Among the amazing documents that have floated my way over the years was a manilla folder full of gorgeous black and white photographs my father took in the Ivory Coast (well..they were developed there and some of them might have been also taken in Senegal, Mali, or Guinea). Among my mother's papers that I received after her death was a carefully cached collection of letters that my parents had written to each other during fall 1963 to spring of 1964, when they were both abroad on Ford and Fulbright grants-- he to numerous countries in West Africa and she to India, Bhutan, and Sikkim.
The letters are very interesting, and cringe worthy in places. One third love letters (with some surprising revelations about their sex life I could have survived never knowing about), one third about money (there was never enough and what there was always came late allowing for some desperate nail biting) and one third talking about the research and the separate lives they were having on their different continents.
As I read through the research parts of my Dad's letters, I learned a lot about these photographs--especially that he had done many field recordings of musicians, griots, and small village brass bands. He had made friends with many African writers at the very start of their careers as authors in 1963, he had met and become friends with Leopold Senghor, President of Senegal, and other writers and poets turned diplomats -- who also gave him music tapes and recordings (especially the radio stations eager to get their music out to the West as well as Africa.). He sent 25 or so tapes back to the states with friend and ethno-musicologist Robert Garfias who returned them to the Ethnomusicology Archives at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
I went looking for the tapes in the archives -- as this was the first I knew that they had been properly given over to someone. I was so excited to find them listed here and here. So I will be sending scans of all the photos (plus more of the notes I discovered in his letters) to the archive there -- delighted that future students will have a chance to see these images and connect them to the music on the tapes. In many ways, the best part of finding all these papers is being able to share the really great parts of their careers with others -- to share those moments in history where they saw something, heard something, or wrote something that still matters.
All the photos can be found here -- or by clicking the link to "West African Musicians" in the left hand side bar. And all photos are ©1963 Emile Snyder -- please email me at the blog to request permission to use these photos.