Arhoolie Goes to the Smithsonian

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Aidin Vaziri | Chris Strachwitz, the founder and driving force behind the long-running Bay Area independent label Arhoolie Records, spent more than five decades documenting the work of American folk, gospel and blues musicians operating on the fringe.

This week, he announced that the imprint has been acquired by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the national museum.

More than 350 Arhoolie albums will become part of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection, with the extensive catalog — including seminal records by artists like Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins and zydeco king Clifton Chenier — getting a new life in a variety of formats.

“Since I’m not King Tut, I can’t take my Arhoolie baby with me,” Strachwitz, 84, said in a statement. “It was Moe Asch, founder of Folkways Records, who told me in so many words, ‘Chris, you’ve got to think about what you are going to do with all your stuff when you kick the bucket.’”

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