The Free Peoples Festivals: exploring cross-border relationships and interactions in the fostering of alternative music communities in South Africa

This project forms part of a five year research project that is investigating the role that alternative music communities in South Africa played to imagine and create a social order different from the system of apartheid. These vestiges will be examined through an oral history project and archival work in the Hidden Years Music Archive (HYMA) that encapsulates this alternative popular and folk music during the turbulence of apartheid to the early years of democracy (1959-2005). Of specific interest to the STIAS project is the Free Peoples Festivals, hosted by the South African Folk Music Association (SAFMA)1 in conjunction with various student unions from 1970 – 1986 in Durban and Johannesburg. During the mid-1980s audiences grew to more than 15 000 people, and musicians came to include artists from Malawi, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.2 In exploring this festival, particular attention will be paid to cross-border relationships and interactions between musicians at these festivals.

Project leader(s):
  • Lizabé Lambrechts (Department of Music, Stellenbosch University)

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