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 / Blog

Remembering Hugh Masekela


Hugh Masekela and his music were both the doors into thinking about South African exile in my doctoral thesis and a source of inspiration when high-minded ideas threatened to eclipse the sounds of the music and the voices of people I was writing about. Although I don’t have personal memories of meeting Bra Hugh in person (as many other authors have), I realized how personal my connection was with his music by how deeply I was touched by his passing. The thought that I would never again experience a live performance that never failed to have me on my feet, moving and moved, saddened me. How fortunate to have experienced that.

When I was asked to write a piece on Hugh Masekela’s passing for LitNet, I saw it as an opportunity to introduce this great artist to an Afrikaans-speaking audience who may not be familiar with his music. Such are the blind spots of living in South Africa in (or in the aftermath) of apartheid. This piece is an appreciation of Hugh Masekela, closing with a playlist of his musical journey.

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