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Free Peoples Concert Book and Exhibition Project

Lizabe Lambrechts

 

This project will explore the Free Peoples Concerts, an annual multi-racial festival that took place in South Africa from 1970-1991. The Free Peoples Concerts were conceptualised within the counter-culture and hippie movements of the 1970s. These events constituted multi-racial platforms where a variety of alternative South African musics could be heard, irrespective of race, during a time when such interaction was highly restricted by the apartheid government. The festivals were organised in conjunction with the South African Folk Music Association, the Student Representative Council of the University of the Witwatersrand and Aquarius, the cultural wing of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). Although the concerts were on occasion prevented from happening by the apartheid government, audiences continued to grow and musicians eventually included artists from Malawi, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

 

 

Through oral history interviews and archival research in the Hidden Years music archive, as well as the collection of personal archives of the musicians and students involved in organising, attending and performing at these events, this project will construct a history of music and musicians within the counter-culture and alternative music communities of South Africa. It will also investigate student politics in the 1970s and ‘80s in South Africa, developing a comparative framework for thinking about contemporary student movements and the role of music. Most of the musicians involved in these events were not recorded by mainstream record companies, nor did they receive radio air time due to the political content of their music. Re-inscribing them into South African music history is therefore an important imperative of this project.

This transdisciplinary project falls within the bigger purview of cultural memory studies, in itself a transdisciplinary field,[1] and aims to enable and encourage other projects within the social sciences and humanities to explore historical peripheral movements of artistic activism in Southern Africa.

 

Principle Investigator: Lizabé Lambrechts

Funder: Volkswagen Foundation

Project Period: 2018

 

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