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.
What is a forum?
The idea of a forum is significant: in Roman times it was a public space (often a square or a market)
where matters of public concern were discussed. In more recent usage, the internet Forum is a virtual
space where a virtual community share ideas, and tap into each other’s knowledge and experience.
IfPop is conceived as a forum, embracing the public dimension of popular music, but also in
acknowledgment of how knowledge has shifted. It’s not only the preserve of specialists, but also
something that resides within a community and something that is gained through practice and
experience. IfPop strives to bring knowledges that exist within music communities and among music
practitioners into the academic space.
Conversation #5: Nduduzo Makhathini
23 August 2018 | Fismer Hall, Konservatorium (Stellenbosch University)
A performance and talk on jazz as a collective process, spirituality and the legacy of Bheki Mseleku.
How does one relate with the piano as instrument and jazz as genre from an African performer’s perspective? Nduduzo Makhathini explored these questions in a conversation with Stephanie Vos at the third event of the ifPOP Jazz Conversation series. The conversation ventured to the recognition (or lack thereof) of African musical backgrounds when studying music at tertiary institutions, music’s connection with spirituality in his own practice, and the influence and legacy of the late virtuoso pianist Bheki Mseleku.
Makhathini was joined by an impressive line-up consisting of Buddy Wells (saxophone), Shane Cooper (bass) and Jonno Sweetman (drums) for the performance.
The Jazz Conversations series is organized by the Interdisciplinary Forum for Popular Music (ifPOP) at Africa Open Institute, Stellenbosch University. The Conversations are aimed at documenting the practices and approaches of the current generation of jazz musicians. As public events that are free of charge, another aim of the Conversations series is to create more inclusive social spaces in Stellenbosch through music performance.
For this event, ifPOP teamed up with the Certificate Programme at the Music Department. Nduduzo Makhathini presented a jazz masterclass for students of the certificate programme on Friday 24 August 2018.
Photographs by Chris Vos.