Monday, February 28, 2011

The Weekly Archivist interview: Team Leader and Music Request Archivist

Cate Jele
SABC Radio Archives
The SABC Radio Archives, which forms part of the SABC Media Libraries, has Archivists who focus specifically on requests and on servicing of our clients. This is part of a series of weekly interviews where they will all answer the same questions addressed to them.

It is a way of getting a better understanding of what an Archivist do, as well as getting a better insight into the scope of our collections.

The Archivist answering the questions this week is Cate Jele. She is the Team Leader for the Request Team in the SABC Radio Archives, and she focuses on music requests as well as Ikwekwezi fm requests.
She has been with the Radio Archives for 12 years. She works very close with the request archivists to coordinate the daily research and requests coming in.

Cate, please tell us a little bit about yourself. (Where you grew up, where and what you studied and your work experience before you joined the SABC Radio Archives)

I was born some years ago in a township called Namakgale in Phalaborwa. I am the first child in a family of four. I studied a lot of things, amongst them is music. I personally do not see it necessary to mention titles. I worked for Top Teach Tutor center which was a branch of the college called SACTE as a lecturer for three years. When the government decided to merge teachers colleges, ours was also affected. It closed down in Feb 1998.
I then by God’s grace landed a post in the SABC in July 1998 for Assistant Archivist, please do not ask what it meant. But, then that was my title.

Please tell us about a normal day in your studio. What type of requests do you receive?

A normal day starts with requests like “In 1957 the SABC came to our school and recorded our school choir and I was a member of that.  I need a copy”. This request is of sentimental value to the person and I need to share in the passion in getting it. I always put myself in the client’s shoes. How will a feel if I do not get the recording? This always pushes me to go an extra mile. My job has made me realize qualities that were hidden in me e.g. of being a servant. I get fulfilled when I have helped; just the sound of a thank you on the other side just raps my day.

Tell us more about the collection you focus on and the scope of material you need to preserve.

90% of my time is dedicated to requests as I do requests for music and Ikwekwezi fm. 10% is shared amongst cataloguing, data cleansing and other projects. Should I call them extra mural activities?I have been in charge of the 78’s collection in the archives which I enjoyed as I would make a great deal of discoveries e.g. when I got hold of other works by the honourable Enoch Sontonga which are very valuable. I had to restructure my work looking at the majority of requests I get and the types of recordings requested for. I am now cataloguing school choirs in a hope to bring more smiles onto people’s faces.
The genre came in handy last year December when RSG requested Christmas carols by school choirs. I had more than enough to provide.

Do you struggle with technical difficulties, and if so, what?

The fact that we need to keep recordings at the best quality possible especially music, it becomes a problem when certain mediums becomes obsolete or when music is recorded on sensitive mediums such as vinyl’s or acetate tapes and they need to be doctored first before you use them, sometimes the quality is lost in the process or the music is just unusable.

If you have an anecdote about a specific piece of interesting audio material, please share it with us.

I have shared some already in the other questions. The music collections are a treasure. I remember listening to “King Kong musical” which I found amongst the 78’s. Listening to documentaries of Dr Yvonne Huskisson about our African Indigenous music are also very rewarding. The original sounds of African instruments; the women singing in the field; all these just remind one of who you are and how rich our history is. 

Tell us why you enjoy doing the work that you do.

I already have. ;-)

Related posts:
The Weekly Archivist interview: News and Actuality requests
The Weekly Archivist interview: Sport
The Weekly Archivist interview: News and Actuality
The Weekly Archivist interview: Channel Africa

Questions and blog post by Karen du Toit, Afrikaans Archivist in the SABC Radio Archives. 

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