liturgical cycle presented in the context of interviews. Recordings once held by Radio Voice of the Gospel (RVOG) in Addis Ababa, containing secular works of folkloric, orchestral, theatrical, and vocal traditions, as well as Prof. Shelemay's recordings of specific genres (washint music and l'alibeloc songs, for example) complete the Collection. The Ethiopian field recordings date from 1974-1975, while the interview in New York City was made in 1978. Although the tapes given to Prof. Shelemay by RVOG cannot be accurately assigned a date, most likely they are post-1960 recordings.

Biographical / Historical

Kay Kaufman Shelemay is Professor of Music at Harvard University and currently Chair of the Department of Music. An ethnomusicologist with specializations in musics of Africa, the Middle East, and urban United States, she received her Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Michigan in 1977.

The author of numerous publications, Professor Shelemay's book Music, Ritual, and Falasha History (1986) won both the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 1987 and the Prize of the International Musicological Society in 1988. Her book A Song of Longing : An Ethiopian Journey (1991) details her years abroad as well as the unanticipated impact that the encroaching Ethiopian Revolution had on her life and research goals. Together with Ethiopian Christian Chant : An Anthology (3 vols., 1993-1997) co-authored with Peter Jeffery, these books serve to complement the materials found in the Kay Kaufman Shelemay Collection of Ethiopian Music, at Harvard.

Following a year's appointment as Visiting Research Scholar at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she moved to Ethiopia in 1973. There, as Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa, Shelemay carried out her dissertation and related research until 1975. Her fieldwork on the liturgy and religious practice of the Beta Israel (Falasha) was conducted primarily in the northern rural villages around Gondar from 1973-1974 and, of necessity, was redirected to Addis Ababa from 1974-1975 as the country found itself in the throes of Revolution. It was in Addis Ababa that she focused her research on the Ethiopian Christian liturgy, and it is the fruits of this latter study which form the core of the Collection.

Shelemay was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and has been awarded several postdoctoral fellowships, including grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. She is President of the Society for Ethnomusicology and has edited the seven-volume Library of Readings in Ethnomusicology, issued by Garland Publishing in 1990`. Prior to her appointment at Harvard in 1992, Shelemay taught at Columbia, New York, and Wesleyan Universities.

Physical Location

Archive of World Music

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Kay Kaufman Shelemay Collection of Ethiopian Music was given to the Archive of World Music by Professor Shelemay in 1997.

Processed by:

Rhona Freeman, January-July 1998

Shelemay, Kay Kaufman. Collection of Ethiopian Music: Guide
Archive of World Music, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library Repository

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library is the primary repository of musical materials at Harvard. The Music Library’s collecting mission is to serve music teaching and research programs in the Music Department and throughout the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, it supports the musical needs of the broader Harvard community as well as an international scholarly constituency. We collect books, musical scores, serial titles, sound recordings and video formats, microforms, and rare and archival materials that support research in a wide variety of musical disciplines including historical musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, and historically informed performance practice, as well as interdisciplinary areas related to music. The special collections include archival collections from the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

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