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History's song muted
June 15, 2008 Edition 1
'It's taken an academic bureaucracy three years to do what the former apartheid security establishment failed to achieve in 40 years - put us out of business," complains David Marks, renowned composer, sound engineer and driving force behind the 3rd Ear Hidden Years Music Archive.
Archive of one man's passion for SA music
June 15, 2008 Edition 1
The house that Master Jack built - can it be saved?
SAfricans, by and large are - in a cute colloquial sort of way - a sorry lot... or so we keep saying. Sorry - if we need to get somebody's attention; sorry if somebody else drops something or hurts themselves; sorry when we mean 'beg your pardon' or when we don't hear too well. Sorry is up there with "just now" and "ag shame".
Well, here I am saying sorry - for bringing this Hidden Years Music Archive issue up again, all over our collective Takkies (Sneakers, to our foreign friends). Please bare with me. Take off your Takkies and relax. I'm trying every trick in the book - not-so-serious, sorry and otherwise - to save 3rd Ear's Hidden Years Music Archive.
So why am I sorry again? Life says Bill Gates can be cruel. Get over it he advises. Well, he can afford to say so... and besides, he's wrong. Life is wonderful; it's people who can be cruel. Not all of them, but a fair amount. And they seldom say sorry.
Jumping Into The Mainstream Music Media?
I'm trying to find creative ways of keeping 3rd Ear alive - as we did do, on our own, for over 3 decades, pre-1994 - I decided to throw myself back into the mainstream media again. Help! Save me - we need another benefit concert or two, or some form of media campaign? But this time it's for living, not decomposing music and musicians.
We have had a few good responses to the Sunday Tribune article by Fred Kockott (History's Song Muted - 15th June 2008 see it @ History's song muted >>) . But as for the rest of the SAfrican media, the Hidden Years Story has been avoided like the plague that some say it is.... I mean what's a missing mere R4 Million in the arts, when there's so much else going down SAfrica's holey pockets these days?
And besides, I wouldn't want anybody to say sorry when all is said and done.... know wha' I mean... nudge, nudge? We either have to get some form of financial aid, urgently - be it further entitlement funding (which is all the rage in South Africa) - or some form of bridging finance, through a really adventurous speculative Intellectual Property prospector, dealer or developer. And for that I'm not sorry.
I'm not sorry that we just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time - with our fingers on the record button - but I am sorry to say that if we don't get some form of assistance, rather urgently, then we will have to unpack and be on our way.
There's no doubt that this HYMAProject will get further funding, but it is taking an awful long time... and I do understand, that until we get some form of closure, a (forensic?) audit into what happened with our NRF grant - those missing millions? - and a report and budget from the UkZN and DISA, we aren't going anywhere.
And so saying, I am really so sorry, but here, below, is a re-edited copy of my response to the UkZN's response on why they believe the HYMAProject failed - without even saying sorry? (There must be a hidden agenda here.)
No, seriously, the good news for potential investors and bridging financiers is that we still have the Hidden Years Music Archive collection, and 3rd Ear Music Publishing; and I will keep on saving and digitising what I can, when I can, and where I can - that is, by trying to find a few more spare Gigabytes on one of the 15 packed 160 / 300 Gig Hard-Drives - a sort of Rubic's Cube manuvour - and that the many good songs 3rd Ear Music owns will, one way or another, be heard and whistled in this world one day. If only the right (?) people listened?
Whatever - we still have no explanation, budget or a report from the UkZN, DISA or the NRF on why and how this HYMAProject failed. Oh, well, what's another few Mill here or there, between comrades? Shame. Somebody's not sorry! (*PPPP = Previously Privileged Pale People)
David Marks' responds to the UkZN re: Sunday Tribune - History's Song Muted (15th June 2008):
To imply that "my full and complete co-operation" was not forthcoming, is with respect to Chris Schembri, not the truth at all. He has been a gentleman throughout, trying to resolve this matter, and he obviously has to cover for or defend the UkZN. I suppose it's easy for me, given the distance of hindsight, to see now, but not how, Mr. Schembri and the NRF were being misled.
The fact that 3rd Ear Music's so-called 'collaboration' with the UkZN ended with a settlement (that we could not afford to refuse) in March 2008, does not absolve us from finding out what happened and why we basically wasted 4 years and 4 million? Where did it all go?
