‘Afrofuturism’ was a term coined by Mark Dery in the middle of the nineties. He is a cultural critic and it’s not the only cultural term that has sprouted from his mind.’Culture jamming’ was a term from the Eighties that was used by social movements by means to refer and moreover disrupt mainstream cultural institutions.
This may sound very academic but nevertheless ‘Afrofuturism’ says a lot about the Afro-American experience. It’s much broader than hip hop which started as a ghetto thing within an Afro-American neighborhood/community and grew into a global culture, just to become the hotbed for a global mainstream aestheticism.
Afrofuturism had it’s start in the African diaspora. From the very first beginning it was about alienation. To live like a stranger in a strange land. This was exaggerated by the simple fact of a people who were forced to give up their old habits in order to learn the language of their oppressing society.This was were reality became a fiction, where getting hold of your own language became an utopic vision. It also was a time & place where the forming of an underground culture became very real.
Although it didn’t had anything to do with the counter cultures that started in the sixties, the ‘black experience’ and their freedom struggle did have a major influence on white leftfield college students.
This alienation was also one of the things that fueled the words of Louis Armstrong in which he claimed that jazz musicians were part of a secret society. Of course, Congo Square had a lot to do with this to. This was the New Orleans’ place where African music & dances were held each sunday and survived through years of slavery. On most plantations the music was forbidden. An important reason for this was the talking drum that served as an early form of long distance communication.
The underground railroad was another facet of that same history. Next to the fact that it was quiet literally a freedom road out of slavery, there was a cosmical facet included to. The North star (Polaris) was historically used as a guiding star for runaway slaves. Further on we have songs like ‘Wade in the water’ which had instruction encoded on how to avoid being tracked down by Bloodhounds.
Jazz music grew out of this decoding society.
When the mid-twentieth century ‘Space Race’ took hold on western civilization it had a lasting impression on the Afro-American artist.
This influence was at the same time steeped into spirituality. When mankind took their ‘first step to outer space, just like a little baby, who never walked before’ (Walking on the moon-Sun Ra) black musicians interpretated this as an act from a society which took their first step as getting aquainted with their place in the universe. When outer space pictures of our blue planet took hold of the ‘mediawatcher’ it was a big influence on ecological debates and associations like Greenpeace. This was one of those revolutions that was televised.
On a spiritual level it was completely plausible Sun Ra came from Saturn. That’s not even half as far as what the German composer Karl-Heinz Stockhausen did wanted us to believe. Didn’t he came from a planet in the Sirius system? It has been set before that the sixties were pretty much spaced-out and if you really experienced it you weren’t there at all.
We can assume they were both tricksters, signifying monkeys(Afro American folk figure). These are figures who have the power to dismantle an oppressive system from within. They speak figuratively, symbolically, just like that other Afro-American folk trickster, Brer Rabbit.
Brer Rabbit outwits his oppressors, deconstructing, in small ways, the hierarchy of subjugation to which his weak body forces him to physically conform.
The trickster can also act as a clown. This reminds me of enigmatic artist like Lee Perry or George Clinton which both had a close knitted bond with outer space phenomena. The psychoalphadiscobeta parliafunkadelicment motor booty affair even had their own Mothership Connection. Last year George Clinton donated a replica of the Mothership that he used in stageshows to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American history and Culture. These stage shows had concept that were based around concepts like extra terrestrials who were visiting earth in search for P-Funk which had been left on an earlier visit. These themes were enhanced with their own vocabulary and electric spanking explanations beyond the absurd.
More mystifying and cryptical was the approach of Rammellzee and his concept of ‘Gothic Futurism’. This theory is based around the assumption that graffiti-writing’s origins dated back to the medieval monks of the 14th and 15th century. Accordingly this evolution should’ve been stopped at one point because the rich ornaments prevented the church fathers from reading it. This was the prototype for ‘Wild-Styling’. Misuse of the right formation of letters and their inherent mathematical and formal equations can lead to apocalyptic wars. Language relates to its inherent electromagnetic structures on an atomic level. Rammellzee was all about Knowledge-creation and against a weak thought. ‘Ikonoklast Panzerism’ was about turning words into Battleships. Ornamentation becomes ‘armanamentation’. Understanding this could be called crazy but it was far a big part about turning the word into a subconscious system.
The Detroit techno band Drexciya from the nineties build their own alienized mythology that was based around the fact of pregnant Àfrican women who were thrown of the slave ships. Drexciya was the underwater country that was inhabited with unborn babies that learned to breathe inside the mothers womb. Their souls belonged to the ‘aquazone’, sending high-tech-aquatic-sonic waves out to mankind.
Recently i discovered Hieroglyphic Being thanks to the audioMER-label from Gent. This release (Le jardin des Chemins Bifurquants) speaks of psychedelic splendor and is a must for people who are into electronic improvisations. He already had a prolific output as an experimental composer and sound artist with a roots in Chicago House music.
Hieroglyphic Being aka Jamal Moss aka IAMTHATIAM aka The Sun God is inspired with Afrofuturism. He has a lot in common with Sun Ra. Even if it was only for the part that they were both inspired by the book of Urantia. This book presents a detailed description of the cosmos and the place/relationship of humans within and can be read as some sort of alternative bible.
It was also the inspiration for Stockhausens seven operas cycle ‘Licht’.
Hieroglyphic Being hears music as a unified force, beyond races or genres. coming out of the Chicago underground music scene he wants to bring the Chicago house back to it’s origins. His urban electronic experience has a DIY-attitude that gives voice to the DNA of music that’s part of a sacred geometry.From an early age he had a feeling of disconnection which he escaped by diving into science fiction, free jazz, new age and other cosmical stuff. Although the technology he uses is more advanced he’s music is sonically a relative of earlier jazz.
Included in this post you can find a small mix that i made with parts of ‘Le Jardin des Chemins Bifurquants’ from Hieroglyphic Being. Included are snippets from ‘Free your mind and your ass will follow’ from Funkadelic, ‘Rain dance’ from Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi outfit and ‘Media Dreams’ from Sun Ra.
Oh… and the ‘Spaced-Out-Discofied-Boogieman’ on the picture is a member of the Seventies Motown band Undisputed Truth!
Have i said something about Afrofuturism?