Margit Cronmueller Smith Collection

The Margit Cronmueller Smith Collection is composed of manuscripts, audio recordings, an instrument, and other materials surrounding Smith’s late twentieth-century research into the musical traditions of West Africa, in particular, the Mande kora of the Ivory Coast and Senegal


Margit Cronmueller Smith was trained in classical piano and cello at the Mozarteum School of Music and Dramatic Arts in Salzburg, Austria, and received a Master of Arts in Music from the American University in Washington, D.C. From 1980 through 2002, Smith traveled between Germany, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, and elsewhere in Europe and West Africa to study and perform music in the tradition of the Mande kora. Her collaborations were vast, and she fastidiously recorded the thoughts and sounds that made up her musical performances and research. Smith died in her home country of Germany in 2004 from breast cancer, though not before transferring her writings, recordings, and in-progress research to a friend, Ms. Brigitta Mitchell.

Smith’s writings and research were compiled by Dr. Hadley Smith and arranged for completion into a 2012 manuscript entitled, The Mande Kora: A West African System of Thought: Collected writings, essays, and interviews from 35 years of ethnic music research. This manuscript is made available for all to use under a Creative Commons license by the University of Maine at Augusta.

Dr. Hadley Smith also digitized Ms. Smith’s cassette recordings, which are arranged, described, and made available here for all to use under a Creative Commons license by the University of Maine at Augusta.

UMA is indebted to Dr. Hadley Smith, former Associate Professor at UMA, long time Economist with the US Agency for International Development in Africa and, during her studies and work in Africa, Margit’s husband. Hadley honors Margit by presenting her research here to benefit world music researchers worldwide. Margit’s Kora manuscript of 207 pages consists largely of ten years of her extensive professional interviews with many of West Africa’s leading Mande kora performers. Her work and incredible talents are here today because of her many friends and Hadley Smith who orchestrated all of it.

Quote from Margit: "I must admit, that during my apprenticeship, I was frequently discouraged, impatient, rough, hot tempered and lost. I actually damned the 'shortcomings' of the kora. Now I am wiser and acquired some of the sanun suman jeli qualities….and think that these “shortcomings” are assets of the instrument, because they keep away superficial musicians who look for instant success and are unwilling or incapable of honor (lanbe) and follow the traditional Manding way, or lit., siliaba, the big, meaning the correct and straight (no detours) way."


Margit Cronmueller Smith’s audio recordings have been presented here according to several levels of arrangement and description assessed by Brigitta Mitchell, Dr. Hadley Smith, Dr. Tom Abbott, and the University of Maine at Augusta Libraries staff.

Recordings were originally digitized from audio cassette in .WAV format by Brigitta Mitchell and Roy Brenc. Digital recordings were converted to .mp3 format and, subsequently, .mp4 format for playability on UMA web platforms. Original cassette tapes and .WAV files are not available at UMA.

All recordings have been organized into five subject categories according to their contents. Items are named according to cassette label (alphanumeral, given at time of digitization), cassette side (a or b), and information associated with each cassette, as well as correspondingly described with all information about each recording that was been preserved in text.

I. Margit's Mande Music
II. Other Mande Music
III. Other African Music (not Mande)
IV. Mande Quartet Soundtrack
V. Unknown