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The Calgary Cassette Preservation Society is expanding its offerings for aficionados

Calgary archivist Arif Ansari had a dream 17 years ago to document music made by local artists, so he started a comprehensive digital archive.

The Calgary Cassette Preservation Society is his brainchild.

The non-profit started with a database of cassette tapes made by local alternative bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Then it expanded to include many more songs and collections created by artists over the years.

The venture is growing and has an updated website with new features for music enthusiasts.

“The original site was built on basically a blog.… It wasn’t very searchable. It was kind of clunky. And for a couple of years, I’ve been wanting to build a very database-driven site, with everything highly linked,” Ansari said in an interview on the Calgary Eyeopener.

“So you can click from one band to another and look at the members and, and all that fun stuff. And so that’s what we spent the past three months doing.”

The website is a work in progress as the team finishes migrating content to the site with the hope that the updated resource will make it super easy for music lovers to look up bands and listen to their recordings.

A man is seen smiling at the camera in a close-up shot. He's dressed in a dark grey hoodie.
Arif Ansari is now aiming to include other ephemera from Calgary’s music scene, such as historic gig posters. (Submitted by Arif Ansari)

Ansari is also aiming to include other ephemera from Calgary’s music scene, such as historic gig posters.

As far as the archivist is concerned, old posters are a great way to take a walk down memory lane.

“[A poster] celebrates the bands and celebrates the artists behind posters.… For those of us that missed the shows, it kind of reinforces that amazing regret that we might have. But for those who are there, it’s also a great little memory of, you know, some really cool nights in fun, dark places.”

While the archivist started the non-profit with the intention of preserving old cassettes and creating an archive, he didn’t expect the initiative to take off the way it did.

“It kind of snowballed,” Ansari said. “Once I started posting things, people started adding in stuff. So it kind of expanded in terms of the reach, in terms of time, going all the way into the early ’80s.”

The archive also grew to include contemporary music and more genres — beyond alternative and punk music.

LISTEN | Arif Ansari talks about the Calgary Cassette Preservation Society:

Calgary Eyeopener7:36Calgary Cassette Preservation Society

How the Calgary Cassette Preservation Society is expanding its efforts to document Calgary’s music scene and making their archives more accessible to music lovers.

Since its inception, the Calgary Cassette Preservation Society has amassed many supporters, including Maya Calvez, an aspiring archivist and blogger.

“What Arif is doing is just so incredibly important to Calgary’s history, and even Alberta’s history, with music and live shows as well as the physical format of music as in records and tapes,” she said.

“Without his work, I think that a lot of this stuff would just be lost entirely — which is really a shame to think about.”

A rare resource

Calvez came across the Calgary Cassette Preservation Society when she was researching the local music scene online.

She was drawn to the website because it contained detailed information on artists and bands she couldn’t locate anywhere else.

“[It’s] really cool that he has all the actual recordings of the music so you can take a listen and see what the band sounds like,” she said.

Calvez added that Ansari’s online resource serves as a solid reference tool when it comes to getting information on local brands. She uses it often when writing her blog posts.

Cassette tapes in a close-up shot.
The Calgary Cassette Preservation Society and its unique collection of cassette tapes are highly underrated, according to Maya Calvez, an aspiring archivist and blogger. (Submitted by Arif Ansari)

Calvez believes the digital archive is highly underrated.

“I just really think that people are missing out. I think that it really deserves more attention and more value. And the work that Arif has put into this project is just mind-blowing,” she said.

“It’s really impressive to me as an aspiring archivist, but also just in general, as someone who grew up in Calgary. It’s amazing to me, and I think that more people need to look into it, for sure.”

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