Five seminal texts that established the foundation for South African popular music studies internationally used the Hidden Years: 

Gwen Ansell, Soweto Blues: Jazz, Popular Music, and Politics in South Africa. Bloomsburry Press, New York. 2004

A  major new contribution to the study of African music, Soweto Blues tells the remarkable story of how jazz became a key part of South Africa’s struggles in the 20th Century, and provides a fascinating overview of the ongoing links between African and American styles of music. Ansell illustrates how jazz occupies a unique place in South African music. Through interviews with hundreds of musicians, she pieces together a vibrant narrative history, bringing to life the early politics of resistance, the atmosphere of illegal performance spaces, the global anti-apartheid influence of Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, as well as the post-apartheid upheavals in the national broadcasting and recording industries. Featuring an introduction by Abdullah Ibrahim, Soweto Blues is a fitting tribute to the power of music to inspire optimism and self-expression in the darkest of times.

Christopher Ballantine, Marabi Nights: Early South African Jazz and Vaudeville.  Raven Press, Johannesburg. 1993 (2018)

This is the updated and substantially expanded second edition of Christopher Ballantine’s classic Marabi Nights, which offers a fascinating view of the triumphs and tragedies of South Africa’s marabi-jazz tradition. Based on conversations with legendary figures in the world of music – as well as a perceptive reading of music, the socio-political history, and social meanings – this book is one of sensitive and impassioned curatorship. New chapters extend the book’s in-depth account of the birth and development of South African urban-black popular music. They include a powerful story about gender relations and music in the context of forced migrant labour in the 1950s, a critical study of the legendary Manhattan Brothers that uniquely positions their music and words in relation to the apartheid system, and an account of the musical, political, and commercial strategies of the local record industry. A new afterword looks critically at the place of jazz and popular music in South Africa since the end of apartheid, and argues for the continued relevance of the robust, questioning spirit of the marabi tradition.

David Coplan, In Township Tonight! South Africa’s Black City Music and Theatre. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1985 (2008)

Against the harsh background of the apartheid system black popular culture is a dynamic force which continues to give life and hope to the people of the townships such as Soweto and Sharpeville. It has produced artists of international reputation – Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand), Miriam Mekeba, Hugh Masekela – but they represent just a small fraction of this rich, vibrant and diverse urban culture. Every night musicians and other performers draw enthusiastic audiences to dance halls, jazz clubs and shebeens throughout the townships. It is a culture which has a long and complex history. This title explores that history, taking us from indigenous musical traditions into the world of slave orchestras, penny whistlers, clergyman-composers, the gumboot dances of the dockers and mineworkers, and the touring minstrelsy and vaudeville acts. It traces the emergence of the first jazz bands – the Darktown Strutters, the Merry Blackbirds, the Jazz Maniacs – and the marabi, kwela, and mbaqanga dance styles. It records the development of black theatre from the first all-black musicals, to the popular drama workshops and the internationally successful Market Theatre, Johannesburg. In Township Tonight! Is a tribute to the resilience and achievements of black South African artists who, in the author’s words, have ‘humanised a wasteland of oppression and neglect’. It is a title which will be of great interest to social historians, musicologists, jazz enthusiasts and all those concerned about contemporary South Africa and its development.

Veit Erlmann, African Stars: Studies in Black South African Performance. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1991

In recent years black South African music and dance have become ever more popular in the West, where they are now widely celebrated as expressions of opposition to discrimination and repression. Less well known is the rich history of these arts, which were shaped by several generations of black artists and performers whose struggles, visions, and aspirations did not differ fundamentally from those of their present-day counterparts.

In five detailed case studies Veit Erlmann digs deep to expose the roots of the most important of these performance traditions. He relates the early history of isicathamiya, the a cappella vocal style made famous by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

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Veit Erlmann, Nightsong: Performance, Power, and Practice in South Africa. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1996

First popularized by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon, the a cappella music known as isicathamiya has become internationally celebrated as one of South Africa’s most vibrant and distinct performance traditions. But Ladysmith Black Mambazo is only one of hundreds of choirs that perform “nightsongs” during weekly all-night competitions in South Africa’s cities.

