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Excavated Shellac: An Alternate History of the World’s Music (1907-1967)

It begins with a South African choir from 1930 and a song about police brutality; it ends in Cuba with dreamy innuendo.

This collection highlights music that is often invisible in today’s world — the incredible world of global recordings that aren’t jazz, blues, country, rock ‘n roll, R&B, or “classical.”

Excavated Shellac: An Alternate History of the World’s Music includes 100 recordings and 100 stories in an extensive, illustrated PDF with detailed, contextual mini-histories about both musical origins and the beginnings of the recording industry, touching on the complexities of colonialism, economic agendas, and cultural tourism.

With almost all of the tracks never before reissued, this collection expands upon and acts as a companion to Jonathan Ward’s Excavated Shellac website, a unique repository of music, history, and data on 78 rpm recordings from around the world, rarely heard and seldom seen.

Featuring music and musical styles from six continents and 89 different countries and regions, recorded between 1907-1967.

100 digital audio files (your choice of MP3, FLAC, or WAV) + a 186-page PDF with essays and annotations by Jonathan Ward.

Jonathan Ward who also produced Opika Pende: Africa at 78 RPM, Excavated Shellac: Reeds, and Excavated Shellac: Strings is setting a new bar for listening, enjoying, and understanding vintage recordings made around the world.

Hear Jonathan Ward discuss Excavated Shellac on NPR's All Things Considered

It should also be noted that this is a fully-executed Dust-to-Digital release, all 100 tracks were newly-digitized and expertly-restored by Michael Graves at Osiris Studio in addition, the 186-page PDF was beautifully-designed by Barbara Bersche. 


“For listeners who love to travel via music, 'An Alternate History' is the perfect project for our current confinement: here, it says, is humanity at its most creative and playful.” 

— Garth Cartwright, The Guardian

“Jonathan Ward and his ‘Excavated Shellac’ project, in collaboration with Dust-to-Digital, have produced a collection that transports us to every continent during the formative years of the world’s history of recorded music… Extraordinarily detailed research plus exquisite photos and reproductions make each track an adventure. Like all Dust-to-Digital releases, it is impeccably mastered and produced.”

— Joe Boyd, record producer and author

Click here for tracklist