Afrofuturism: The Apocalypse and Beyond

NOTE: My Afrofuturism series are a week belated because I had problems with logging on to the site

BQFMirrors

Photo via: Black Quantum Futurism

“You ARE the noise gate” – Magician from the shortfilm ‘Noise Gate’ (2013)

The venue WORM is connected to a bar-restaurant, Wunderbar, where the afrofuturist vibes trickled through in the form of shangaan electro, and music from William Onyeabor and Fela Kuti, softly playing in the background. But behind this ostensibly superficial scene-setting hid a deeper message. Continuing the theme of the movie Crumbs, the second day was in many ways dedicated to the notion of a future after the apocalypse, which, as I found out, plays an important role in the afrofuturist movement as a whole.

The afternoon zine workshop was organised by Rasheeda from The Afrofuturist Affair and Ras from Metropolarity, two affiliated platforms where the creation of zines to showcase literature, art & more is a central activity. With a powerpoint presentation, the participants were challenged to reflect on human life in a possible, post-apocalyptic world. The assignment was to create a zine, with possible drawings, poems, ideas, quotes and picture collages from the many newspapers and magazines that covered the table only using sissors, paper, a copy machine and staples. Issues that were discussed were causes of the apocalypse, opportunities and challenges, leftovers of the known world, technology, traumas, identities and communication. Towards the end, the title of the zine was called ‘bubble to bubble’, referring to a networked community-structure as a replacement for our complex pre-apocalyptic mass society.

***

In the films too, the theme of perception and interpretation, one of the more intellectual elements of post-apocalyptic sci-fi came back in different ways. In the film ‘Noise Gate‘ (2013), directed by Vim Crony (Long Beach, California) a scientist from the future in search of the ultimate truth travels through different dimensions via a space-time tunnel called the noise gate. Inside the noise gate, the vibrations that produce reality lose their harmonious coherence and change into a whirlpool of cacophonic noise, at the end of which a wholly different kind of reality will be assembled. Every passage through the gate is a little apocalypse in itself. Stranded in a desolate, lifeless world and looking for the gate to exit, the (male) scientist encounters a majestically dressed (female) magician who appears to hold the key and answer to his search. Taking off his steampunkesque goggles and opening his eyes reveals a buzzing iris, the color television, tuned to a dead channel: Gateways for imagination, holding the power to travel dimentions and to create realities. “You ARE the noise gate”.

‘Touch’ (2014), directed by Shola Amoo (London, UK), is almost the opposite in both story and aesthetics. No desolate wastelands or otherworldly dressed scientists and magicians, but rather green fields outside London, covered with gently waving grass, and and two innocently dressed adolescents. This film was hard to review because of it’s many, multi interpretable layers and symbolic messages.

I personally perceived it as a critical commentary against the self-perceived purity, fragility and mindfullness of white-people’s intimacy (time and again perpetuated in mainstream cinema through the aesthetics of whiteness) juxtaposed to the supposed physicality of black people’s sexuality, expressed by means of a science-fiction story about a controlled, black-female conscious real-life avatar robot, who discovers the meaning of love and tenderness as an intersubjective experience between her lover and her. Official descriptions and reviews however, give a totally different picture and call it a film “about becoming a 21st century creative amidst a rapidly gentrifying city.” Here, the protagonist girl is an artist who develops a relationship as a way to escape a creative impasse and explores the limits of human experience that can be shared through technology. Two interpretations of a film that have absolutely nothing to do with each other; mine probably even making no sense at all. Nevertheless, stunning cinematic work and definitely food for further thought.

