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From the archive of the Klaus Kuhnke Institute for Popular Music

From the archive of the Klaus Kuhnke Institute for Popular Music: Findings of the Month

July: Black Europe. The Sounds and Images of Black People in Europe pre-1927

Lukas Klose Kopie.jpg

Black Europe. The Sounds and Images of Black People in Europe pre-1927, Compilation Box, Deluxe Edition including 2 hardcover books and 45 CDs, edited by Jeffrey Green, Rainer E. Lotz & Howard Rye, assisted by a number of diverse authors; limited edition: Nr. 251 of 500, Holste: Bear Family Records 2013.

Among the collection of the Klaus-Kuhnke-Institut the CD box “Black Europe“ stands out by the scope and the depth of the contents.

Together with a team of collaborators, Rainer E. Lotz, a renowned collector and researcher in the musical field, has published a Deluxe Box including two books with 600 pages overall, 1244 tracks on 45 CDs (containing some 57 hours of music) as well as 2000 color illustrations (photographies, posters and movie stills). Based in Holste-Oldendorf, the record label Bear Family Records has published the results of their extensive efforts in an extremely ambitious box in a limited edition of just 500 units.

Coming with a weight of seven kilos and a price tag of around 2000 Euros, the intended audience for the collection are major libraries, archives and museums. As all of the text in the books are in English, “Black Europe” had international, professional audiences in mind from the outset.

Apart from the immense amount of materials assembled here, the curated box also stands out by limiting the historical scope on the years before 1927. For those wondering how this came about: 1927 is seen as a juncture in the development of microphones used in recordings. That year new microphones were introduced that turned sound waves into electrical signals with a higher audio quality. These were then quickly used by most studios.

The pioneering project focussed on Black people whose role and impact on the development of modern mass media has been long overlooked especially in Europe. Yet they had been involved with the record and film industries from their very inception and their contributions were marketed on phonograph cylinders, phonograph records and early movies (as well as print media that started to emerge in those years). Presenting over a hundred biographies, “Black Europe” documents the contributions Black people made to the beginnings of entertainment in Europe and the racist prejudices they encountered along their way.

Further information on the box is available here: 

Photo: Lukas Klose