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The HIDDEN YEARS MUSIC RADIO ‘N ROAD SHOW PROGRAMME idea:
This proposal sets out to motivate for the creation, compilation and recording of a
Aims of this proposed interactive HY Radio ‘n Road show, is to:
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The Hidden Years Music Archives represents a valuable resource of indigenous knowledge comprising ‘alternative’ South African words & music events, live performance & studio productions; a music mix of commercial & cultural, traditional, contemporary & community recordings in words & music, photos, programmes & posters; from coffee bars & concerts to shebeens, festivals& mine hostels; from City Folk & Township Jazz to Country Rock and Maskandi minstrels.
Independent music archives currently lack the infrastructure to preserve their collective hidden history. An immediate concern is the deterioration of analogue tapes, records, and other obsolete media on which much of this material is stored (the bulk of the HY music material is located at SAMRO House in Johannesburg).
Another pressing concern is the fading memories and sheer mortality of all those
involved in an important era of the creative life of South Africa. There is an
urgent need to catalogue, digitise and restore those hidden years, as a
resource for future research. The digital conversion of the Hidden Years
Music Archive will provide a valuable research resource for
postgraduate study and will undoubtedly find wider popular interest.
In the meantime, a HY Radio ‘n Road Show could feature the music material that has already been digitised. The digitisation of the HYMAProject is envisaged as an initial two year process, to sort and catalogue the available material, to prioritise the digitisation of areas of the collection, to run 3-5 digitisation pilots to test technical options, and to update the website to make the catalogue available to the national and international research community.
2. Background to the HYMAP project
Nowhere has the history of popular music existed in quite so bizarre a climate as that of SA during its internal exile & its international Isolation – its Hidden Years. Much of South Africa’s music heritage, like that of our political past, is hard to access. Just as people & books were banned & censored – no reasons given -so too were some musicians & their music. The indigenous knowledge captured in this HYMAProject represents elements of the social and political climate of the recent past that were either suppressed or difficult to access. Most of the music material collected & recorded is not political in nature… social commentary is a more apt description… and despite these often well attended events, they were ignored / avoided by the mainstream record industry and the SABC.
Initially the HYMAProject could focus on the music material record and collected by 3rd Ear Music; a company officially formed by the Chairperson of the (then) South African Folk Music Association (SAFMA – 1964 to 1974) Ben Segal & music publisher Audrey Smith in 1969. The aim of this company was to protect, promote & produce South African live music performances that could not be heard within the mainstream record & broadcast industries.
In 1971 David Marks was appointed Director of 3rd Ear Music, and developed the company, in the face of increasing resistance from mainstream record companies and the state broadcaster. Much of the material recorded was considered politically sensitive or subversive… even if it was neither.
In 1990, David Marks formed the Hidden Years Music Archive Project, with the view to making this suppressed material accessible. This has resulted in a collection that is an eclectic music mix of commercial & cultural, traditional, contemporary & community recordings in words & music, photos, programmes& posters – recorded in coffee bars & concert, shebeens & festivals; from City Folk & Township Jazz to Country Rock & Maskandi Minstrels, & even a few mine hostel performances and union meetings -many of those meetings were recorded by David for the UkZN Culture and Working Life Project and are housed at The Killie Campbell Museum in Durban.
It is time to consider presenting South Africa’s Hidden Music History (and the Hidden Years) to a wider mainstream audience -national and international – and the best way of doing so, would be through a series of proposed HY Radio ‘n Road Shows & Programs.
Suggestion -HY Radio ‘n Road Show could be presented along similar lines to how NPR (America) & BBC (UK) produce music programmes. Musicians & academics in Norway, Denmark & Germany assure us that a series of radio programmes could be syndicated in Europe & Africa. There is also a wealth of South Africa’s hidden music history waiting to be unearthed in Australia, India, France, Portugal, Belgium, Germany & the UK.
3. Why a Hidden Hisotry Radio Programme? David Marks comments
MEMORY IS A WEAPON, wrote poet Don Mattera…. FORGIVING IS HEALING said Nelson Mandela; FORGETTING IS BETRAYAL added MK author Prtiz Dullay.
The problem with the New South Africa quipped Evita, is that it’s still full of Old South Africans…. the future of South Africa is assured, it is the past that remains unpredictable.