Time has no manners - so without an audit and enquiry, we are going to struggle to raise funds (and / or investors) for this HY archive. And besides, the academics and researchers who endorsed this NRF grant and budget, way back in November 2004, are not happy that nothing but 5 pilot programmes have been completed in 3 years; and these pilots were digitised with my own and borrowed equipment, at great expense. None of the budgeted NRF equipment or staff were used.
The impression that the UkZN attorney creates, is that the NRF grant belonged to the University of UkZN, to do with as they please? Please note - the UkZN did not approach the NRF for funds, the NRF approached me, personally, after hearing Richard Haslop play some Hidden Years stuff, and talking to me on his now defunct Roots to Fruits Radio Show, on SAfm, one Sunday afternoon in June 2004.
The NRF then offered 3rd Ear Music the funds to catalogue, save and digitise this 40 year music collection - and nobody else. Part of the conditions of grant were for me to find a reputable research partner; and being in Durban, the UkZN were the natural - but not my only and first - choice. (You may recall that we were about to move to Nebo in July 2004, where our dear departed friend Dr Theo Coetzee had offered to help fund the HYMAProject - and in 1996 I discussed the possibility, with another friend, Dr Andrew Tracey, director of the ILAM, about taking the HYMAProject to Rhodes. So the UkZN was not our only option. There were others as well.)
The cataloguing and saving could have been easily done with the promised funds, equipment, staff and a little pro-active management. But this needed the "full and complete co-operation" of the UkZN and Digital Innovation SA (DISA) who were supposed to have managed and administered our HYMAProject (and the NRF funds). DISA in turn, was managed (?) by Dr Dale Peters. (Who has since resigned and now works in a archive in Germany). They were paid a staggering R1.6 Million for this service. For what? For students to carry boxes as Chris Schembri seems to think?
At least if the students did move or pick up a box or two, something would have got done; I certainly wouldn't have had such a chronic backache to go with the headache. Instead, what those poor students did, after 3 weeks of training (up at the UkZN), and for about a month (or less) at my 3rd Ear archive in 2006 (when they did, if ever come to work), was to busy themselves, on Dr Peters' instructions, to catalogue my 78 RPM discs.
At the time I was a little surprised, but I thought that this is how it's done in academia. I was very happy that my precious (and apparently valuable 78 Shellac discs) were being catalogued; but I had to ask - what did Doris Day, Elvis and Bing Crosby 78's have to do with the NRF awarding us R4 Million? These American stars had nothing to do with SAfrican music in the apartheid years, or with my 40 year ageing SAfrican music archive tapes, photos, posters and programs.
And speaking of "extensive efforts required" - which Chris Schembri rightly said was needed to make the HYMAProject work - as soon as the NRF grants were paid out to these students (about 3 weeks into them having been "deployed" in the archive) all but 2 of the 16 were never seen of again.
Finally - I could feel the wheels of this HYMAProject rumbling and coming off, in early 2005. But, I still trusted those whose job it was to administer the funds and manage the project (for R1.6 Million?); quote 'think of the cookie jar' Marks, I was jokingly told at a meeting, when all we had to eat at home were crumbs.
Hang in there with us and you will eventually get paid I was assured. I panicked a bit, but then went back into overdrive and overdraught, after 18 months of nothing, and undertook to digitise and save what tapes I could with my own, borrowed and bought digital equipment - in the hopes that we could fulfil the NRF's grant award mandate, and that somebody up there - intellectuals and academics with a heart? - would see reason and come to our rescue.
Beating the bell or saved by the cavalry? Time and debts rolled on, and still we did not get the promised cooperation or equipment and staff. And Dr Dale Peters went ahead - apparently with the approval of our HYMAP committee (from which I had resigned in protest) - to start another archive project: The South African Music Archive Project (SAMAP) - with our NRF grant? Is that legal?
And incidentally, I only decided to bring in an attorney in late 2005, when for more than 18 months I tried, in vain, to meet with or talk to the UkZN legal department. This endevour is well minuted - as is most of my sorrowful whining and moaning. Chris Schembri did try and come to the rescue, but only attended his first HYMAP meeting in February of 2006. The chairman of the committee attended his first meeting a year after my application to the NRF. And only 2 of the HYMAP committee members had ever visited or seen 3rd Ear's Hidden Years Archive.
At no time, in the 2 years that I was on the HYMAP committee, were any of the meetings attend by all the members. In fact some of them never attended a meeting at all, and seldom, if ever, did we have a quorum. And this is how a R4 Million investment in Intellectual Property is developed and looked after?
Surely the NRF and the UkZN would want an enquiry and a forensic audit? Or are they simply going to write-off a few more million again without saying sorry?
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