Tag Archives: Louis Chude-Sokei

Modern Griots Interviews: : Louis Chude-Sokei Part 2

Welcome back! Here is part 2 of my interview with Louis Chude-Sokei! You can read part 1 here

9780819575777“…What will matter in the long term is the impact we have on the (Sci-fi) genre itself, not on its packaging or clichés…”

4) Science fiction and fantasy have in the past been centered around European/Western stories and tropes and even in Afrofuturism, it was promoted previously as mostly Western/U.S.-centric. Briefly, how do you see Caribbean cultures, African cultures and other cultures around the world as early incubators, already exploring those ideas of science fiction, fantasy and futurism? Why is it important to explore those ideas in these cultures?

Science Fiction (SF) itself was produced directly by the response to slavery and colonialism in England and America.  This is a fact.  Therefore SF has always had within its DNA racial, colonial and sexual concerns—so its a mistake to see the genre as either “white” or “Western” or “European” since all of those categories depend on slavery and colonialism and, of course, industrialization.  As such it isn’t necessarily anything-“centric,” though the modern history of SF hasn’t been as good as it should be about making all of this clear, hence the necessary interruption that is Afrofuturism as well as the explosion of global SF.

Continue reading Modern Griots Interviews: : Louis Chude-Sokei Part 2


Modern Griots Interviews: Louis Chude-Sokei Part 1

Happy New Year!!!!! Welcome back to Futuristically Ancient!

InterviewpicLast year, I introduced to you all to the upcoming release of Louis Chude-Sokei’s The Sound of Culture. Well, the book is finally here and I had the privilege to interview Louis about his book and his research. Louis is a truth-speaker and an illusion-breaker who is not afraid to challenge and enlighten us on preconceived notions about our identities and histories. That is what I enjoy about this is exploring and presenting the numerous looks into our past that help us to understand and weave together our current time and move us forward! Enjoy Part 1 of Louis’ interview today and part 2 on Wednesday!

“…I also began to think through theories of masquerade and carnival as a way of apprehending the productive instability of so-called “blackness” and to subject American racial thinking to a more diasporic lens…”

Continue reading Modern Griots Interviews: Louis Chude-Sokei Part 1

Moving on the Wires: ‘The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics’

Louis Chude-Sokei, the author of  The Last ‘Darky‘: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora, will be releasing a new book, The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics.

Chude-Sokei, as he has done in his previous work, explores the complexities of race and ethnicity through a Caribbean lens. As someone who calls myself Afro-Caribbean-American, I realize how sometimes I don’t neatly fit into a dominant idea of blackness, which is usually centered around U.S. America black cultures. Because of that, I often notice how Black people from all over the world often have to adjust their ethnic identities by putting on, by playing with, by expanding the definitions of blackness.

In his first book, The Last Darky, Chude-Sokei examines the life of Bert Williams, who was from the Bahamas, and how minstrelsy weirdly became a technology Williams used to complicate blackness, to explore and break from the boundaries of the stereotypes of blackness. It explores how someone who was an immigrant, who had a different ethno-cultural identity, but was also considered superficially black, related to and navigated the world of blackness in America. It explores the intersections between, carnival/playing mas, masquerade, blackface and creation of identity.

In The Sound Culture, Chude-Sokei continues his exploration of the intersections of music, race, ethnicity, masquerade/carnival, minstrelsy, science fiction, and technology/machinery in the modern world through the lens of Caribbean creolity or hybridity.

Below are the table of contents for the book to pique your interest:

Continue reading Moving on the Wires: ‘The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics’

The My-Stery: Revisiting The Mask as Technology

Boney M source: Manjr

Several months ago, I wrote a post about the mask as technology, but after reading Louis Chude-Sokei’s essay about PT Barnum and Joice Heth, I want to think further about saying that the mask is technology, specifically in reference to German producer Frank Farian and the groups Boney M and Milli Vanilli.

Most people know Milli Vanilli as the group that were eventually found out to be lip-synching when their music started skipping at the a live performance. But did you know that the producer behind the group Farian used similar actions with the Euro-Caribbean group Boney M in the ’70s? Whereas Farian hired other singers to record the songs for Milli Vanilli, Boney M began as Farian singing the vocals himself and then adding others later. The common feature between the two is that Farian did not think the actual singers were marketable and so used dancers to be the front for the singers, including himself. In a way, it was like electronic ventriloquism.

Frank Farian source: NNDB

Boney M and Milli Vanilli’s story are kind of similar to PT Barnum’s use of Joice Heth and the turk machine is his early shows. Joice Heth’s body was seen, but Barnum controlled what she said and her story. He even called her a robot. The turk machine was a fake machine with a human inside controlling it. Boney M and Milli Vanilli basically treated as visual extensions of Farian’s musical production and sound recording technology. Chude-sokei wrote about PT Barnum as the beginning of media deception and the exploitation of a black face in order to produce that deception and hide from the brunt of the consequences. Think about it, at the end of the day who was majorly affected by the Milli Vanilli controversy — the two men who were seen (although you can make an argument about agency in the modern situations). To further expand on this, there is a whole history of white use of black, often exaggerated, visual and sonic representation (ex. minstrelsy) and the issues and discussions surrounding that history.

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.'”

Rethinking the ‘Fantasy’ of Africa in Roots Reggae

Professor, author and cultural analyst Louis Chude-Sokei speaks in his lecture, “When Echoes Return: Roots, Diaspora and Possible Africas (A Eulogy).” The lecture centers on the death of South African reggae singer Lucky Dube and how the fantasy of a singular Africa in roots reggae music has been both a dangerous space and a space for possibility for people in Africa.

Also, Chude-Sokei said later in the lecture that “there’s nothing more important than fantasy. Without fantasy, you don’t have politics. Without fantasy, you don’t have reality.” Thoughts?

Continue reading Rethinking the ‘Fantasy’ of Africa in Roots Reggae

The My-Stery: Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Bitch Bad’ and the Chaotic Nature of Minstrelsy

Last week Lupe Fiasco premiered his video for “Bitch Bad.”  With its use of minstrelsy and blackface, the video as well the song brings to the forefront once again the complicated position of the black entertainer in popular culture. What is the role and responsibility of a black entertainer to themselves and their audiences? What is the role and responsibility of the audience? The black entertainer is in a constant struggle to perform black complexity not only in a space limited by capitalist, colonial structures, but also shaped by the cultural, social and historical background of the performer and audience. Probably unintentionally, “Bitch Bad” highlights the constant negotiations within black performance today and in the past.

In “Bitch Bad,” Fiasco attempts to start a conversation about the confusion over the meanings of the word “bitch,” and the influence over young children who hear it in popular music and see mainstream popular music videos. Though in the verse brings up problems with the word, by the time the listener reaches the chorus, it sounds as if Lupe is demanding the extinction of the word after the use of old-fashioned dichotomy of the bitch versus the lady. Listening to the song again, whether he meant to or not, Fiasco slightly comes off as almost patronizing or paternalistic. He seems to be paying more attention to women (rappers and audiences) role in the usage of the word than on the men who also use it. Some of the lyrics come off subtly as blaming women and slut-shaming, especially in the third verse. He also disregards how female performers use the word sometimes as a form of subversion in a male-dominated industry. The word has a different meaning within a different performance context. These may not have been Fiasco’s intention, but the song can be interpreted as an oversimplification of the topic.

Continue reading The My-Stery: Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Bitch Bad’ and the Chaotic Nature of Minstrelsy