The Hidden Years Music Archive project, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and the Africa Open Institute (AOI), involves the collection, preservation and dissemination of music created and performed in South Africa between the 1960s and the early 2000s. The project, established by David Marks in 1990 to safeguard his present and future music collection, moved to SU in 2013 with the donation of Marks' music archive. Since then, it has grown into a dynamic academic project with a cohort of interdisciplinary postgraduate students working towards unlocking the multiple histories housed in the collection.
The archive, one of the biggest collections of popular music in South Africa, consists mainly of recordings of live music performances never heard within the mainstream record and broadcasting industries due to the political or so-called “non-commercial" nature of the material. These performances were recorded, photographed and preserved by Marks during his time working as a musician, sound engineer and director of the 3rd Ear Music Company.
Today, the collection constitutes more than 10 tonnes of material representing diverse musical styles ranging from urban folk and township jazz to country rock, maskanda and traditional music. As such, the archive offers unique glimpses into the counterculture and alternative music movements of southern Africa.
The project has three interlocking focus areas, namely the sustainable preservation and management of the archive, an oral history project and the dissemination of the archive through research, publications and curatorial projects.
By means of these focus areas, the project aims to expand its interdisciplinary network of students, scholars, musicians, artists, curators and archival professionals who are interested in exploring the potential of music archives not only as a research resource, but also as sites open to creative projects, interventions and reinterpretation.
The project offers master's and doctoral scholarships and an annual internship programme caters for individuals interested in the various facets of archival work.
*The article appears in the latest edition of the Stellenbosch University Research Publication. Click here to read more.
Photograph: Stock image – Unsplash