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.

Hidden Archives Vinyl Listening Session Vol. 1

3 April 2019 | Gallery University Stellenbosch

ifPOP is excited to introduce the Vinyl Listening Sessions, a new series of events presented in collaboration with Hidden Years. The Vinyl Listening Sessions were created to open up the Hidden Years Music Archive’s extensive collection of more than 6 000 records to a broader listenership. For each session, we invite two DJs to select from the archive, and talk about their connections to vinyl and encounters with the Hidden Years archive.

Where the Jazz Conversations focussed on the musician and the process of music creation, the Vinyl Listening Sessions asks what happens to these creations – records – once they are released. We’re interested in the circulation of music and the perspectives of audiences. The epitome of the consummate listener is the record collector and DJ. DJs are often experts of the hidden corners of music’s recorded history, but they also shape new pathways of encountering music.

Our first guests were Atiyyah Khan (aka El Corazon, who is also a well-known music journalist) and Rob Machiri (known for his explorations of Namibian and Zimbabwean music in the project Pungwe Nights with Memory Biwa). We had a conversation about the comeback vinyl records have made in recent years, the process of finding and collecting vinyl, connecting with history through records, and vinyl’s significance in the current digital age.

And, of course, we listened to the grooves.

Thank you to GUS and F.U.N.G.U.S. who helped to host the event.

Hidden Archives Vinyl Listening Session Vol. 1 (film by Rob Ruhrmund)

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