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American Folklife Center Collections: Hungary

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting Hungarian expressive culture in Hungary and the United States in the collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.


American Folklife Center collections documenting Hungarians represent the diversity of their expressive culture in Hungary and the United States. Among its unique collections are recordings of Hungarian music made in Hungary by various collectors, including copies of early wax cylinder recordings made by Béla Bartók. In the United States, Alan Lomax documented the music of Hungarian Americans in Michigan. The American Folklife Center's Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project collection includes documentation of an Hungarian language school in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In the 1930s ethnographer Sidney Robertson Cowell recorded the music and songs of Hungarian immigrants in California. More about these collections can be found in the examples in this guide.

Below is an example from Cowell's documentation of Hungarian Americans. Mary Drasky, Mary Gaidos, Elizabeth Jelenfy, Mr. Jelenfy, Rosa Nimerfroh, Mr. Nimerfroh, and Julia Reha perform "How Beautiful is Hungary," recorded in Oakland, California in 1939.

California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell

This online presentation, California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties, comprises 35 hours of folk music recorded in 12 languages representing numerous ethnic groups and 185 musicians. It includes sound recordings, still photographs of the performers, drawings of folk instruments, and written documentation from a variety of European ethnic and English- and Spanish-speaking communities in northern California in the 1930s.

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Podcasts and Blog Posts

Public Programming

Harmonia presents traditional folk music of Eastern Europe, ranging from the Danube to the Carpathians. Its repertoire reflects the cultures of this region: Hungarian, Slovak, Ukrainian, Romanian, Croatian and Gypsy. Performed on authentic folk instruments, and styled after turn-of-the-century eastern-European Gypsy bands, their music is drawn from both the urban and rural traditions of eastern Europe. The musicians come from varied eastern-European backgrounds; in Harmonia they have found a common musical language. In addition to being polished performers on instruments as varied as accordion, upright bass, violin, pan-flute, and cimbalom (hammered dulcimer), Harmonia's members are adept at explaining their music and culture to diverse audiences. Harmonia brings to the concert stage the vitality and excitement of ethnic weddings, celebrations, and smoky cafes that inspired composers such as Bartok, Brahms and Liszt. (Event date: July 11, 2013)