The 3rd Ear/David Marks Collection Print E-mail

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The collection

The Hidden Years Music Archive Project, 2015-2020

Contact: For more information on the Hidden Years Music Archive project, please contact
Dr. Lizabé Lambrechts at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or +27 (0)72-372 4140 (office hours).



In November 2013, the Documentation Centre for Music (DOMUS) received a large donation of material from David Marks, owner of the 3rd Ear Music Company. Established in 1967 by Ben Segal and Audrey Smith, the company functioned as an independent record label mostly operating in Johannesburg and Durban. Their aim was to protect, promote and produce live-music performances that were not heard within the mainstream record and broadcast industries due to the political or non-commercial nature of the material. David Marks joined the company in 1970 as a sound engineer and one year later took over the ownership, production and management of the company.

What makes this collection significant to researchers, teachers and students is the tremendous collection of sound recordings (music and spoken word), photographs, posters, programs, documents, press cuttings, notebooks and diaries that were collected by the company from 1960 to 2000. The collection has been estimated to contain around 175 000 items including live music, festivals, theatre and studio recordings that represent diverse musical styles ranging from Urban Folk and Township Jazz, to Country Rock and Maskanda.

David Marks remained an active participant in the South African musical landscape for most of his life working as a sound engineer, performer and also as a composer – some of his hit songs include Master Jack, Hey Nico and Mountains of Men. In the late 1960s Marks travelled to America where he worked as a sound engineer for the Bill Hanley sound company – doing his first live sound mix at the legendary Woodstock festival for John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. Upon his return to South Africa, Bill Hanley donated his sound system (used at the Woodstock festival) to Marks, which allowed him to work at various music festivals in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho and Botswana – all of which were photographed and recorded by Marks. Some of the musicians represented in this collection include Shiyani Ngcobo, Madosini, rare early performances of Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu (who later formed the group Juluka), folk singer Phil Ochs, the Malombo Jazz Makers, Allen Kwela, Kippie Moeketsi, Jeremy Taylor, Roger Lucey, Colin Shamley, Mike Dickman, Cornelia [Blundell], Carlo Mombeli, Laurika Rauch, Hawk, live recordings of Hugh Masekela playing in Lesotho and performances of Lefifi Tladi, to name but a few. The sound recordings also include various plays and musicals performed at the Market Theatre, Dorkay House and the Bantu Men’s Social Club in Johannesburg, and recordings of various union meetings and political speeches.

Material was also donated to Marks including recordings documenting the folk scene in Zimbabwe and donations from ethnomusicologists such as Dave Dargie and David Rycroft. Other collections donated to David Marks that now form part of the collection preserved at DOMUS, include the entire collection of Ben Segal and material from John Gregg who ran a recording studio in Port Elizabeth under the Bootleg label.

In 2013 DOMUS launched a project aimed at ordering and cataloguing the 3rd Ear Music / David Marks collection. This project will also strive to expand the collection through oral history projects, thus enabling further research on these important historical documents. A further objective is to determine the feasibility of a digitisation project and if viable to raise the necessary funds to see to its actualisation. This will not only make the collection accessible to national as well as international scholars, but broaden the possibilities of creative outputs. Ultimately, the goal is to make this collection accessible to researchers, students and teachers and to introduce these materials to the scholarly community and the public by means of research and creative outputs such as an exhibition.

Lizabé Lambrechts holds a PhD in Musicology on the subject of power and politics in South African music archives. She is a post-doctoral research fellow at DOMUS, Stellenbosch University, where she is working on the 3rd Ear Music / David Marks project: Making accessible South Africa’s unknown music history: Sorting, cataloguing and curating the Hidden Years Music Archive.

David Marks* Dr. Lizabé Lambrechts

*Photograph courtesy of Sinkins, E. [provided by L. Lambrechts]. 2011. You can’t stop the music. The Witness, December, 5. [Online]. Available: [2011, November 30].

(Information provided by Dr. Lizabé Lambrechts, February 2014)
DOMUS is launching an exciting new project to open the 3rd Ear / David Marks collection for national as well as international researchers, musicians, artists and students. This collection contains irreplaceable material documenting the South African musical landscape through the turbulence of apartheid to the early years of democracy. It represents musicians that were not recorded by the mainstream record companies or received radio airtime, but nevertheless had large followings at concerts, clubs and festivals throughout the country.
In order to raise public awareness of this archive, DOMUS will host a one day music festival in March 2015 drawing on the musicians represented in the archive. Up and coming singer/songwriters will also be invited to perform songs contained in the collection. Continuing with the legacy of making live recordings, which form the bulk of the 3rd Ear / David Marks collection, this concert will be recorded live and released on CD/DVD. Apart from giving a public forum to the music and musicians represented in this collection, the concert will also serve to highlight the importance and possibilities of community involvement in preserving South Africa’s national heritage through making use of the crowd sourcing platform, Kickstarter, to fund the concert.
The following three years (2015 – 2018) will be invested towards unlocking the archive through intensive archival work ranging from unpacking, sorting, and cataloguing. A feasibility study will be undertaken to investigate the possibilities of digitisation, and post-graduate students will be encouraged to volunteer their time towards these efforts. Post-graduate scholarships will be made available to students who wish to focus their research on archives not only as places containing information but as valuable sites for investigation. As such research will be encouraged that looks both towards archival practice and its link to the informational content of the archive.
This phase will conclude with the publishing of a catalogue book containing information, photographs, lists, essays and recordings of the material contained in the collection. Potential for other creative projects such as a travelling exhibition and concerts will also be investigated. In addition, an oral history project focused on gathering information regarding the South African Folk Music Association (SAFMA) will run concurrently with the process of unlocking the archive.
Phase three of this project (2018-2020) will serve to conclude the oral history project. Efforts will be made towards making these interviews accessible to the public through a webpage, publications and exhibitions.
For more information about the project and to follow our progress please visit or find us on twitter with @HYMAProject.
(Information provided by Dr. Lizabé Lambrechts, June 2014)

Mike Dickman, Johannesburg, 1972. Photographer: Tony Campbell.


Last Updated ( Monday, 30 November 2020 )
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