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.

Activities / News

New event series: Hidden Archives Vinyl Listening Sessions


On Wednesday 3 April, Stellenboschers will have a rare opportunity to listen to vinyls from the Hidden Years Archive, one of the most extensive archives of popular music in South Africa. Collected mainly by Ben Segal, the vinyl collection is now housed at Stellenbosch University, but for reasons of preservation and copyright, accessing this treasure trove of music is tricky.

Since the collection needs to be preserved, the records cannot be made available to the general public, or played over and over because vinyl deteriorates each time it is played. The records also cannot be digitized and made available on a website because of copyright restrictions. How, then, can one open up this hidden treasure to broader listeners?

The Hidden Years Archive has asked two vinyl collectors, Atiyyah Khan and Rob Machiri, to select records from the archive and play them at a public listening session on 3 April at 18:00. The evening will start with a conversation about the comeback vinyl records have made in recent years, the process of finding and collecting them, and why they are significant in the current digital age. The rest of the evening will be devoted to listening: from South African classics to Afrobeat, from rare jazz recordings to rock and its fusions. It is guaranteed that listeners will hear music that is not available on YouTube, Spotify or your local record store.

The Hidden Archives Vinyl Listening session will be on 3 April, 18:00-21:00 at GUS (cnr. Dorp and Bird Street, Stellenbosch). It’s a free event, all are welcome. The Hidden Archives Vinyl Listening sessions are organized by the Hidden Years Archive and ifPOP (the Interdisciplinary Forum for Popular Music) at Africa Open Institute, Stellenbosch University, in collaboration with FUNGUS.

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