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

Second Vinyl Listening Session features Ntone Edjabe and Michael Bhatch


The Interdisciplinary Forum for Popular Music (ifPOP) and Hidden Years are hosting the second Hidden Archives Vinyl Listening Session, featuring selectors Ntone Edjabe and Michael Bhatch. These selectors were invited to explore the extensive LP collection of the Hidden Years Music Archive, and play selected records at a public listening session.

Hidden Years houses one of the biggest collections of popular music in South Africa. The more than 6000 records preserved in this archive were collected by Ben Segal between the 1960s and 2000s. Many of the musicians presented in this collection are relatively unknown due to the political content of their music, which was suppressed in apartheid South Africa, or because their music were not considered commercially viable. These rare records have been preserved, and are now made available to the public through the Vinyl Listening Sessions.

DJs, selectors and vinyl collectors often have encyclopedic knowledges of (South) African music, and are familiar with corners and connections in music history that are not necessarily represented in the academic literature. ifPOP taps into these knowledges by organising public events featuring conversations with selectors, and listening sessions where we connect with sonic histories from the African continent.

The selectors featured in this edition of the Vinyl Listening Sessions are both

esteemed music collectors, authors and opinion makers. Originally from Cameroon, journalist, DJ and basketball coach Ntone Edjabe is the founding editor of Chimurenga magazine and a co-curator of the Pan-African Space Station (PASS). Michael Shakib Bhatch is a regular contributor to The Conversation and a PhD candidate at the University of the Western Cape, where he works on AfroFuturism.

ifPOP and Hidden Years are projects based at Africa Open Institute (Stellenbosch University), an interdisciplinary space for music, research and innovation.

The Hidden Years Vinyl Listening Session Vol. 2 takes place at GUS (Gallery University Stellenbosch) on 5 September, 18:00 ‘til late. Entrance is free, all welcome.


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