2019, Sat, Mar 23

Keeping Track(s): Saving Sonic Heritage

With Ahmed Adan, Brigid Cohen, Lucy Ilado, Michael E. Veal, moderated by Florian Sievers

Radio Mogadishu's employees digitalize their analog sonic archives | Photo: AMISOM Public Information | Source: Flickr

Radio Mogadishu's employees digitalize their analog sonic archives | Photo: AMISOM Public Information | Source: Flickr

In some places the aural past is eagerly being saved, stored and cataloged, elsewhere it has rarely been documented at all, and in other places old audiotapes are facing rapid decay. In what ways does digitization conserve musical collective memory, what gets to be preserved, and to what end? How do archives of radio stations, record companies or museums document regional and global history – in Somalia, Kenya or the USA? What kinds of narratives are told by collections, what sort of identities do they represent, especially if the stored object is as intangible as sound?

The preservation of musical heritage is a particularly urgent matter up for discussion in many African countries. One practical example is the audio archive of Radio Mogadishu whose thousands of recordings date back to the late 1940s and bear witness to Somalia’s thriving music scene before the outbreak of civil war. It has been safeguarded over the years with considerable effort, yet now the radio station struggles against the material’s disintegration and fights for its digital persistence.

With Ahmed Adan (Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism, Somalia), Brigid Cohen (historical musicologist, New York University), Lucy Ilado (music journalist), and Michael E. Veal (ethnomusicologist, Yale University). Moderation: Florian Sievers (journalist)