Veit Erlmann provides the first comprehensive interpretation of isicathamiyaperformance practice and its relation to the culture and consciousness of the Zulu migrant laborers who largely compose its choirs. In songs and dances, the performers oppose the class and racial oppression that reduces them to “labor units.” At the same time, Erlmann argues, the performers rework dominant images to symbolically reconstruct their “home,” an imagined world of Zulu rural tradition and identity.

By contrasting the live performance of isicathamiya to its reproduction in mass media, recordings, and international concerts, Erlmann addresses important issues in performance studies and anthropology, and looks to the future of isicathamiya live performance in the new South Africa. Featuring an Introduction by Joseph Shabalala, the lead singer and founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the study of music, performance, popular culture, or South Africa.

Muff Anderson, Music in the Mix: The story of South African Popular Music. Ravan Press, Johannesburg. 1981 
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John Lennon: Listen To This Book covers the records issued by John Lennon in Britain and America from his debut in 1968 to his latest album of archive recordings. Packed with over 500 colour illustrations, the book reviews each release, providing information about recording locations and personnel, label variations, promotional releases and chart positions. An essential source book for seasoned collectors and those new to Lennon, it is a comprehensive guide to every officially released Lennon recording, British, American and Japanese releases
and Apple, Geffen and Polydor label variations.

John Kane, Last Seat in the House: The Story of Hanley Sound. University Press of Mississippi. 2020 

Known as the “Father of Festival Sound,” Bill Hanley (b. 1937) made his indelible mark as a sound engineer at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Hanley is credited with creating the sound of Woodstock, which literally made the massive festival possible. Stories of his on-the-fly solutions resonate as legend among festivalgoers, music lovers, and sound engineers. Since the 1950s his passion for audio has changed the way audiences listen to and technicians approach quality live concert sound.

John Kane examines Hanley’s echoing impact on the entire field of sound engineering, that crucial but often-overlooked carrier wave of contemporary music. Hanley’s innovations founded the sound reinforcement industry and launched a new area of technology, rich with clarity and intelligibility. By the early seventies the post-Woodstock festival mass gathering movement collapsed. The music industry shifted, and new sound companies surfaced. After huge financial losses and facing stiff competition, Hanley lost his hold on a business he helped create. By studying both his history during the festivals and his independent business ventures, Kane seeks to present an honest portrayal of Hanley and his acumen and contributions.

Since 2011, Kane conducted extensive research, including over one hundred interviews with music legends from the production and performance side of the industry. These carefully selected respondents witnessed Hanley’s expertise at various events and venues like Lyndon B. Johnson’s second inauguration, the Newport Folk/Jazz Festivals, the Beatles’ final tour of 1966, the Fillmore East, Madison Square Garden, and more. The Last Seat in the House will intrigue and inform anyone who cares about the modern music industry.

Larry Kane, Lennon Revealed. Running Press, Philadelphia. 2007

A quarter of a century after his death, the questions remain: what was John Lennon really like, what drove him to the heights of creativity and the depths of despair, and why do his music and message still resonate for millions around the world? Now acclaimed broadcast journalist and author Larry Kane uncovers the mysteries of Lennon’s life and implodes the myths surrounding it. Kane definitely has the right credentials for the job. He was the only American reporter to travel in the Beatles’ official entourage to every stop on their history-making first American tours, and he stayed in touch with Lennon until an assassin ended the former Beatles’ life in 1980. Lennon Revealedis filled with revelations about John Lennon’s path from public glory to personal crisis, and ultimately to his inspiring rebirth and the triumph of his spirit. Drawing on extensive personal accounts and extraordinary new interviews with more than 100 confidants-most notably, Yoko Ono-Kane presents stunning revelations and brings the reader closer than ever to the man who, in life and in death, has had an incalculable impact on humanity. Includes an exclusive DVD featuring the final interview with Lennon and Paul McCartney, conducted by Larry Kane.

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Donvé Lee, Syd Kitchen: Scars that shine. Tracey McDonald Publishers, Johannesburg. 2017

Skollie, saint, scholar, hippest of hippies, imperfect musician with a perfect imagination, Syd Kitchen was, like all great artists, born to enrich his art and not himself. Plagued by drugs, alcohol and depression, too much of an outlaw to be embraced by record companies, he frequently sold his furniture to cover production costs of his albums, seduced fans at concerts and music festivals worldwide with his dazzling Afro-Saxon mix of folk, jazz, blues and rock interspersed with marvellously irreverent banter, and finally became the subject of several compelling documentaries, one of which – Fool in a Bubble – premiered in New York in 2010.

