REMIXING AFRICAN ORAL HISTORY
A “REMIX TREE” of the DURBAN SINGS rough radio mix: re-tracing an on-line archive as audio map to a collective project & open producer network
Audio compositions or radio programmes are often the result of conversations & collaborative processes between many people. As composed creative productions, they are also analytical constructs based on a journey of research, arranged from multiple source collections & shaped by editorial decisions. A final composition brings a complex archive to the ears of listeners in one condensed moment of hearing: an event, a performance, a broadcast. The archive of a final production is double; containing the content of its sources & the journey of its making which has taken the sources through many stages of “re-mixing”.
At an event of listening, ears can follow & enjoy an “audio movie”, or zoom-in on stories, issues, histories, songs, drama, characters, ambience or voices which make their appearance on the audio stage of a composition ("dramaturgy of listening"). Trained ears may also “hear” the archive, or parts of it, which the final, remixed production features.
A “remix tree” can offer one model how the archive of a production, which a trained ear may hear & decipher could become audible & accessible to more listeners via a graphic representation. It’s a static & linear, simplified & superficial model by comparison to the complex journey of a production & the delicate zooming-in operations which listening can perform to perceive and evaluate audio content.
The “remix tree” could yet perhaps serve as an entry point of awareness to listening & audio production in general; and a collective production of history & of media in particular; an entry point perhaps also to the opportunities which education in audio media literacy may offer. Such skills training forms a vital core of the collective projects quoted here (more on audio media skills-training also in “I & EAR”).
The conversations, collaborative processes, collective projects & producer organizations which speak through a composition like the DURBAN SINGS rough radio mix are ongoing, continuing with their own work elsewhere on the branches of a complex network. The mix is itself only one "bud" of many on a large tree, one product of an authored listening among many others (see DURBAN SINGS blog for contributions send back to the project: “letters & remixes”).
on-line publications of successive edits
Travel-log of a remix
The DURBAN SINGS rough radio mix was first published on www.archive.org in Oct. 2009 (12:47) as part of a “call for contributions” to the project. It tells the/ a story of the DURBAN SINGS audio media & oral history project, a story of local content production, the collective production of history & of media.
“We want the voices to explode all over.” The composition makes parts of the process, vision, idea & realization of the DS project heard by re-mixing from the archives uploaded by the participating collectives & from other related on-line archives; while, being at once a precursor, a “rough mix” of the very story it tells. The vision of “free air”, audio radio correspondence & collective media productions among people at “grassroots level” are to a large extend still to come and to take place; but – they are on the move, literally, on the road, growing stronger already “underground”. Trained ears may hear the message; and, perhaps, respond.
The sound track of the AV trailer is a re-worked & extended version (13:33) of the earlier edit, completed in Durban & Windhoek in Dec. 2009. The trailer owes its name to the audio track it hosts. Video footage of was recorded on a mobile phone at the time of re-editing the mix; it captures a West/ East continental crossing from Swakopmund on the Atlantic Ocean in Namibia, across Botswana and South Africa, via Johannesburg to Durban on the Indian Ocean.
The second editing process began with the London artist Terry Mac (Trunkstore), a friend & co-producer of the NO-GO-ZONES audio radio project, sending me the audio file of a BBC 4 programme to Durban: “The Reunion”; a special edition produced in Capetown; “Nelson Mandela Release”, broadcast in Sep. 2009. Terry Mac asked me in his e-mail what I think about the programme. As an answer, I sent him a “Reunion Mix” which then became a “preface” (first 3mins) & starting point of the re-worked “rough radio mix”.
