Modern Griots Reviews: Old Money


Take some mysticism and some social realities mixed with some humor and Brooklyn-by way of the Caribbean-flava and you have Old Money‘s debut mixtape, Fire in the Dark.

Their album released on Dutty Artz records, the group consists of Afro-Caribbean-American (Jamaica and Guyana) duo, Ahmad Julian and Andre Oswald. The mixtape uses references familiar afrofuturist themes, like “Mothership,” as well as spiritual elements, as in “Ayahuaca” (the psychoactive brew made by native people in Peru). But it also is down to earth with songs like “Doctor Doctor,” which samples Chris Rock’s joke about lower class black families using Robitussin as a cure-all because they cannot afford to go to the doctor, a humorous criticism in the form of a lullaby or children’s game song about the failure of science and the healthcare system with black and lower-class people.

Fire in the Dark additionally uses a Caribbean cultural lens, clearly beginning with the intro track and referencing maroons running as the judgement day comes raining down, and a callaloo interlude. All of that presented with wide range of global beat influences including dancehall, dub, kwaito, kuduro, hip-hop and European electronica that has you moving out of your seat.

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Old Money

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Art of This World: Ebony G. Patterson, and The Grand Rue Sculptors


I found this post via the Canadian afrofuturist website Outterregion:

(Note: I edited some of it)

Ebony G. Patterson

Justice, truth be ours forever
Jamaica land we love
– Excerpt from Jamaican National Anthem

The media has been showing only stories of violence from Jamaica for some time now due to unrest in West Kingston. It was very important to me tonight to share some ‘positive vibes’ from Jamaica and to talk about some afrofuturist art happening there and in the Caribbean.

The first artist I will profile is Ebony G. Patterson. She is a young woman, born in Kingston, Jamaica. She is an Assistant Professor of Painting at University of Kentucky and in Kingston. I call Ebony an afrofuturist as her work challenges the status quo in Jamaican culture, rejects the traditional and expected, and pushes the boundaries of art. For example, her earlier work exploring women’s bodies “focused on the vagina as an object and, by implication, examined the taboos that surround this body part and its functions within Jamaican culture.” …

Her more recent works focus on the male body. More specifically she looks at contradictions of men’s appearance in Jamaican dancehall culture, e.g. skin bleaching, eyebrow shaping – traditionally feminine features, while the men also portray themselves as hardcore, masculine gangstas.
The picture above this post is from her installation, “Gangstaz, Disciplez + The Doiley Boyz”….
Also, Ebony participated in the 2009 Jamaica Arts Cultural Exchange. For information on this event and more on Ebony’s work, go here.

The second feature in this post is about a group of afrofuturist artists called The Grand Rue Sculptors. They are a community of artists living in a downtown slum neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I call them afrofuturists because they, like Ebony, push boundaries – do not accept the life that has been given to them and create new realities. They live daily with the reality that life as an artist in Haiti is near impossible – no government support and the inability to even get visas to see their own work displayed outside of the country. In 2009, they developed and hosted the Ghetto Biennale – and invited international artists to participate and explore “what happens when first world art objectives encounter third world artistic reality, and when Western artists try to make art in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” (source: http://www.yoonsoo.com)
Read about Ghetto Biennale here.

One love,
Karen

Continue reading Art of This World: Ebony G. Patterson, and The Grand Rue Sculptors

Otherworldly Videos: Louis Chude-Sokei Reading


Hello everyone, I’m back! With my return, I will be posting at a later time (8:00pm) and for the next couple of weeks, the blog will have a Caribbean afrofuturist focus, especially since I wrote a piece for Africa Is Done Suffering about a need to highlight more of Caribbean experience into diaspora (and in this case, afrofuturist) conversation.

First, here is Nigerian-born, Jamaican-raised scholar and writer, Louis Chude-Sokei, reading about the story of PT Barnum and Joice Heth from The Last Darky: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (Williams was Antiguan, by the way). The reading was at the Plummeting Appliances, Dying Verbs, Enslaved Automatons fiction forum at 601 Artspace in New York City earlier this year. Chude-Sokei reads about PT Barnum and his early show that featured Joice Heth, an elderly slave, and the turk chess machine. He uses the story to discuss the intersections between the use of deception in modern media, othering/objectification/exploitation of race and ethnicity, and the presence of robotics/machinery to question what is human.

The story of PT Barnum is also referenced in Chude-Sokei’s essay in Burntcork: Traditions and Legacies of Blackface Minstrelsy, called “The Uncanny Histories of Minstrels and Machines, 1835-923.” You can read most of the essay here. Also watch Chude-Sokei’s lecture “When Echoes Return: Roots, Diaspora and Possible Africas (A Eulogy)” analyzing the role of a symbolic Africa in reggae, and his article, “Redifining ‘black.'”

