South Africa: Shifting Vinyl With My Grandfather's Records


The older generation collected music, whereas today's aficionados collect records. Vinyl has become an art object, and fanatics scratch through family albums for that next gem.

This article was first published in New Frame.

I have a thread of memories of sitting outside the scorching heat of my grandmother's house in Durban, catching some shade under the mango trees with my grandfather. I would sit next to him, watching his slow, coarse fingers roll tobacco. At times he would sprinkle some marijuana in, smoking this with head bobbing as if he were chasing a particular groove only he could hear. Vinyl records were playing.

None of our conversations ever touched on vinyl as a medium. He would only ever dwell on the sounds, places, eras and communities of people who shared his affinity for music. We would have our first conversation about vinyl when I started collecting records. It then dawned on me that we entered this exchange from very different perspectives.

17 March 2021. Nombuso Mathibela. Picture: James Oatway.

My grandfather started collecting records simply because that was the way music was sold at the time. The joy wasn't necessarily in the discovery of a rare album but in...

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