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Yes, 2016 was crazy. But the future of art is bright and black

  1. Josef Leimberg – “Astral Progressions”In   late   November I    was    taken    on a sonic journey through  West Coast

    rap,   cosmic   spiritual jazz and P-funk by California-based trum- peter and hip hop pro- ducer  Josef  Leimberg. His   debut   solo   album:

    “Astral       Progressions” has been  a  staple  in  the  car, home and office ever since. The album explores West Coast G-funk and two major  historical components

    of Afrofuturistic sound art: spiritual cosmic jazz in the vein of artists like Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane, and cosmic funk as created by Parliament- Funkadelic.

    Anyone who is a scholar of Afrofuturism  will  agree   that   the album really connects the dots (both sonically and stylistically) between  then, now and the future. For me the album is part of a movement of deliber- ately conscious black music that is using ancient soundscapes to explore the future sound of black music. This conscious black music movement is to avant garde jazz musician, Sun  Ra,  and  funk  mas-ter, George Clinton, what the genre Neo-Soul is to Roy Ayers (who successful- ly straddled bridged jazz, funk and disco in the mid-1970s and early ‘80s), with hip hop sandwiched right in the middle

  2. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, my love” Roughly 29 days before the closing of this year actor Donald Glover under the guise of his rapper alter ego, Childish Gambino, made waves when he released “Awaken, my love”,   an   album   that d r a w s heavily on the works of Funkadelic, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and  Prince.  While  many   reviews of the album didn’t find it par- ticularly Afrofuturistic in nature, I did.  I  feel  that  while  it  draws  onthe same influences as Neo-Soul artist D’Angelo, its sonic aesthetic leans more toward rapper Kendrick Lamar’s Afrofuturistic album “To pimp a butterfly”.

    In my humble     opinion Gambino (along with like-mind- ed artists such as Sa-Ra, Bilal, Adrian Younge, Terrace Martin) is ushering in the stylistic progression of neo-soul to neo-psychedelic   space   funk (if  you  could  call   it   that). The   crazy   thing   about   this is  that  the  said   “progres- sion”  is   taking   place   during a  socio-political  period  that is

    often likened to the late 60’s/ early 70’s: when George Clinton and Sly Stone altered soul and funk, and Hendrix altered the blues. I am very chuffed that I can bear witness to the development of this sound, especially within the context of  the

    #BlackLivesMatter movement and the looming Donald Trump admin- istration.

    Finally, a film about one of the most important heroes of black resistance in the USA and beyond, Nat Turner. The movie, which is co-produced and directed by  Nate Parker

  3. “Birth of a Nation” – Nate Parker

    who also plays the leading role is significant in many ways. It is a prime example of the very necessary process of reclaiming and reframing of black history in order to change the trajectory of the future of black people worldwide.

    The film was shrouded in contro- versy and was received with mixed feelings. Seventeen years ago, Parker and a wrestling teammate were accused of raping a female student, while attending Penn State universi- ty. Parker was found not guilty. Four years ago, the woman who accused him committed suicide.

    With the release of “Birth of a Nation” in October and Parker’s raised profile the spotlight turned back on the case.

    Despite one’s personal judge- ments of his character, the project might inspire other young black artists to boldly rewrite and reimag- ine the often-skewed whitewashed historical accounts of black revolu- tionary action.

    Hopefully soon someone might present the world with say, the story of the Haitian Revolution (1791- 1804) or of revolutionary hero, the late Burkinabe president Thomas Sankara, who was revered as the “African Che Guevara”. Who knows. Either way, Parker has sown the seed.

     

    I never was a fan of comics and super- heroes but the “Luke Cage” series might have changed my mind. The television series caught my attention for the  same  reasons  as  “Birth  of a Nation” and “Awaken, my love”. Essentially it is an Afrofuturistic blaxploitation series with a brilliant retrospective, and futuristic score created by the great Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. What is not to love about this?

    The series brings Afrofuturism and neo-psychedelic space funk to the living rooms of the masses   and

  4. “Luke Cage” TV series

    I never was a fan of comics and super- heroes but the “Luke Cage” series might have changed my mind. The television series caught my attention for the  same  reasons  as  “Birth  of a Nation” and “Awaken, my love”. Essentially it is an Afrofuturistic blaxploitation series with a brilliant retrospective, and futuristic score created by the great Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. What is not to love about this?

    The series brings Afrofuturism and neo-psychedelic space funk to the living rooms of the masses   and

    two icons, Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, who are equally loved, and hated by many. It offers us insight (via the speeches exchanged by these icons upon their first meeting in Cuba in 1991) into Cuba’s role in catalysing the end of apartheid.

    It also sheds some light on how these two giants related to each other as revolutionaries. This is essential reading material, especially in the wake of Castro’s death and the current state of the ruling ANC in South Africa. Ironically the book was republished by Kwela Books a few months prior to the passing of Castro who is often referred to as the world’s last revolutionary, this reaf- firms my belief that revolutionary ideas do not die when revolutionaries do.

    In closing I would also like to make special mention of the album “Wisdom of the Elders” by Shabaka Hutchings  and   the   Ancestors   as a key Afrofuturistic spiritual jazz release to come from South Africa this year (British saxophonist Hutchings recorded “Wisdom of the Elders” in Johannesburg in 2015 with some of South Africa’s finest young jazz musicians). I’m waiting for the album which I ordered in vinyl format for further exploration. Don’t delay the purchase like I did.

    The author, Michael Shakib Bhatch does not work for, consult, own shares in

    or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above. The article has been published in The Conversation which is funded by Barclays Africa and nine universities,

    including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, National University of Science and Technology and the Universities of the Free State, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, Western Cape, Witwatersrand, South Africa. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner.