Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates over the past couple of months. That’s not to say things haven’t been moving along at the THP, in fact – quite the opposite. Having just returned to Dar from Europe this is perhaps a good time to catch up on the activities of the summer and look ahead to the future of the project.
Assessing the Current Climate for Artists
Taking advantage of a lull regarding the archive in the months of April and May this year, THP facilitated a study of the music industry in Tanzania. The project was funded by Best AC (a organisation concerned with improving the business environment in Tanzania) and jointly implemented by Tanzania Musicians Network- the artists union formed by John Kitime, the inimitable leader of Kilimanjaro Band and high profile defender of artists’ rights. The study was an attempt to assess the current situation for musicians attempting to make a living from their music, and touched on important issues regarding copyright, piracy, and the lack of structure to the music industry – all factors that hinder the development of the sector. The purpose of
the project is to ultimately develop a strategy for dialogue with the government in order to provide a better environment for musicians and entrepreneurs to generate incomes – something musicians have struggled with in Tanzania for generations, including the heyday of Radio Tanzania in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
What’s more THP initiated the creation of two pilot radio shows to be presented by Mr Kitime, in association with Music Mayday. More news on these shows soon.
Both Rebecca (Corey, THP Director) and I have undertaken a considerable amount of research into the equipment and processes necessary for the digitization of the Radio Tanzania archives. Having made contact with many other similar projects, we have had the chance to pick the brains of some exceptional people with very inspiring stories and a wealth of excellent advice to share. One such connection led us to be in touch with the British Library – one of the world’s leading organizations for the preservation and presentation of endangered archives from all over the world. On a recent trip to London, I was invited to visit the library, meet with their digitization staff, and tour the ‘backstage’ facilities. It was a truly inspiring day, and many thanks to Andrew Pearson, Will Prentice, Janet Top Fagion and Chris Allen for facilitating the visit. Experiencing first hand the esoteric art of digitizing media such as wax cylinders, over-sized and broken vinyl records, and of course, reel to reel tapes was both fascinating and illuminating. We are truly grateful for the BL’s valuable insight and support into some of the challenges we are bound to face in digitizing the Radio Tanzania archive.
Being in Europe also presented the opportunity to secure some of the necessary equipment needed for the digitization project. THP is now the proud custodian of a Prism Audio Lyra audio interface (widely considered as one of he top analog to digital convertors on the market), and a Tandberg A20 reel-to-reel machine for actual playback of the tapes. Much research went into this, as the world of vintage audio gear is one not for the faint hearted (or semi informed!). The Tandberg machine was supplied from a working studio in Berlin and careful checks were made to ensure the various technical requirements we are likely to face in the archive are covered by the unit. The engineer (and fully paid up member of the vintage audio freak members club!) serviced the machine for us and delivered it ready for transportation to Dar. It’s planned that this will eventually be our back up machine after we take receipt of a Studer A67 in the coming months.
Also while in Berlin, we were delighted to receive an in-kind donation from leading software house Ableton. Makers of the very highly regarded Live software, Ableton granted us a number of licenses for use on the digitization project. Although Live is capable of much more, it is also a very easy to use and highly reliable digital audio workstation, and will function as the software that we record and save the files as they are transferred from the tapes. It’s perhaps testament to the draw of this project that a software company widely regarded as central figures in the electronic music scene can also see how important this initiative is – we are very much looking forward to building on this partnership as the project progresses.
Thank you and farewell to our Co-founder Benson Rukantabula
Many of you may be aware of the vital role Benson Rukantabula, co-founder of the THP, has made to the advancement of the project. His drive and determination helped get the project off the ground in the first place, and his passion, dedication and friendship have been ever present in the development of this story. So, it’s with a great deal of sadness (for us) and joy (for him and Anja) that we announce that Benson has chosen to step down from an active role in the project and relocate with his new wife Anja to Denmark. We wish them all the very best in their new lives, and hope we have the chance to work together again in the future!
And now – back to Dar and full steam ahead. Having 75% of the equipment we need in place (the remaining bits and pieces should be available to source locally) we are now perfectly placed to begin the project in earnest, working alongside UNESCO, the TBC and other interested parties in ensuring the incredible music of Tanzania’s past lives again. In order to realize this goal, we still need the support of donors, partners and friends of the project. We are constantly looking for talented, driven individuals and partner organizations to help us move forward. Please get in touch of you fit the bill, or would simply would like more info about the project.
Asante Sana from Dar,
(Communications / Operations )