On Sunday, April 3, Dwayne Tomah gave a presentation featuring a group of wax cylinder recordings from the 1890s. Made in Calais by anthropologist Jesse Walter Fewkes, the recordings were created with an Edison cylinder machine. These 31 recordings were the first ethnographic field recordings ever made, worldwide. They contain songs, stories, ceremonies of various kinds and funeral songs performed by Passamaquoddy musicians and storytellers. The cylinders were originally in the Peabody Museum in Massachusetts, and are currently stored at the Library of Congress.

Dwyane Tomah captivated a packed house on April 3 at Eastport Arts Center. Photos by L. Elwood.

In addition to sharing these fascinating recordings, the program included discussion and interpretation, and a question-and-answer period with attendees. Known as the Passamaquoddy ‘cultural language keeper,’ Tomah has spent considerable time in the ongoing project of transcribing the cylinder recordings.

A video recording of the talk is viewable below. Read more about the Sunday Afternoons at the Arts Center series here. Please note: voluntary donations sustain these programs; no one is turned away for lack of funds. Proceeds are shared equally between the presenters and EAC constituent group The Concert Series, which offers year-round programming run by volunteers. To make a donation towards our efforts, please visit https://eastportartscenter.org/support-eac/donate/.