It all began with 500 vinyl records from Ghana. Today, the University of Mainz holds a comprehensive collection of African music. Many recordings remain real rarities in Africa.
Whoever wants to hear how Africa can sound, should first take a look underground in Mainz. In the cellar of the Institute of Ethnology and African Studies lies an acoustic treasure chest: The African Music Archive. The collection is unique in Germany: Soul, reggae, highlife, hip-hop, jazz and above all pop music – on over 10,000 sound recordings from across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Regional styles are also represented, for example Big Flava, a variant of hip-hop from East Africa. Thousands of records Researching African sounds: Ethnologist Hauke Dorsch Spread over five rooms, vinyl records, music cassettes, CDs, video cassettes and DVDs are stored – diligently categorized by region and country. In 1991, ethnologist Wolfgang Bender brought the first records together, buying ever more recordings over the years.
Others were donated by academics handing-over their souvenirs from Africa. "The big impetus came when Bender acquired the collection from Radio France International," remembers Hauke Dorsch, archive manager for the past two years. When the French radio broadcaster stopped using vinyl records, Bender brought the discs to Mainz, thus expanding the collection immensely. Dorsch himself researched African sounds.
He wrote his doctoral thesis on Griots, the West African professional singer, poet and instrumentalist.