Moving on the Wires: 2 Years+Break, RebelMatic, Deluge Trailer, Meridian, Tawiah, Tar Baby Jane


*Today is my the anniversary of the day I started this blog, which was two years ago, and I am going to take a small break (maybe a week or two) to celebrate.

Running this blog by myself can be tiring sometimes and so I should do this so i don’t tire myself out. I will still post things on facebook and twitter and will repost older posts on there as well.

Thanks everyone for your support for the past two years!

*

Rebelmatic – “Mirror”

The second single from their upcoming Elephant Amnesia album, gives forceful and memorable vocals and music to encourage people who feel as if they don’t fit in to just look at themselves.

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The trailer for director Nijla Mu’min upcoming Deluge film. Here is the synopsis:

After witnessing the mass drowning of her friends and struggling with the decision not to jump in, 15-year old Tiana must decide if she will join the order of black mermaids that protect the waters where her friends rest. This film is partly inspired by the 2010 mass drowning of six black teens in a Shreveport, Louisiana sinkhole. None of them could swim. The film blends coming of age drama and fantasy to explore traumatic memory in a post- BP oil spill New Orleans.

Deluge layers personal, historical, and environmental trauma into an intimate portrait of female teenage awakening and realizations about mortality and fate. Through the merging of subtle moments and emotion, we find each character on edge in some way; on the edge of teen sexual discovery, on the edge of life, and on the edge of a dual existence between two worlds.

Continue reading Moving on the Wires: 2 Years+Break, RebelMatic, Deluge Trailer, Meridian, Tawiah, Tar Baby Jane

Modern Griots Reviews: Tongues of Fire and Erykah Badu


Sekou Sundiata – “Space”

Last weekend, I attended the Tongues of Fire tribute to Sekou Sundiata at the Apollo and I must say it was a beautiful, stirring and electrifying tribute. Curated by musical director Craig Harris, the show included his band Nation of Imagination as the musical background as for a few moving musical numbers, some with lyrics written by Sundiata and sung by the three singers of the band (“Song for a Friend,” “I Found God,” “The Writer,” The Sea.”). The other performances were a mixture of spoken word performances of works from Sekou Sundiata and Amiri Baraka arranged with music as well as performances from The Last Poets member Abiodun, rapper Rakim and Nigerian artist Wunmi.

The show opened with poet Liza Jessie Peterson reading “Urban Music” from Sundiata’s album Long Story Short and continued with Amiri Baraka’s “In the Tradition” and “Something in the Way of Things,” the humorous critique of today’s hip-hop with Abiodun and Rakim, “Some of It’s Hip, Some of It’s Not,” and ended the first part with Sundiata’s “Sound of Memory” and a funky “Blink Your Eyes” with Vernon Reid and all the performers.

The second half of the show began with Ngoma Hill’s reading  his yoruba-inspired poem, “Poem for My Egun,” leading to a cacophony of poems and music with Peterson, Baraka, and Abiodun performing together “Reparations,” and “Whys.” Wunmi grooved on stage, even getting down with Harris, during the performances of  wish-to-return home “The Healing Song” and Baraka’s recitation of Sundiata’s “Space.” Rakim was brought back out to finish the night with his classics, like “The 18th Letter,” bringing the night packed already with so much to a full-circle.

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Tongues of Fire and Erykah Badu

Black Girls/Black Women Are from the Future: Q.U.E.E.N., Black Girls Code and MBIB


Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu. This song is a much better anthem than, dare I say, “Run the World (Girls).” It is funky and fierce with thoughtful commentary about those who judge and put others down. Check out Monae interview yesterday on 106 and Park.

Black Girls Code Trailer — the short film about the Kimberly Bryant’s San Francisco organization, and directed by Shanice Johnson will be shown at the Cannes Film festival this month. The organization is also developing a web-series and a feature.”

My Black is Beautiful trailer for Imagine A Future documentary, which will be released in July on BET (it showed with the Tribeca Film Festival last month), is part of the Imagine a Future initiative that began last year with Black Girls Rock and United Negro College Fund to open up a dialogue with young black girls about self-acceptance, beauty and empowerment. The film follows Janet Goldsboro trip to South Africa as she learns to accept herself as a beautiful. However, although I think this is a nice effort and I want to see it, I find it problematic that Procter and Gamble supports the film and My Black is Beautiful, but also sells “skin lightening” creams all over the world (read all the articles here). Hmmm? Some people say that these are only skin tone evening creams, but is that how they are marketed or used? I imagine a future where companies actually do make a legitimate effort not to make money off our low self-esteem, not seem to support something to assuage their guilt (but should I expect companies not to be hypocritical in their actions?)