Brian Moser and Donald Tayler Recordings (2-12-20)

Listening to Brian Moser and Donald TaylerListening to Brian Moser and Donald Tayler

During the conference of the Society for Ethnomusicology celebrated in Bloomington at Indiana University in November 2019, I was introduced to Andrea Zarza, the curator of the World and Traditional Music of the British Library. Our point of connection was her work with the Anglo-Colombian Recording Expedition conducted by Brian Moser and Donald Tayler during the 1960s in Colombia and her interest in making them available for Spanish speaking audiences. In 2018, Andrea Zarza made a radio program featuring the Recording Expedition at NTS, an online radio and media platform based in the Hackney area of London. In the program, she included a selection of 23 audio tracks accompanied by photographs and detailed descriptions of the visit Moser and Tayler did to five distinct regions of Colombia. Her selection included four tracks recorded in the Pirá-Paraná region, Northwest Amazon in Vaupés, Colombia. Currently, Andrea Zarza is working on a new edition of the book The Cocaine Eaters translated into Spanish. If you want to know more, click here and listen to Andrea Zarza’s program.

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Brian Moser and Donald Tayler (1931-2012) met whilst studying at Cambridge University. After their studies, they went separate ways: Brian Moser left for Colombia in 1959 to work as a geologist within a Cambridge expedition to the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy in Boyacá, Colombia, where the flora was uncharted and there were no recorded ascents of peaks. Donald Tayler had gone to New Guinea to work for a British engineering company overseeing the construction of the foundations of a hydro-electric dam. Brian Moser stayed on in Colombia after the expedition, and at the recommendation of Dr. Gerardo Reichel Dolmatoff from the Colombian Institute of Anthropology, he met Richard Evans Schultes, an American ethnobotanist specialised in hallucinogenic plants popularly known for his book Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers (1979), co-authored with Albert Hoffmann. According to Moser, it was Schultes who gave him the idea to go to map the River Piraparaná, and this four-month canoe trip would be the second stage of the Anglo-Colombian Recording Expedition 1960-61. (

Juan Castrillon, AmaSonic curator