I recently stumbled across this beautiful mix and interview by King Britt which explores the diverse expressions of Afrofuturism in African American music. Cosmic Culture is a classic compilation that highlights some of the most influential and progressive artists in African American musical history. King Britt weaves a magical thread from an eclectic variety of genres and takes the listener on a journey into a world of psychedelic jazz, funk, and dub. This world is a higher dimension teeming with the gods and mythical beings of African American music — Sun Ra, Parliament Funkadelic, Miles Davis and others — with each sonic experience transitioning seamlessly across a dreamlike soundscape. In the interviews King Britt and others discuss how these sounds played a pivotal role in shaping the development of contemporary Afrofuturism.

King Britt explains the background to this mix on Okayfuture:

I was asked a few months ago to curate a show on Afrofuturism and its influences on me and my compositional work. Afrofuturism is a term originated by Mark Dery who did an essay in the New York Times in 1995 called “Black To The Future.” It became a very famous term among Afro American musicians who embrace Science Fiction, realities of space and time, and who tend to look at other worlds, comic books, and that sort of thing, as a way of escape. You have authors like Octavia Butler who wrote Kindred and other amazing books, Kodwo Eshun who wrote More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction, which really go into breaking down what Afrofuturism is. But basically it is the African American sound that embraces Science Fiction pioneered by artists Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Sun-Ra, Parliament Funkadelic, DJ Spooky, just to name a few.

You can listen to the Cosmic Culture mix here or on King Britt’s Soundcloud.

Track List

Part 1: Yesterday

  • “Kawaida” -Kawaida
  • “Gamla Stan” – Don Cherry
    plus: an interview with Alondra Nelson
  • “Ostinato” – Herbie Hancock (as Mwandishi)
  • “John McLaughlin” – Miles Davis
  • “Space Is the Place (Live)”- Sun Ra
    plus: an interview with Pearl Britt
  • “Feel”- George Duke
  • “Rien Neva Plus” – Funk Factory
  • “Cabral” – Mtume feat. Dee Dee Bridgewater
  • “Radhe Shyam” – Alice Coltrane
    plus: an interview with Sun Ra

Part 2: Today (Megamix)

  • “African Roots”- King Tubby
  • “Eyjafjallajokul” – Mad Professor
  • “Zodiac Shit” – Flying Lotus
  • “Ahoulaghuine Akaline (King Britt Remix)” – Bombino
  • “Teleport” – Headless Headhunters
  • “Nights Over Nantes” – Jneiro Jarel
  • “Castles” – HouseShoes feat. Jimetta Rose
  • “Brgundy” – MndDsgn
  • “Connect” – Some Other Ship
  • “All in Forms (Leatherette Remix)” – Bonobo
  • “Light Odyssey” – Union
  • “Planetary Analysis” – King Britt feat. Rich Media
  • “Discipline 3” – Ras G
    plus: an interview with Sun Ra
  • “Heritage Ship” – Madlib
  • “Emotional Quotient Deringer of Chiek Anta Diop” -King Britt feat. Rilners Jouegck
  • “New Wave” -Common feat. Stereolab
  • “The Stars Are Singing Too” – Build an Ark
  • “Bug in the Bassbin” – Innerzone Orchestra
  • “Raven” – Actress
  • “Voodoo Ray” – A Guy Called Gerald
  • “Dem Young Scones” – Moodymann
  • “Flower (King Britt’s Underwater Garden Dub Remix)” – Soul Dhamma
  • “Planet Rock” – Afrika Bambaataa
  • “Mozaik” – Zomby
  • “Endgame” – Antipop Consortium
  • “Loveless” – 4Hero feat. Ursula

Part 3: Tomorrow

  • “Beyond the Sun (Live)” – Fhloston Paradigm
  • “Endeavors for Never (The Last Time We Spoke You Said You Were Not Here. I Saw You Though.)” – Shabazz Palaces

Via: Visual Melt and Okayfuture

This weekend I hit the streets of Accra to immerse myself in the explosion of creativity that is the annual Chale Wote Street Art Festival. The festival has been held every year since 2011 and is essentially an arts workshop that turns an entire street in Jamestown, Accra into an open-ended canvas for artists of all types to leave their mark on the city. And for a couple of days each year, that winding stretch of urban terrain truly feels as if it’s been reclaimed by “the people.”

This time I took the opportunity to do a bit of photojournalism and tried to capture some of the most interesting scenes I encountered. The quality and diversity of the art seems to keep getting better each year, and the vibe is always spontaneous and chilled out. It’s definitely one of the best ways to spend a Saturday afternoon in Accra. The Chale Wote Street Art Festival is organized by Accra [dot] Alt. You can find a lot more photos on their site, or simply by googling ‘Chale Wote.’

All of these photos were taken on a Nokia Lumia 520, which isn’t spectacular but still manages a decent job.

I’ve followed the Accra Theatre Workshop group via social media since it first began two years ago but had yet to attend any of their programs, like the annual “Summer Shakespeare” or their more recent “An African Walks into a Psychiatrists Office” which actually featured an adapted performance of my Virus short story. And so last Wednesday I arrived at the Alliance Francaise institute in Accra to witness the preview of their new experimental dance performance with reasonably high expectations. I was simply blown away.

