The Interdisciplinary Forum for Popular Music – ifPOP– is the working title of a project that explores music in popular cultures in Southern Africa. It is a platform where academic and public domains meet; it’s a provocation for conversation and artistic response.

The ‘if’ of ifPOP puts a question mark next to the notion of the “popular”: not all the music the project takes in its purview may be populist, commercialised, or mainstream. Yet “pop” captures the ethos of a vernacular – that which develops independent of institutions and formal training – and provides a starting point to unravel the histories and debates for which “popular” serves as a placeholder.

ifPOP’s intellectual project is to develop critical frameworks from an African context to trace the creative strategies and social dynamics of popular musics in South Africa. Through a series of public talks, symposia, performances, and conversations, it interrogates the ways that the notion of the popular finds expression and is challenged in Africa.


Why a Forum? 

A forum is a platform for debate and exchange, and captures the public dimension of the project.

ifPOP embraces a spirit of collaboration, notably between

  • different disciplines
  • academic and the public domains, bringing together scholars, performers, artists, collectors, recording studios, producers, and music journalists.
  • popular music and the archive. While the idea of popular music is often connected with current music (current hits, the latest releases), it also has a historical aspect. DOMUS houses one of the most extensive archives of popular music, the Hidden Years Music Archive, as well as important collections such as the Kaganof, Anton Goosen, Nico Carstens collections. IfPop not only engages with these archives, but also creates and contributes an archive of contemporary South African practices.

Record | Memory | Archive

Public talks and free concert


5-7 September 2017 | Gallery University Stellenbosch


To celebrate the donation of the archive and the progress made with the digitization of the material, HYMAP in collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Forum for Popular Music (IfPop) at Africa Open (Stellenbosch University) presented a series of public talks and concerts. Titled Record | Memory | Archive, it addressed themes of music and memory, sound archives and cultural heritage, as well as living and performing the archive. Public talks were given by Angela Impey (Head of Music at the School for Oriental and African Studies, University of London), Janet Topp Fargion, (Lead Curator of World and Traditional Musics at the British Library), and David Marks (collector of the HYMAP archive). The events will closed with a free concert, featuring an impressive line-up of musicians who all have a footprint in the HYMAP archive: Pops Mohamed, Luna Paige and Schalk Joubert, Roger Lucey, Fintry (Jonny, Julie and Caroline Blundell with Raelle Goodman), and (Simba) Morri Natti.


The Hidden Years Music Archive Project (HYMAP), one of South Africa’s most extensive popular music archives, was donated to Stellenbosch University in 2013 and recently opened up for researchers. The Archive was collected and recorded by David Marks. David is the Director of the 3rd Ear Music and Sound Company, an independent record label created in 1967 to promote, record and produce music that was not considered commercially viable, or seen as too political by the major record companies and the state controlled broadcasting corporation at the time. The archive includes an extensive collection of sound recordings, documents and photographs, representing diverse musical styles in South Africa from 1959 – 2000.

Record | Memory | Archive concert, filmed by Rob Ruhrmund

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