Friday, December 4, 2009

Malicious Desertion

Hugh Tracey's audio field recordings from Africa constitute what's been called "the musical memory of half a continent."  Starting with acetate recordings in the late 1920s, Tracey made it his life's work to document the disappearing music of Africa.  I'm here in Grahamstown, South Africa to research that legacy and to learn about Tracey's life for a radio show I'm producing for Afropop Worldwide.

"It seemed clear that unless someone devoted more time and energy to appraising the social value of authentic African music, it would go (away) by default," Tracey wrote in his The Sound of Africa Series.  "The challenge remained as to. . . what techniques should be employed to ensure that the unwritten composition of genuine African musicians would not be ignored or thrust aside by the artificially stimulated demands of commerce and radio, and the intrusion of non-African popular music on films and records."

Tracey was old-school, he was a purist, and a bossy one at that.  He plowed "tradition" into acetate,  aluminum, and eventually on to tape.   Over the next few weeks, I'll write more about Tracey and his work.

This is a place to start listening.  With the breath:
"Saliwe Ngamadoda (Malicious Desertion)" a Xhosa song from Tracey's LP series, The Sound of Africa.

Photo taken today outside Grahamstown.

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