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Tuesday, October 1 • 1:30pm - 2:00pm
Ghosts of the popular: Theoretical and historiographic perspectives from the Hidden Years Music Archive

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The Hidden Years Music Archive, one of the biggest popular music archives in South Africa, holds alternative popular music from the mid-1960s to the early-2000s; music of musicians from southern Africa who were, for political and commercial reasons, not recorded by mainstream record companies and did not receive radio airtime on the state-controlled and censored South African Broadcasting Corporation. Nevertheless, these musicians managed to attract large followings at concerts, clubs and festivals. Constituted outside contemporary official or national music projects, the archive does not represent a canon of the most prominent musicians of the time, but weaves together the lived experiences of more peripheral popular music artists during the height and demise of apartheid. These musicians, from different racial, class and ethno-cultural backgrounds, regularly performed together in shared public spaces that defied the apartheid laws of the time. The collection of more than 10 tons of material, including many hours of live recordings, photographs, posters, and other ephemera, documents diverse musical styles ranging from urban folk to township jazz, country rock to maskanda and traditional music. This diversity imposes a perspective of multiple agents from diverging social backgrounds drawn into shared popular cultural practices at a critical historical juncture despite opposing socio-political forces. Narratives on mainstream (and similarly censored) popular South African music releases of the time are silent about this history. The Hidden Years Music Archive haunts the memory of South African popular music historiography. This article seeks to explore the ways in which this unorthodox archive challenges our understanding of popular culture under apartheid.

avatar for Schalk Van der Merwe

Schalk Van der Merwe

Postdoctoral Fellow, Stellenbosch University
Dr Schalk van der Merwe is an author, lecturer and professional musician that divides his timebetween the classroom, the stage and the studio. He lectured in history at Stellenbosch Universityfrom 2005 to 2017, and as social historian has specialised in popular music. His embeddedexperience... Read More →

Tuesday October 1, 2019 1:30pm - 2:00pm BST
BenGLab 2