“The future is always here in the past” – Amiri Baraka

Archive for December, 2011

Modern Griots: Exuma


Obeah consists of folk magical practices that are performed in Caribbean islands, such as in my parents’ islands of Barbados and Dominica. It is also practiced in the Bahamas where singer Macfarlane Gregory Anthony McKay (Tony McKay) was born in 1942, and he later adopted the name of one of its islands, Exuma. Active during the late 60s and throughout the 70s, Exuma’s music had a distinct sound that differed from more mainstream music at the time. Mixing together Bahamian folk music, such as junkanoo, with rock and pop music, he created his own style.

In his signature song, “Obeah Man,” Exuma creates his own mythical legend, singing about his conception by way of a lightning bolt and his fiery birth as well as meeting with with Charon (the boatman from the River Styx) and Hector Hippolyte, a well known Vodou priest. The soundtrack is filled with a mixture of sounds from howling wolves, croaking frogs, a variety of percussion and guitar riffs. Other songs, like :Mama Loi, Papa Loi, cover topics like zombies, which actually is a word that comes from Haitian creole.

Also a painter, he designed his own album covers. He was also friends with and composed for other musicians, like Nina Simone (“Obeah Woman”). Exuma recorded 12 albums, including Exuma I & II, Do Wah Nanny, Snake, and Reincarnation. Although he passed in 1997, Exuma’s memory still lives on with his daughter Kenyatta Mackey, who is also a singer.

More on Exuma

“Obeah Man”

“Mama Loi, Papa Loi”

MJ in the Aquazone

What is Afrofuturism? Part 3

Here are two posts expanding more on the term afrofuturism:

Afrofuturism: A Beautiful History, A Brave New World” by Nicole D. Sconiers

“We have a beautiful history, and we shall create another in the future that will astonish the world.”
— Marcus Garvey

AfroFuturism is a culture that has emerged to render a portrait of the collective history, the present happenings, and the future prospects of people of color, where heretofore our stories and our roles have been skewed, misrepresented, and diminished in the mainstream social narrative. Sampling from the visual, sensual, and literary pallets of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, horror, and magic, Afrofuturism as a genre considers what it means to be of color throughout space and time, all while considering the present day influence of people of color upon the world, and our collective roles in shaping the eternally-unfolding future of humanity.

Many of us were Afrofuturists long before it had a name. The umbrella term for the Black presence in sci-fi, technology, magic and the like is a fairly modern creation, coined in 1994 by a culture critic named Mark Dery.  Although we apply this term retrospectively to encompass speculative fiction, film, art, and music created by people of color, we must recognize that the concepts and phenomenon fueling Afrofuturism have been around for as long as there have been people to observe it and communicate it.   Whether you call it mythology, ghost stories, parable, folktale, sci-fi, religious tale, or fantasy, people of color have always contemplated their origins in the same breath that they anticipated the fate of humankind. From the Dogon tribe to the Mayans, from the old negro spirituals to the tunes of Outkast, people of color have forever been passing down their accounts of what has come to pass upon our people and what is still yet to come. We will likely continue to do so until time the day that time leaves us all behind.

Afro-futurism” by Mark Rockeymoore

Afrofuturism is not science-fiction. It is not a mechanical, technology driven vision of the future because an afro ain’t never been about anything constricting or orderly, in the hierarchical sense. Rather, an afro is free-flowing, loving the wind. Changing, shifting and drifting on the breeze, bending this way, puffing out or just plain swaying gently from side to side, following the whimsical inclinations of the melanated person upon who’s head it is perched. An afro can be taken from, it can be added to, yet it still retains its own natural structure, its own spiral and bouncy nature. It is flexible, yet patterned. It is about synthesis and holism. It is about accepting the kitchens and working the waves on the crown. It is about dreading, locking and following the patterns of nature where they lead, yet following a laterally delineated order. It is about the interplay between dominant and recessive genes. It is about diversity. It is about knowing purposes and determining the placement of diverse variables within their proper context.

