Sarkisian, 84, amassed the collection during nearly 50 years of traveling and broadcasting to Africa, where he interviewed musicians and compiled a unique collection that reflects the continent's broad heritage of traditional and popular music. The collection includes recordings presented to him both by African radio stations and ordinary Africans for broadcast on his long-running VOA radio show, Music Time in Africa. Thanks in part to such contributions, his personal collection grew to include more than 10,000 reel-to-reel tapes, plus records, cassettes, and CDs.
The collection also includes several hundred tapes of original Music Time in Africa broadcasts along with scripts, reference books on African history, culture, music and literature, African music periodicals, journals of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and publications of the International Consortium of African Music.
"For decades, Leo's broadcasts on VOA have established him as an ambassador of goodwill to the people of Africa," said VOA Director David S. Jackson. "His collection is an international treasure for anyone studying African music and culture, and we're proud to make it available to scholars and researchers."
Sarkisian first visited Africa as a music director for a Hollywood recording company in 1958. Five years later, at the invitation of Edward R. Murrow, then director of the U.S. Information Agency, Sarkisian joined the Voice of America. He has been on the air ever since.
The Leo Sarkisian Library of African Music will not only conserve archival materials for research and scholarship, but also establish a website to serve the needs of VOA programmers, academic scholars, and researchers. The library is located at VOA headquarters in the Cohen Building, 330 Independence Ave., SW, Room G108.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages, including English.
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