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.
Jazz Conversation: Skyjack
1 November 2018 | Gallery University Stellenbosch (GUS)
This conversation with Skyjack unravelled the dynamics ensemble work, particularly capturing the interplay between the individual and the collective.
Skyjack is collaboration between South African and Swiss musicians, featuring Marc Stucki (saxophone), Andreas Tschopp (trombone), Kyle Shepherd (piano), Shane Cooper (bass) and Kesivan Naidoo (drums). Skyjack melds sounds from the musicians’ respective African and European backgrounds into a modern jazz aesthetic. Although the band members are acclaimed artists and bandleaders in their own right, in this collaboration each member contributes compositions which are then performed by the collective.
It was a pleasure to interview Skyjack, the collective brought great energy and playfulness to the conversation and performance. In the conversation, we touched on how they develop their sound as an ensemble, how rare it is for a jazz collective to remain together over several years, on the relationship between composition and improvisation in their musical process and their approach to producing an album.
The ifPOP Jazz Conversations are a series of events organized by the Interdisciplinary Forum for Popular Music (ifPOP) and held in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Typically starting with an interview and followed by a performance, they form part of a project to document current South African jazz practices and map the knowledges musicians develop through their practice. Topics covered range from jazz education to the artistic processes behind the music, South Africa as a creative environment to the ideas that drive the current generation of jazz musicians.
Skyjack was interviewed by Stephanie Vos (project leader of ifPOP, Africa Open Institute).
Audioclips edited by Stephanie Vos
Photographs by Chris Vos