2014
Johannesburg Tapes
Cassette Tapes, Stereo Audio, Cassette Player: dimensions variable

(installation view)

Inspired by the the American Library of Congress recordings made by folklorist and field recorder Alan Lomax in the 1930′s, as well as the decade I spent working in second hand record shops. This project sets out to document the stories that surround music. An ongoing, expanding archive has been accumulated that engages with the ways that music acts as a cultural artefact for wider social and political forces, acting as a vehicle to explore the multiplicitous, divergent and often fractured histories that exist within the city.

(detail view)

No attempt is made to propose a single narrative of the city, either from a contemporary or historical perspective. Rather, in an attempt to acknowledge the fragmented, decentralised and constantly shifting nature of the social and musical landscape, an archive of individual stories is presented. Each one exists in physical form on a separate cassette tape; a form with a long-standing connection as the dominant medium by which music was distributed and consumed across the continent.

(detail view)

Digital Versions of selected tapes can be listened to below:

Sam Hallatt talks about his involvement in Dorkay House, which survived as a mixed race music venue in the otherwise entirely racially segregated society in Johannesburg during the years of apartheid. The venue saw performances from legendary musicians such as Abdullah Ibrahim and Miriam Makeba (Digital archive of work originally presented on cassette tape, as part of the Johannesburg Tapes Project).


Michael Canfield originally, a drummer from America who has lived in South Africa since the mid 1990′s. He talks about everything from playing with the likes of Bo Diddley, running the Blues Room, one of the successful music venues of it’s time in Johannesburg, through to his ongoing interest in traditional forms of South African music (Digital archive of work originally presented on cassette tape, as part of the Johannesburg Tapes Project)


Lloyd Ross, founder of Shifty Records discusses the history of the label as one of the bastions of radical South African music throughout the 1980′s, particularly as the label that released politically dissenting, socially engaged records in the Afrikaans language. (Digital archive of work originally presented on cassette tape, as part of the Johannesburg Tapes Project).


Geoff Klass is one of the owners of the Collectors Treasury second hand book and record store in Downtown Johannesburg, an 8 story shop with somewhere in the region of half a million records. Here, he talks about the talks about the types of music that he sees coming into his shop, and possible links between this and the social history of the city. (Digital archive of work originally presented on cassette tape, as part of the Johannesburg Tapes Project).


Rangoato Hlasane talks about his connection to Kwaito – the dominant form of urban music in South Africa, via Hillbrow – arguably the most notorious neighborhood in Johannesburg. (Digital archive of work originally presented on cassette tape, as part of the Johannesburg Tapes Project).


Musician and artist Robert Michiri talks about the place of Zimbabwean music in Johannesburg, in the context of the continuing place of the city as one of the main destinations for immigrants from around the continent. (Digital archive of work originally presented on cassette tape, as part of the Johannesburg Tapes Project).


Tshepang Ramoba is a drummer, producer, and member of the band BLK JKS, as well putting together the Shangaan Electro project, and has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. At the forefront of the cities live music scene, he discusses current directions music is taking in Johannesburg, as well as the role downtown is currently playing in the shaping the music of the city. (Digital archive of work originally presented on cassette tape, as part of the Johannesburg Tapes Project)


Andrew Clements is a DJ who also runs the Kitcheners venue in downtown Johannesburg. He discussed the place of the venue as rare point of connection for different groups of people in the city who historically have few shared spaces. In addition he engages with the social and economic history of the CBD area of central Johannesburg, both in terms of the economic decline and spiralling crime rate through the 90′s, to more recent regeneration.


Allan Nicoll is label manager for Soul Candi, the most important record label for dance music in South Africa. He talks here about the singular importance of house music with South Africa, and the disparity between popularity of house music in SA and the rest of the world. (Digital archive of work originally presented on cassette tape, as part of the Johannesburg Tapes Project).

Made with the support of The Gasworks/ Triangle Network and The Bag Factory

Selected Exhibition:
Stop Making Sense - Bag Factory, Johannesburg
Light/Materiality - Second Home, London