A grant from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation is funding the preservation of 230 historic audio recordings of the Los Angeles-based Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra – also known as P.A.P.A. or the Ark – a Black music and arts collective founded by jazz pianist and composer Horace Tapscott in 1961. The recordings are part of UCLA Library’s Horace Tapscott Jazz Collection, which contains music manuscripts and hundreds of sound recordings showcasing the vibrant legacy of the Ark, which Tapscott established to preserve and nurture Black music and musicians and build community in South Los Angeles.
Originally recorded on open-reel audio tapes that are now deteriorating due to age and environmental factors, digitizing Ark recordings found in Tapscott’s collection is an urgent project for the Library.
“Our team is committed to preserving the Ark community’s rich legacy in support of long-term access to this vibrant record of Black life in Los Angeles," said Yasmin Dessem, head of audiovisual preservation. “We are deeply grateful to the Haynes Foundation for supporting this important preservation work.”
The audio tapes contain hundreds of recordings from the Ark’s rehearsals, studio sessions and live performances held at South Los Angeles schools, parks, festivals and cultural sites between 1960-1982. The recordings were donated to UCLA Library in 2003 by Cecilia Tapscott after Tapscott’s death in 1999.
A recent release of a 60-year compilation album from the Ark-focused record label The Village includes three previously unreleased and newly preserved tracks from the Library’s Tapscott collection. Featuring music from every stage of the band’s development—from Tapscott’s earliest iterations of the group to its present-day incarnation— the album highlights the continued impact of Tapscott’s influence on the Los Angeles music scene.
Tapscott’s archive is part of the Library’s Los Angeles Communities and Cultures program, which documents the civic, cultural, social and political history of the region. It is among a group of Black cultural heritage collections stewarded by Library Special Collections, including Black Music and Musicians in Los Angeles; Beyond Central Oral History Series; Central Avenue Sounds Oral History Series; L.A. Rebellion and SOUL Publications, Inc. records, 1955-2002.
The newly digitized materials from the Tapscott audio collection will be available next summer.