SAfrican author Rian Malan (a musician himself) suggested that the world would only listen & learn from our bizarre (amazing, colourful) hidden music history if we told the stories first. 3rd Ear’s unique (if precarious position) through the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s – being in the right place at the wrong time?– allowed the alternative *festivals, clubs, concerts & our networking to develop outside of the mainstream; & only recently has some of this hidden history started to flow into it. TV (in 1977) & the live events alone could not replace the one important missing ingredient: Radio! And State Controlled Radio would not listen! Although the relationship between Radio & musician at grass-roots & street level has improved somewhat, since 1994 (Radio Sonder Grense, Radio Lotus) Radio remains by-andlarge segregated into narrow ethnic target market interest groups. With no collective history to build on, no roots to grow from no traditions to follow, South Africans are missing out on a broad-based cultural mix. Radio could help bring people together on many subtle levels and develop a proud pro-SAfrican music audience & music industry.
In a 350 year history, South Africa has had no more than a dozen music history books written– 7 of them authored by (so-called) foreigners. This is bizarre! A HY Radio ‘n Road Show would hopefully encourage people to tell, and write their stories down. Without which, we will forever be held hostage to the dictates of the commercial record industry, who have made it quite clear that they are only profit driven. The SABC on the other hand is supposed to be a ‘national public’ broadcaster, and yet– despite our collective, colourful (if bizarre) past, there is not one minute’s airtime on over 15 radio stations that focus on our music heritage & history; outside of what the commercial record industry supplies. We do have Richard Haslop’s Roots to Fruits (buried in the early hours of SAfm) and Richard Nwamba’s African Connection (lost to sports on Saturdays) that partially represents our Southern African and African heritage & roots. Not just bizarre, but 9 years after being liberated, totally unacceptable -in terms of music transformation, reconciliation and development..
In the 70’s it was rumoured that Video killed The Radio Star, now in the 90’s the internet is in the process of murdering the video star and celebrities will eventually kill everything… and still, Radio remains the most culturally influential (& cost-effective) means of communication on the African content & increasingly, with the proliferation of independent stations (& downloaded MP3s), all around the Global Village. But still very little of SAfrica’s immense influence on the world of live & recorded music is known.
This Radio program idea has been proposed several times & is usually well-received. From the early 90’s think-tank talk-shops with Radio South Africa (SAfm), Port Natal & uKhozi to the old Capital Radio 604 – everybody agreed that a Hidden History music program is not only a wonderful idea, but essential. At a recent informal meeting with SAfm’s Station Manager it was (finally?) decided that: This Radio idea is an idea whose time has come.
9 years on & SAfricans still know more about music from New Orleans & Liverpool than we do about Sophiatown & Hillbrow?? The divide between the reality at street-level, grass-roots & the commercial industry grows & there is still no viable infrastructure to support the talent that many commercial exploits uncover. The only way to build & develop on our neglected (or commercially ravaged) intellectual properties is on a foundation.
Respect for the age of experience & roots in modern music are essential to its development and growth. The elders of our (music) tribes should be deployed, if not employed to share their wisdom, experience and knowledge with the young who are being increasingly exploited by material product agencies & advertisers. This commercial exploitation (if sometimes unintentional) of youth verges on the abusive -Pop Idols, Idol Makers, Pop Stars etc; once again driving serious / professional musicians away from the broadcast, record& music industries & out of the country. Recent discussions with industry & academics agree.
Summary / Conclusion
The HYMAProject is an active, living archive– it should not be buried alive in a museum or transcript Archive. Together with the other collections mentioned, many of our recorded masters & the thousands of songs that were avoided or restricted & the stories, would be as academically valuable as they could be commercially viable. As good music (and songs) go, there is no known sell-by date; especially since many were drowned out in the mainstream and never displayed on a shelf in the first place.
CC Khabe Mkhize / Dianne Barnard (SABC Old Fort Road)
Disclaimer -This message may contain information which is private, privileged or confidential and does not necessarily reflect the views of the
Contents of this Letter/Fax/eMail do not constitute a contract & the views expressed herein are not necessarily those of 3rd Ear Musicians & Funders
3rd Ear Music is a member of The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO)
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