From International Shortwave to Digital Rebroadcast Transforming Music Time in Africa for a New Worldwide Audience

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Paul Conway
Kelly Askew


In January 2015, the US government agency Voice of America loaned the Leo Sarkisian Music Library to the University of Michigan with the goal of digitizing and providing access to the materials for research and teaching. Transfer created an archive where once existed a longstanding music resource that supported all aspects of the production of the VOA’s Music Time in Africa radio program. The archive encompasses sound recordings and type-scripts of the radio program (1965-2004), along with extensive recordings of live musical performances made by Leo Sarkisian in his travels through Africa or by African staff trained by Leo Sarkisian to make professional quality recordings on his behalf—often at the radio stations he helped establish. This article describes the Music Time in Africa radio broadcast and then contextualizes efforts to provide access to the digitized recordings in terms of the nature of the post-modern archive, performance studies, and the repatriation of musical heritage resources found in archives. The article concludes with a reflection on the complexities of providing access to digital recordings of international radio and the author’s efforts to explore opportunities for digital repatriation through rebroadcast on social media, which in many ways shares the underlying characteristics of the radio broadcast medium itself.

Article Details

How to Cite
Conway, P., & Askew, K. (2018). From International Shortwave to Digital Rebroadcast: Transforming Music Time in Africa for a New Worldwide Audience. International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) Journal, (48), 31–48.
Author Biographies

Paul Conway, University of Michigan

Paul Conway is associate professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. His research encompasses the digitization of cultural heritage resources, particularly photographic archives, the use of digitized resources by experts in a variety of humanities contexts, and the measurement of image and text quality in large-scale digitization programs. He has extensive research, teaching and administrative experience in archives and preservation fields and has made major contributions over the past 30 years to the literature on archival users and use, preservation management, and digital imaging technologies. He has held positions at the National Archives and Records Administration (1977-87; 1989-92), the Society of American Archivists (1988-89), Yale University (1992-2001), and Duke University (2001-06). In 2005, Conway received the American Library Association's Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award for his contributions to the preservation field. He is a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists.

Kelly Askew, University of Michigan

Kelly Askew is Director of the African Studies Center and Professor of Anthropology and DAAS. She has worked for over two decades in Tanzania and Kenya. Her writings and film projects span two primary research areas: poetic arts as vehicles for populist engagement with politics, and the formalization of property rights. Recent film projects include: (1) Poetry in Motion: 100 Years of Zanzibar’s Nadi Ikhwan Safaa (Buda Musique, forthcoming 2015) on Zanzibar’s oldest taarab orchestra; and (2) The Chairman and the Lions (Documentary Educational Resources, 2013), which won 1st place at the ETNOFilm Festival (Croatia, 2013) and a Special Jury Award at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (Tanzania, 2013). She is currently in post-production on a new film entitled Maasai Remix about indigenous creativity in addressing challenges to Maasai pastoralist livelihoods.

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