Hugh Tracey

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Hugh Tracey (1903–1977) was an important twentieth century ethnomusicologist, authority on indigenous South African music.

Biography and career

He and his wife collected and archived music from Southern and Central Africa. He began making field recordings of music in the early 20's, through the 70's.

He founded The International Library of African Music (ILAM) in Grahamstown in 1954, and become its director. ILAM publishes the African Music Society Journal. Hugh's son Andrew Tracey (see also IMDB) also became a well known ethnomusicologist specializing in African music and another son, Paul Tracey, became a musician and ethnomusicologist.

Over a 40-year period he accumulated a vast and now priceless collection of traditional songs and instrumental renderings, sourced from the Congo to the Nguni regions of South Africa. In this way he did much, with this son Andrew, to re-discover, preserve and promote an interest in African music and musical instruments.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Also a playwright, he wrote the play Chief Above, Chief Below (performed in 1952).


Inskip, Donald P., 1972.

Tucker, 1997.

Sound recordings and other material held by NELM.

For more information, see the entry on Wikipedia at

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