Afrofuturism is about knowledge. It is about intuitively understanding the harmonics of the Earth and solar system, their electromagnetic interactions: the effect of a butterfly in Brazil upon a hurricane in France, the weather patterns of the Earth, the living cycles of our days and nights and the stilling of the mind. The rotation and evolution of the galaxy and the oneness of the universe. The true, inner connectivity between each being on this planet. The simplicity of knowing truly, what love is. It is about the science of relationships, of clearing the mental and spiritual debris from one’s life in a healthy, systematic fashion. Of cleansing the body, not only our own, but that of the earth that we, as a culturally diverse people, have helped to subjugate. It is about shattering the walls separating the sciences and realizing the oneness of all creation. Knowing, and loudly declaiming its presence and purpose in the larger scheme of creation. Afrofuturism simply is!



The Original 7ven, originally The Time, is back with their first single, “Trendin’.” Including members Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jellybean Johnson, Monte Moir, Jesse Johnson and Jerome Benton, this group became popular in Prince’s film “Purple Rain.” Two of its members, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, became well-known producers for artists like Janet Jackson. Twenty-one years after their last album, they have returned with a new album Condensate.

While the song is somewhat of a novelty and a little corny, the group taking advantage of the popularity of twitter, the coolness they exude quickly trumps any of that. And with Morris Day’s ego (I say that in the best possible way) and the group’s signature funky style, the song fits them perfectly. It is 80s funk meeting the new millennium digital age. By the way, tomorrow on the Centric channel will be The Original 7ven’s takeover weekend starting at 10am!

The Mambos

I have mentioned mambo a few times on this blog and this will be another one. Did you know that the word for the high priestess in Haitian Voodoo is mambo? Mambo, which means “important words, matters, etc” or “conversation with the gods,” in the Central African language of Kikongo, is also used for the name of the Cuban music and dance. In addition to those usages, mambo is a greeting in Swahili (“how are things”) and “king” in the Zimbabwean Shona language. It may also be related to “Mumbo Jumbo” or “Mambo Jambo,” which came from the Mandingo word “Maamajomboo.” “Maamajombo” (“mamagyombo) meant “a magician who makes the troubled spirits of ancestors go away,” and was a name for a masked dancer in a religious ceremony. Later it was used in the 18th century for the name of a West African god. Several of these languages are part of the Bantu language family, which explains why the word shows up in them.

The above clip is from the documentary, When the Spirits Dance Mambo, which was produced by Afro-puerto Rican author Marta Moreno Vega. The documentary is named after the book of the same name. For more on West African deities in the Americans, read Denise Oliver Velez’s article on Daily Kos.

Mayda Del Valle- Mami’s Making Mambo

… An Album by Its Cover: Erykah Badu


Erykah Badu is known for her distinct album covers and her video for her song “Honey” (one of my favorite songs) highlights her affinity for album covers. Go to Soul Bounce to see the list of all the albums she referenced. Her recent album covers for New Amerykah and New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh have a very psychadelic, afrofuturistic look that I love. The artist, Emek, uses of the ankh, the scarab (dung beetle), the eye of heru, maat wings and other Egyptian symbols, and puts them a new context, especially with the images of the black power fists and modern technologies.

As an extra treat, here is Badu’s video for “Next Lifetime,” which showcases her previous journeys into afrofuturistic text:

Magical Creatures

For my first December post, here are some drawings of black mystical and magical creatures:

Pixel Randomness by Little Merokochan

The Nameless Lady by Zardra

Pulled Back by Kira the Artist

In Her Eyes There Is Beauty by Ebony-Chan

Black Panther by Kira the Artist



From No Good Habits

Jennifer the Little Mermaid by Hop2pop

Black Mermaids: The Faces of Yemaya

Via African Mythology Tumblr:

Art by Jasing Dreams

Jengu (Meingu is the plural)

Mermaid/Water spirit/Deity

Rivers, Seas, Ocean, Lakes

Origins – Sawa, Duala, Bakeweri (Cameroon)

Very similar to Mami Wata figure although the belief of meingu may predate Mami Wata traditions.

They are often depicted as very beautiful people with large eyes, wooly/kinky hair and gap toothed smiles. Although appearances of meingu can often differ from person to person. A jengu can often look more human or more fish-like.

The meingu live in rivers and seas and are said to bring good fortune to those who worship the,. They can cure diseases and act as medium between the the worshipers and the spirit world.


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