This description of the performance is taken from the Accra Theatre Workshop blog:

In the piece, Little Warrior, our protagonist, has to navigate four worlds that hang in the balance between sleep and waking. The preview taking place on Wednesday 25th June 2014 will take the audience through two of those worlds, exploring concepts of afrofuturism and identity through movement, sound, and spectacle.

The first world, Dreamscape, is an expression of modern escapism and a criticism of the established order which accepts wholesale the social constructs impressed on us. This world is anchored in dance, and in ritualized movement.

The second world, Monsters, is a visceral study in the human reaction to fear, and a deconstruction of the term “fight or flight”. This world employs puppets and stage combat.

Overall, these two worlds serve as a commentary on how we as human beings can allow situations, internal or external, to hold us back from our full potential.

Dreamscape was an energetic, mesmerizing rollercoaster ride across an imaginary soundscape, with a score encompassing genres from trip hop to house and even hardcore dubstep. The narrative was ingeniously worked into the dancer’s movements, and although some aspects were not entirely comprehensible (at least, to a layman like myself), the overarching theme of the story was well presented and powerfully conveyed.

This performance boldly pushes the boundaries of the Ghanaian theatre scene and speaks volumes about the talent and vision of the creator Elisabeth Efua Sutherland and director Emelia Asiedu. If you happen to find yourself in Accra during the month of November, you might want to get yourself a ticket to the full performance of Dreamscape, which will undoubtedly be an incredible experience. And you can be sure to find me there (in the back row, bobbing my head when the bassline drops).

The most valuable natural resource to a society’s development is its ore of ideas.

Much more than a brand of esoteric entertainment, science fiction has long been a source of prophetic knowledge that has influenced the destiny of humankind. From ‘1984’ (Orwell, 1949) to ‘Neuromancer’ (Gibson, 1984), the course of history has continually been altered by the ripple effect of this unique brand of ideas on our immediate future.

Already a challenging art form, science fiction is rapidly growing in complexity in the age of high technology, as anyone imagining a future society is forced to explore the consequences of several new trends on innumerable disciplines interwoven through many layers of society. However, each accurate guess proves to be well worth the effort, to ever-increasing orders of magnitude.

Of course, future prediction is old business, having been pursued by the most inquisitive minds throughout human history, from ancient Greek philosophers to our contemporary career futurists. Yet, in the widening grey area between the document in a scientific journal and the novel on your bookshelf, there lies a multiplicity of universes begging to be explored.

Science fiction is a fragile network of bridges between the scientific world and the general public.

It is hardly an easy task to expose the many dynamic relationships between the lab and the street, and less so to fashion them together into a coherent, gripping piece of entertainment. But when well-executed, it allows the average person to grasp the critical underlying factors of these relationships and gain some skill in uncovering these patterns on their own.

Science fiction takes the thoughts of a few individuals and feeds them into the collective processing machine of an entire society. Instead of being confined to a roomful of academics, these ideas are freed into the Darwinian domain of coffee houses and dinner tables, to be prodded and picked apart from all angles until a refined vision resurfaces through natural selection.

Under the guise of entertainment, science fiction spearheads the formation of vital discourses into the complex cause-effect relationships between technology and social phenomena, sharpening the collective awareness of trends within a society. The more people are exposed to these trends, the more they are inspired to study them, and the more they aspire to influence them for the better.

You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re from. Or is it the other way around?

Simply knowing what problems lie around the bend spurs the proactive development of solutions before those problems have time to take root. As we visualize what could be in our future, we gain insight to the implications of the actions we take today, putting our current reality into a grander perspective.

For instance, cyberpunk literature played a significant role in streamlining the regulation of information technology because of the huge discourse community that surrounded cyberspace as it was still in its infancy. The graphic detail in which cyberpunk described the possible abuses of the Internet provided specific objectives to achieve while guiding its development in the West.

This is likely the most recent example of a highly probable scenario being averted just as it began to materialize. There are lessons in here for Africa to learn, particularly as a disturbingly similar kind of situation shows signs of appearing on our continent. And the learning process begins with the simple dissemination of an idea.

A society without science fiction may be standing in the light, but is surely stepping into darkness.

It is clear that exposure to science fiction today has a significant impact on those who go on to build the societies of tomorrow. Had African leaders of the past been given a glimpse of the effects globalized technology would have on our geo-political landscape, we would most likely be living on a vastly different planet today.

As Africa marches onward into the future it is important that we as Africans begin to critically visualize the developments that will take place on our own soil. It’s not enough to import science fiction and translate it into the local languages. Our vision must be based on our own unique reality – cut from the cloth of our own societies and tailored to our specific needs.

It’s about time our youth had a realistic vision of their future, so they know exactly what paths to follow and can be prepared for whatever lies along the way. Africa desperately needs science fiction to expand the frontiers of the African thinker’s imagination, to free it from the past, guide it through the present, and follow it into an unbound future.