Audio archaeology on the Antilles

March 2006 -

His fascination for the music of the Antilles started with his hobby of collecting records and a high-school sweetheart from Curaçao. Years later, Tim de Wolf, historian and 'audio-archaeologist', stumbled upon an abandoned warehouse in Curaçao; after brushing away the cockroaches and feces he found lost Antillean culture. From the waste he fished the stock of warped 78 rpm records from a former shop; after a 'tune-up' in an oven he built himself, these were the beginning of some 30 CDs. Along with the collection Riba Dempel, published under the Otrabana Records, his work has saved numerous Antillean recordings from the period 1944-1957 from being lost.

Disconan Bieu ('old records' in Papiamento) is Tim de Wolf's second project: digitized recordings from the period 1957-1970 with a rich array of discographic information. De Wolf strives to reconstruct the history of the tunes using newspaper archives and interviews with the people involved. "Initially, the objective of my projects was purely scientific, but that changed with the cooperation with Scott Rollins, founder of Otrabanda Records. He urged me to cover the bare facts with a delicious sauce of anecdotes."


Rudy Plaate

The puzzling story of singer Rudy Plaate from Curaçao is only one of the anecdotes. "Rudy had his number Minirok mastered, but was so disappointed by the results that he loaded the entire batch into his car and had it incinerated at a landfill. But apparently not all the records went up in flames: to his great surprise Minirok was a huge hit in 1967."

Tim de Wolf can repair warped records covered in scratches and let them sound like new with the right needle. Thus he sometimes literally awakens the music of the past from the dead: during a presentation he played one of these old songs for a room full of Antilleans, and the entire audience sang along at the top of their lungs.

Tim de Wolf's research is possible in part thanks to cooperation with the Splika foundation (Stimulá Papiamentu, Literatura i Informashon riba Kultura di Antiyanan abòu) and financial support form the Prince Claus Fund, the Prince Bernhard Fund, the Mondriaan foundation, the ThuisKopie Fund and the VSB Fund.