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Musical history comes to life

Date Released: Sat, 12 January 2013 17:59 +0200

CULTURAL HISTORY: A visitor to the East London Museum checks some of the photos on display at ‘For future generations’ exhibition by Hugh Tracey and the International Library of African Music.

THE International Library of African Music (Ilam) is exhibiting key works from its world-renowned archive at the East London Museum.

The historical audio-visual exhibition has toured around the country for the past three years and has been hosted in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Grahamstown since it was first launched in 2010.

Ilam, a heritage archive and research institute based at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, was founded by Hugh Tracey in 1954.

The exhibition is comprised of music and images gathered by Tracey, a respected ethnomusicologist. Tracey made it his mission to travel around Sub-Saharan South Africa to record and later archive music from a variety of African cultures. This included anything from Bulawayo jazz in the 1950s to kwela jazz in the 1940s to 1960s.

Current Ilam director Professor Diane Thram said the exhibition reflects Tracey’s attitude towards his work – that, in order to preserve the Africans’ heritage for future generations, their music must also be preserved.

“Tracey was a man way ahead of his time,” Thram said. “He was a role model for ethnomusicology as a discipline.” The exhibition includes listening stations which play different types of music according to the region that music originates from, as well as different title songs for various occasions, Thram said.

The exhibition, which also includes photographs taken by Tracey, has so far done “very well” in its travels, especially with school groups. Thram explained much of the exhibition was geared towards that purpose, and included an activity book for pupils.

She said she was passionate about Ilam and the work it was doing. “There is a reason for that: this archive is special, and there isn’t one like it in Europe and America. South Africa has a reason to be really proud of this archive, and its preservation of African heritage,” Thram said.

Thram was also excited to announce the publication and sale of a catalogue on the archive and its African music, titled Understanding African Music.
She said the book was on sale at the East London Museum, as were a collection of CDs of Tracey’s digitised recordings.

The director added the exhibition was originally conceived as an outreach and education component of a Rand Merchant Bank Expressions grant Ilam received.

To buy or enquire about Understanding African Music or any of Ilam’s CDs from the archive, e-mail ilamsales@ru.- ac.za. The exhibition will be on at the museum until the end of February. Please call (043)743- 0686 for bookings. — michelles@dispatch.co.za

Picture: MARK ANDREWS

Story by: MICHELLE SOLOMON

Source: Daily Dispatch

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