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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Music 133: Introduction to World Music

This guide can help you begin research into world music. Especially helpful for students in Music 133.

Steps for Searching the Catalog for World Music Recordings

One way to find recordings of music from a specific country would be to limit your search to music recordings and do a keyword search for the name of the country. However, this isn't as exact and will find you things like "Mozart in Egypt" or things recorded at the Sydney Opera Hall in Australia. A better way to do the search would be to make use of the country codes that we put in the information about most world music recordings in the catalog. Here's how to do it:

Step 1:  Ask for the Outline of World Cultures at the Reference Desk. The call number is GN345.3 M871983. There is also an online guide to the Human Relations Area Files, but the codes from the book match our catalog.

Step 2: Using the index, find the alphanumeric code for the continent, geographic region, nation, or ethnic group in which you're interested.
Example: You wish to listen to recordings from Mongolia. You check the index and discover the code is AH1.

Step 3: Search the online catalog. Do search by "Subject" for HRAF AH1
Don't forget to put HRAF in front of the code and leave a space between the HRAF and the code! This should return a list of compact discs, records, and cassettes of Mongolian music.


If you need a comprehensive list of our holdings, also search the card catalog. Go the beginning of the "H" drawer and search for HRAF AH1.
This will give you older records and cassettes.

If you can't find what you're looking for, try using a more general number. For example, if you're looking for recordings from the Amhara, a region in Ethiopia (HRAF MP5), but get no results, search the general number for Ethiopia (HRAF MP1).

You can also search for this material using traditional subject headings--some examples:

  • Instrumental music --Morocco
  • Music --Egypt
  • Popular music --Arab countries

If you need assistance, please ask!

Subject Headings

Subject headings are often a good way to find materials on a given topic but they can be unpredictable.  Here are some that might help get you started when looking for ethnomusicological information:

Folk Music

World Music


Those can then be followed by specific country names and/or word and phrases like:

-- History and criticism

-- Discographies

-- Dictionaries

-- Encyclopedias

Example: World Music -- Latin America -- History and Criticism



Recommended Recordings

Never Heard One of Those Before!

If you are interested in hearing what a particular instrument sounds like, you can try the audio clips available through the University of Washington's Ethnomusicology Musical Instrument Collection site.

Streaming Audio and Video

The best streaming audio database for world music available to patrons at UIUC libraries is Smithsonian Global Sound.

Some suitable recordings might also be found in DRAM, particularly if the focus is on traditional American musics like folk, Native American or jazz.

Ethnographic Video Online has good examples of music and dance from around the world.

In addition to these streaming resources, there are also websites that have video available.