Project Scope

The project incorporates into a unified delivery system selections from three categories of items as found in the Leo Sarkisian Archive at the University of Michigan:

  1. Music Time in Africa Broadcasts and Inserts, 1965 to 1989
    • ca. 900 items (each 20–30 minutes duration)
    • Format: ¼ inch reel-to-reel magnetic tape, mono single track
    • Thirty-minute pre-recorded programs, broadcast by Voice of America on Sunday afternoons (once weekly from 1965–1982, and starting in 1983, with two separate Sunday programs). The series contains selected full radio programs from 1965–1975, and a nearly complete run of radio programs from 1976–1989. Much of the weekly production work for the program involved choosing musical selections or excerpts from the Leo Sarkisian Library, then crafting an appropriate script. Leo assembled program excerpts on a tape reel of “inserts;” the reel typically mixes original Sarkisian field recordings with complementary tracks from commercially-produced and distributed recordings (45s, LPs, cassettes, and other media). At transmission time, a radio announcer (supported by a sound technician) “performed the box” containing the script and associated musical inserts. Some scripts are in the tape box with the insert reels.
  2. Scripts for Music Time in Africa, 1965 to 1989
    • ca. 900 items (3–6 pages per script)
    • Format: 8.5” x 11”, typescript, mimeograph, or electrostatic photocopy
    • The printed script is the textual record of each broadcast program included in the series. The script is both an extraordinarily rich source of information about the program itself and the cultural context that the program seeks to synthesize. Each script is a self-contained narrative, with a remarkably similar flow from program to program that remained stable over four decades. Typically, each script first introduces a program’s theme, then describes the musical selections, including commentary on composition, performers, instrumentation, and the selected track’s context in the overall sociocultural context of the program’s theme. Scripts conclude with acknowledgements and Voice of America contact information. Scripts tend not to be overtly “newsy,” although passing references to current events is a common feature. For archiving purposes, scripts provide invaluable technical and descriptive metadata for each broadcast recording and the associated musical excerpts. Each program script is dated. Each program contains timing marks (mm:ss) indicating the excerpt lengths and its sequence in the program. Finally, programs also provide copious references to proper names (places and people) and other identifiers that link musical selections to genres, instruments, and musical concepts
  3. Leo Sarkisian Live Field Recordings, 1953 to 1985
    • Up to 360 items (10–75 minutes per item)
    • Format: ¼ reel-to-reel magnetic tape, 1 or 2 channel mono, 5”, 7” or 10” reels)
    • Leo Sarkisian traveled throughout Africa with professional sound equipment on which he was trained by Central Recording Studios in Hollywood, California. In 1953, he started in Central Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh) as an employee of Tempo Records in Hollywood, which had hired Leo to obtain music for films set in exotic locales (Sarkisian 2012, 15). In 1958, Leo was sent to newly-independent Ghana. There, he worked with Radio Ghana music director Atta Mensah, recording music throughout the country and across ethnic groups. In 1962, invited by Edward R. Murrow, Leo became Music Director for the VOA Program Center in Monrovia, Liberia. Leo continued his work recording music and training sound engineers, now under the banner of the US diplomacy (Sarkisian 2012, 63). Working fifty years as a VOA employee, Leo recorded music in over thirty-eight African nations from Senegal to Ethiopia. Included within the corpus are the only known recording of Louis Armstrong performing at the 1967 Tunis Festival, the first-known recording of famed Nigerian Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and the first-known recording of Guinea’s popular Bembeya Jazz Band. Also represented are traditional music, chorale music, big band music, Afro-funk, Latin covers, and Western-style opera and symphonies by African composers.