The Sounds of Drum

DM1999090203: SAED: COVER: FEB 1955 - Tap dancers, Ursula Sentso and Arnold Mphahlele from the Synco Fans Theatrical Club.
DM2000072104:SAED:COVER:MAY1956 - Drum Cover (Photograph by Drum Photographer © BAHA) Drum staff on the cover

The PLP is working with the Bailey History Archive (BAHA) to make accessible the ‘best of’ Drum magazine and others in the BAHA stable for research, education and world heritage. The grant awarded from the Modern Endangered Archive Programme, based at the UCLA Libraries is well into its work.

Founded in 1951 by Jim Bailey and Bob Crisp, in its heyday Drum was a ground-breaking Pan-African magazine. It was deeply influenced by the picture magazine style of the time, exemplified by Life and Picture Post, and adapted that genre to an African context. The creative talent that emerged heralded a period of exceptional journalism and photography. Many of Drum’s writers, such as Henry Nxumalo (Mr Drum), Lewis Nkosi, Es’kia Mphahlele, Bloke Modisane, Arthur Maimane, Can Themba, and Todd Matshikiza were widely published and acclaimed. The magazine’s photographers also achieved great success, among them – Jurgen Schadeberg, Bob Gosani, G.R. Naidoo, Ranjith Kally, Peter Magubane, Alf Kumalo, and Ernest Cole.

Drum was known for its investigative journalism, coverage of the politics of the time as well as its cover girls and music stories. It seamlessly combined politics with popular culture. It was, as Mike Nicol described it in his book,  “a record of naivety, optimism, frustration, defiance, courage, dancing, drink, jazz, gangsters, exile and death.” Oswald Mtshali described the emerging urban consumer-orientated class as, “the new Africans” who modelled themselves on the movies of the time. He added further that they “adopted status symbols like big cars – battleships – Cadillacs, Buicks, Chryslers and Dodges.” Drum provides a window into this time, alongside photographs that chronicle the rise of apartheid, its devastating effects and the resistance politics of the period.

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