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Sound Restoration

The SABC Sound Archives boasts with the biggest acetate long-play record collection in the world. More than 14 000 acetate audio recordings found home in the Radio Sound Archives of the Corporation - some recorded as early as the 1920's.


In an attempt to save these many forgotten "jewels" of our South African history, the SABC Sound Archives moved towards digitisation a few years ago, preserving the world's biggest acetate collection on CD's.

Obakeng Phiri
Archivist: Sound Restoration 
Tel: +27 11 714-2045


Marius Oosthuizen, former sound engineer/archivist:

"Sound Restoration at the SABC is one of the few - if not only in the country! - that are familiarised with this process. "Audio Restoration is like the restoration of an old art masterpiece… instead of an image, it is sound you work with," he says. Not having anybody to consult beforehand, Marius did a lot of research prior this project.


"Sound restoration is an intricate process of cleaning the old acetate LP's and transfer them to the world of digital systems. Distilled water and surfactants such as paraffin are used for cleaning the old records and are applied with brushes," he said.


Old recordings deteriorate and recorded material gets lost - especially the instantaneous recordings. Since the 1920's these recordings were made on discs with a base of aluminium. During the war years some were not even aluminium but glass and, for cheaper home recordings, cardboard.  During the 2nd World War many European audio collections were destroyed in bomb attacks.


One of these 14 000 recording gems that played an important and colourful role in South African history, was recently broadcasted on RSG's Monitor. The recording was made on 22 December 1944 as a birthday ode to Grandma Issie Smuts on her 74th birthday. Issie was the wife of the then Prime Minister, General Jan Smuts.


The tribute was paid to her by well-known British singer/comedian Gracie Fields, the famous actor Humphrey Bogart and Bing Cosby. Her "grandma" funds for soldiers were much appreciated by the Americans during the Second World War. Also found was a 1906 recording of a Springbok team in a change room. After hearing this broadcast on RSG, Marius received more LP's from listeners for our archives.


He was also part of the team that was responsible for the recent and successful collection of The Voice of Nelson Mandela, a commercial CD publication project compiled by the SABC Sound Archives.  "This, amongst other, is the memory of our nation, and we should make sure that our audio heritage will never be lost…"