Syd Kitchen – Scars That Shine is a bittersweet romp through the life of a troubled musical genius. Although Syd passed away in 2011, the author Donve Lee climbs inside his head as he lies on his deathbed, and lets his life story unfold in his uniquely irreverent voice and the voices of a motley collection of friends and family.

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Laurie Levine, The Drumcafé’s Traditional Music of South Africa. Jacana Media, Johannesburg. 2005

The traditional music of black South Africa, and particularly its presence in ceremonies and rituals such as initiation and divination, is explored in this work. Through parallel chapters designed to facilitate comparisons between various musical cultures, the text identifies the primary black language groups of South Africa and provides their physical location within the country, the tribes and clans that live in each region, and a brief history. Numerous forms of music are examined, grouped according to the musical instruments played or by performance style—communal and solo music, songs with lyrics, and songs with dances. A sampling of musical scores, a look at well-known soloists or bands who embody the traditional music, and an accompanying CD will help readers more fully experience the highly individualized sounds and musical styles of this region

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Brad Littleproud and Joanne Hague, Woodstock – Peace, Music & Memories. Krause Publication, Ioia. 2009 

Woodstock Peace, Music & Memories tells the story of what Time magazine called “the greatest peaceful event in history” in the words and pictures of some of the 500,000 people who lived it. With a natural look and scrapbook-of-memories character, this book celebrates the 40th anniversary of this legendary event with a mix of 350 color, sepia-tone and black and white photos; interviews with performers including Carlos Santana and Mountain, as well as attendees, a special section of Woodstock memorabilia with current values, and a foreword written by Woodstock co-organizer Artie Kornfedt. Whether you are a baby boomer or a musician who rocked and rolled – to the music and atmosphere of Woodstock, or are a fan, a collector or a historian who wish you were there, you will find this book to be an amazing tribute to the most famous three days of 1969.


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Roger Lucey, Back in from the anger. Jacana Media, Johannesburg. 2013

Many of us set out on our life journeys following plans, goals and directions that begin in our early years and mostly follow our initial trajectory. Sometimes an impulsive decision, an accident, incident or serendipitous meeting can change the direction of these journeys absolutely. Roger Lucey’s life journey was changed radically by events that he only found out about a decade and a half after they had happened. By that time there was no turning back, no returning to the original plan. Roger Lucey was and is a troubadour, a singer, songwriter and musician whose primary mandate is to reflect, through song, the world he lives in to anyone who cares to listen. In the late ’70s the South Africa that Lucey reflected was a cruel and violent place and his songs quickly drew the unwanted attention of the State and security police. A covert operation made sure that Lucey’s music career was severely curtailed and this in when the troubadour took to other directions in search of a livelihood. Back in From the Anger tells the story of a once promising young musician who became a barman, roadie, sound technician, news cameraman and many other things as he waded through life always trying to find the voice that he had lost. It is a story that at times stretches the imagination, often reminding us of the hard road this country has travelled, but it is always told with humanity and humour that keeps it engrossing.

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Ralph Trewhela, Song Safari: A journey through light music in South Africa. Limelight Press, Cape Town. 1980

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Schalk D. van der Merwe, On record: Popular Afrikaans Music & Society 1900-2017. SUN MeDIA, Stellenbosch. 2017

Popular Afrikaans music artists have done well in post-apartheid South Africa and enjoy the enthusiastic support of loyal fans. This support is fuelled by a complex set of emotions linked to ?being Afrikaans? in a culturally pluralistic society. In On Record, van der Merwe investigates the interplay between popular music and the unfolding of Afrikaans culture politics from the start of the twentieth century to the present. It includes a search for the earliest recorded Afrikaans songs and documents subsequent phases of music development that reflect the agency of ordinary individuals – artists and listeners – against a background of fundamental societal and political change. It regards both the music mainstream and the alternative, and reveals, among other things, historical cases of compliance and resistance regarding the master narrative of Afrikaner nationalist ideology, the attempts by cultural entrepreneurs to establish authority over popular Afrikaans culture, class tension, lasting racial exclusivity, protest and censorship, and the post-apartheid invocation of Afrikaner nostalgia and white victimhood. Ultimately, On Record provides an uninterrupted account, and a critique, of the entire history of recorded popular Afrikaans music up to the present.