Explore & Use the Archived Audio:
"REMIX TREE" of the DURBAN SINGS rough radio mix:
Original, full-length recordings featured & re-mixed in the sound track can be accessed, downloaded & used under creative commons share-alike license. They are archived on http://www.archive.org as part of a conversational journey & audio media “road-work-shops” in the streets of Africa, which began in 2007 with the NO-GO-ZONES audio radio project in South London, continued in Durban South Africa, & recently in Kenya & Uganda. The clips are archived in series of playlists linked to the projects with the invitation to global listeners to explore & use the archived recordings. Comments, responses & questions of listeners - in writing or audio - can feed the fire of the conversations & the on-going work of the producer collectives where ever they are. Re-broadcasts or re-mixes can become a starting point for correspondence.
Do get in touch if these words & songs strike a common cord.
Thank you for listening!
DURBAN SINGS: PRE-RELEASE COMPILATION, July 2009 (playlists 1 – 5)
a CD playlist of 43 samples (76:00) link to page on project blog
edited from: the DS oral history footage archive
Mariannridge Coordinating Committee (MCC)
playlist 3, 04 Esodora DeBruin - the story teller (2:58) listen
05 Joyce Anderson - the one who knows her roots (1:06) listen
06 Shirely Ricks_the next CEQ (2:56) listen
ALBERT PARK recordings
playlist of songs, 08 Light on Africa song (2:50) listen
playlist of mini-clips, 01 Anna and Pendeza clip 2 (0:36) listen
Becken's story, 10 another love song (2:48) listen
Becken & Delphin, 05 singing crying and dancing (2:03) listen
Albert Park picket, 05 imbizo picketing 2 (1:10) listen
09 no-air song (1:57) listen
Municipal “clean-up”, 01 where did this instruction come from (2:47) listen;
02 I failed to comply orders (1:08) listen
ORAL HISTORY WORKSHOP
playlist 1, 00 DS jingle African roots (0:25) listen;
playlist 2, 10 area poems day 3 (4:00) listen;
05 three songs interview (3:52) listen;
19 DS jingle contemporary take 2 (0:24) listen
off-line footage archives
Glenwood night, field recording RCD
Uschwini night, field recording by Motho
Transit to Jo’burg, field recording Mandisa M. Ledwaba
footage recordings DURBAN SINGS Pan-African Wolpe Lecture Event 16 July 2009
footage recording DURBAN SINGS Digital Soiree Digital Arts Wits 24 March 2009
footage recording Abasha Talent Show Event 2 May 2009 Inanda New Town
footage recordings Southern Africa Social Forum, Swaziland, Oct. 2008
footage recording NO-GO-ZONES interview with Tunde Adegbola, Brixton UK 2008
Archiving African Culture - Re-mixing the archives?
“Tradition is not a body of beliefs but a knowledge of skills;” said the English poet Herbert Read.
The “remix tree” sketched out here could also be understood as a case study or entry point to such questions as how libraries & collection of African cultural heritage could not only open the doors to their resources, but also care to build the infrastructure & education needed for the people “on the ground” to reach & access the “open resources”; how producers could link back to the initial conversations & to collective efforts involved in a production, in such a way that the production may serve as a mobile micro-archive, guide & key to its sources & related networks; how producers could share their skills & resources; and transform a journey of making a production into parts of a future communication infrastructure for/ to its sources, transport the sources as a vehicle for sharing & networking, activating listening & audiences.
The “rough radio mix” sings & amplifies what the DURBAN SINGS project strives to test & realise “on the ground” through training & local productions: a call to explore ways & develop sites for contextualised research & a community-based archiving linked to new productions of African culture by the people themselves, who are living, remembering, practicing & developing the culture locally & out of their everyday life where ever they are.
Such processes could provide Africans & “Northerners” alike with new ways & understanding of “archiving”; ways which, for example, might be more suitable to the flow, continuity & mobility of oral cultures & traditions; new forms of collections, archives & libraries which might possibly be quite at odds with the standardising, transcendental, de-contextualising, dematerialising tradition of a “safeguarded” shelving & stocking; new archives of African culture initiated & driven by its producers where cultural productions don’t leave “the hands” of the people of whose communication infrastructure they continue to form a vital part.