South African Music Studies

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Refiguring the archive through music: South Africa’s recorded music heritage and transformation

L Allen


In the first decade of post-apartheid South Africa archival scholars and practitioners were primarily concerned about two issues: how best to transform the approaches, practices, and contents of archives established under apartheid into institutions that effectively serve the new order; and how to bring local archivists and archival scholars into conversation
with the contemporary global mainstream in terms of discourse and practice. The resulting critique focused on the need to develop indigenous epistemologies and to move beyond the positivist paradigm. Through a case study of the archive of the Gallo Music Group this article proposes that innovative curatorship of music archives offers some solutions to the
challenges faced by the archival domain more broadly, and could evolve a truly democratic, dialogical, twenty-first century, state-of-the art archive. Characteristics that make South African popular music recordings particularly suited to developing a transformed, refigured, archive include: regarding the recuperative project, popular music constitutes
one of the few remaining records of black experience occluded under apartheid; regarding engaging indigenous epistemologies, a focus on music and orality offers a more indigenous epistemology as opposed to the usual domination of language and written text; regarding
the challenge of creating a workable interactive archive, because many people compile and express their individual identity through choice of music, popular music offers a realistic site to start a conversation between archives and users over the dialogical formulation of historical narrative.
AJOL African Journals Online