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: Thandi Ntuli
31 January 2019 | Fismer Hall, Konservatorium (Stellenbosch University)
A conversation about genre bending compositions, spiritual reflexivity and socially conscious art.
In this conversation, the pianist Thandi Ntuli talked about transitioning from classical music to jazz, expanding her musical palette to also include vocals, about a social consciousness in music and being a woman bandleader in jazz.
For the performance, Thandi was joined by Mthunzi Mvubu (saxophone), Sthembiso Bhengu (trumpet), Keenan Ahrends (guitar), Amaeshi Ikechi (bass), and Sphelelo Mazibuko (drums).
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.
Thandi Ntuli was interviewed by Stephanie Vos (project leader of ifPOP, Africa Open Institute).
Photographs by Chris Vos
Film by Rob Ruhrmund
A Conversation with Thandi Ntuli