Popular Music Heritage and Archiving

It has become apparent for years that popular music heritage culture of the past present and future is at risk and faces a slow desolate death yet ironically music plays and integral part in everyday life with so much talent, memories both tangible and intangible. Music heritage more so amongst the ‘ordinary’ people (as you don’t have to be rich or famous to make or enjoy music) is important in understanding, remembering; moods, social, cultural, places, lifestyle, food, fashion, language or types people during a particular era. It is worth noting that as music history does not only happen in buildings but encompassed a whole plethora of activities and events surrounding music making. Compared to other forms of heritage most institutions in countries all over the world music heritage is one that is never given its fair share of care, love and treatment it so deserves and is the least of priorities.


There are two distinct types of music archival practices; the first and probably the conventional is physical locations and these are also divided into 2 categories; physical authorised and physical do-it-yourself (DIY) a term coined by Baker and Huber (2013a) cited in Collins and Baker (2015). The second music archival practice is digital and online with three salvaging activities; online institutional (officially authorised), online community (self-authorised) and informal (unauthorised). Collins (2016) argues use a bottom-up approach of “doing-it-together” (DIT) and DIY philosophy connecting through FB that allows prodigious amounts to content be shared with a broader view. In each practice the latter has community has no economic attachment rather built on passion, personal experience as a collective usually started by activist archivists the likes of Birmingham-born Jez Collins.

One wonders whether is it the musician’s fault, institutions or the public at large. It goes without say that it is a challenge and almost impossible to create comprehensive archives for collecting, preserving, sharing that is sustainable in the long-term. Zimbabwe, as mentioned in my previous blog, suffers economically without a currency of its own at present and many other issues that make it difficult for musicians or volunteers to venture into any form of activity that may not raise eyebrows from the government, however genuine. The folk music (archive of the memory) was passed from generation to generation these intangible archives are also at risk in this age of technology. History and culture are written through lyrics in music making, understanding of one’s own history allow inspiration and influence. Legendary musicians like Oliver Mtukudzi have created a Facebook (FB) pages and Twitter where he shares his recordings, flyers etc., however, upcoming musicians are also doing the best they can using online resources Zee Guveya and Heritage survival band.

Other enthusiasts the likes of Professor Fred Zindi, Joyce Jenje Makwenda to name a few, have written books to preserve some this musical heritage culture. There are also other physical authorised archives such the International Library of Afrikan Music founded by Hugh Tracey (now attached to Rhodes University in Grahamstown). However sad to note, that a country so rich with musical heritage culture would not have much to show for it.

Social Media

There are barriers and limitations with digital and online archiving due to copyright law. There are different approaches to collecting, archiving and preserving, which proves a to be a real challenge. There are not enough volunteers or custodians available to Mann and maintain these spaces. They require time, funding. Should anything happen to these aging generations, be it ill health, death aging or if the owners of the corporate site such as FB, MySpace, Soundcloud, twitter, blogs, Facebook, YouTube decides to pull the plug, go bankrupt or crash a whole history will be wiped from the face of the world in the blink of an eye. (Baker and Huber 2012; cited in Collins 2015). States…also at risk is the accumulated vernacular knowledge and expertise held within the communities that form and are sustained by these practices. Musicians, enthusiasts and activist archivists have their own reservations when it comes to handing over their archives institutions for fear that they are notorious for breaking collections, burying collections, losing, and subsumed. Hence sustainability remains a challenge for both physical and digital archiving it is, however, impossible to archive everything that pertains to popular music culture this can only be partial or selective.


References and Bibliography

Baker, S. and Huber, A. (2013a) Notes towards a typology of the DIY institution: Identifying do-it-yourself places of popular music preservation. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 16(5), pp. 513–530. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1367549413491721.

Baker, S., ed. (2015) Preserving popular music heritage: Do-it-yourself, do-it-together. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Baker, S. and Collins, J. (2015) Sustaining popular music’s material culture in community archives and museums. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 21(10), pp. 983–996. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2015.1041414.

Baker, S. and Collins, J. (2016a) Popular music heritage, community archives and the challenge of sustainability. International Journal of Cultural Studies, pp. 1–16. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1367877916637150.

Baker, S. and Collins, J. (2016b) Popular music heritage, community archives and the challenge of sustainability. International Journal of Cultural Studies. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1367877916637150.

Celebrating Birmingham’s popular music history (2016) Available at: http://www.birminghammusicarchive.com [Accessed 17 October 2016].

ILAM (no date) Available at: http://ilam.africamediaonline.com/page/aboutus [Accessed 17 October 2016].

International library of African music (ILAM) (2015) Available at: http://musicinafrica.net/directory/international-library-african-music-ilam [Accessed 17 October 2016].

Heritage survival (no date) Available at: http://www.heritagesurvival.co.uk/default.html [Accessed 22 October 2016].

new, 2016 and require (2016) Tuku Musik official. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/tukumusik/ [Accessed 16 October 2016].

Posted and Baker, S. (2012) Jez Collins on ‘activist archivism’. Available at: http://diyarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/jez-collins-on-activist-archivism-at.html [Accessed 17 October 2016].

Rhodes (2015) ILAM, Rhodes university. Available at: http://www.ru.ac.za/ilam/ [Accessed 17 October 2016].

User, S. (2016) Roof contact Info. Available at: http://www.archives.gov.zw/index.php/sections/records?showall=&start=1 [Accessed 18 October 2016].



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