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International Library of African Music
ILAM On-line Sound Archive

The International Library of African Music (ILAM) is cataloguing and digitizing thousands of songs from throughout sub Saharan Africa found on the recordings produced by Hugh Tracey from his field recordings in the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. These recordings are housed in the ILAM archive, located on the campus of Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. Nearly 12,000 items from the Hugh Tracey Acetate, Vinyl, and Shellac Record Collections are presently searchable via the ILAM On-line Sound Archive.

Users will find multiple copies of various songs when they search the on-line archive, depending on the various media onto which Hugh Tracey transferred his field recordings when he returned from his field excursions. Thus one may find the same song from the original field recording exists on an acetate disc, a vinyl test pressing, a commercial 78 rpm record, and on the Hugh Tracey Broadcast Series, and there will be a digital file from each source.

A detailed meta-data file and a compressed 30 second sound clip is provided for each song available from the on-line archive. The cataloguing and digitizing of the Hugh Tracey Acetate and Vinyl Collections, which began in February 2007, has been accomplished with funding from the National Research Foundation (NRF) for the ILAM/SAMAP Cataloguing and Digitizing Project. As mandated by this project, the digital files found on the ILAM On-Line Sound Archive are also being delivered to SAMAP (South Africa Music Archive Project) for upload onto the ILAM archive on the DISA website at the University of KwaZuluNatal.

The work of cataloguing and digitizing these large collections is being managed by ILAM's sound engineer, Elijah Madiba, and a project team consisting of three sound assistants, Hilton Borerwa, Sebastian Jameson and Tatenda Munduru; a cataloguing librarian, Zandile Pnini; cataloguing/meta-data capture assistants Khanisa Gura, Kgosi Kgadiete and Sanelisiwe Sihiya. In addition, five Rhodes University final year BA, BSC students, trained in meta-data and sound capture by project staff, work 6 hrs each per week under NRF Student Assistantships. Professor Diane Thram, Director of ILAM, is leading the cataloguing and digitization projects at ILAM with hands-on assistance from Rhodes University Head of Library Services, Gwenda Thomas, and Head of Library Cataloguing, Jeanne Berger.

Researchers, students and any other individuals interested in undertaking research projects, music education projects, or simply wanting full sound files of the recordings accessed, should contact ILAM directly to obtain permission for use and/or to obtain made-to-order copies of the music of interest for a fee.

Project proposals are welcomed by ILAM's Director, Prof. Diane Thram ( for research initiatives and/or music education projects. Proposals to produce music education materials are encouraged as are individual research project proposals. Requests for MP3 files or CD/DVDs of individual songs or collections of songs can be arranged upon request by contacting ILAM's sound engineer, Elijah Madiba (

The ILAM On-line Sound Archive is making the Hugh Tracey collections of excellent sound quality early recordings of the music of sub Saharan Africa accessible throughout the world via on-line access from the ILAM website and the DISA website. As digital files are produced through the recently funded (April, 2008) ILAM/Mellon Cataloguing and Digitizing Project, the Dave Dargie and Andrew Tracey sound recording collections will also become available via ILAM’s On-line Sound Archive. ILAM’s books and miscellaneous other in-print holdings will be searchable through a link to the Rhodes University on-line library catalogue system (OPAC) on the Rhodes University website.

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