The final movie is more a music video than a film per sé, in the sense that the experimental rhythmic ambient track produced by Moor Mother Goddess plays an equally important role as the visuals. Black Quantum Futurism, is a third Philadelphia based community of deep thinking creative minds, established by Rasheeda Phillips and Moor Mother Goddess, which focuses on the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics in relation to worldview, consciousness and cultural perceptions of time and language. In a brilliant word-play, ‘Black Bodies as Conductors of Gravity’ connects the notion of the black body in the politics of race to the black body as a theoretical concept in physics of an ideal material object which perfectly absorbs all radiation. The video is a creative, cryptic expression of the dichotomy between reflection and absorption as well as the relation between the studied object and the observer. The mirror-masked woman in the speculative laboratory full of mirrors, takes her reflecting mask off and seems to be making the discovery when seeing her face reflected in the mirror.

https://vimeo.com/139816961

***

The films on Thursday were followed by three performances, from Moor Mother Goddess about whom we’ve already read, the ambient-noise duo Nyfolt, whom we will hear about much more in following posts as well as electric guitar experimentalist Morgan Craft. Unfortunately, experimental vaporwave producer and graphic artist Marlo Reynolds couldn’t be there.

Moor Mother Goddess is a multi-talented artist: a producer as well as poet and vocalist, whose style can only be characterised as experimental rhythmic ambient. Her sets vary between cyber-delic digital soundscapes energetic bassful beats & plunderphonic deconstructionism, enriched with clean as well as distorted vocals. These vocals in turn vary from single utterations to spoken word poetry to essayistic prose to rhythmical rap and everything in between. Moor Moder Goddess manages to encompass the whole spectrum of afrofuturism’s cultural expressions into one single act, which makes her one of the movement’s most iconic present-day voices!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O0ZilYu5YM

Check out a snippet of Moor Mother Goddess’ performance in Rotterdam here!

And here a gripping music vid from 2 years back of the track ‘Of Blood’ from her ‘Alpha Serpentis EP‘!

Check out her new track!

Second to ascend the stage was the duo Nyfolt from St. Louis, consisting of visual artist, vocalist and songwriter Joan McNeil and electronic sound designer Nathan Cook, who describe themselves as a “a multi-faceted / pluralistic Afrofuturist, Neoplatonic, and Cyberpunk sound art / noise group.” Most characteristic for their approach is the intimate fusion of text with music into one very powerful sound-poem. Words and sentences become truly one with the sounds. Ideas, thoughts and emotions become live-created, analog soundscapes, while the soundscapes are in turn verbalised into words and sentences!

Their music stems from an eleborated philosophy, articulated in an official manifesto:

WE ARE FED UP WITH DIVISIVE RHETORIC/ACTIONS AND ARE SEEKING COMMUNION. […] THE GENESIS OF OUR SOUND IS THE COALESCING OF OUR INDIVIDUAL PSYCHSOCIAL TOPOGRAPHIES. […] HUMANISM IS OUR CATALYST AGAINST MARGINALIZING AND ALIENATING IDEOLOGIES. […] TRANSHUMANISM AIDS IN OUR UNDERSTANDING OF HOW TO USE TECHNOLOGY AND ELECTRICITY to diffuse our art effectivelt. WE ARE INVESTIGATING IMMATERIALITY AND AND METAPHYSICAL THAT AT TIMES IS INDIFFERENT TO THE FLESH. […] We confront the turmoil, frustration, and anger involved in the culture wars and through interrogation TRANSMUTE these feelings into communion, accord and empathy. NYFOLT IS CRITICAL OF MATERIALISM. Other trajectories are led by INTUITION, AN AFFINITY FOR THE PECULIAR, and a desire to avert, neutralize, and extinguish THE CORROSIVE AND PARALYZING EFFECTS OF PREJUDICE, DISCRIMINATION, AND CONFORMIST THOUGHT/LIVING.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY9F7RUO_KI

Nyfolt’s freshest release ‘Gutter Echoes Side B’

When, after these two powerful performances, the crowd was only half prepared to have their minds blown for yet a third time. Guitar virtuoso Morgan Craft‘s music was in many ways unlike the other two, particularly because of his unique use of the guitar as a tool to make experimental, futuristic music. Craft is a veteran when it comes to experimental music. Originally from Brighton, he has been based for long periods in NYC and in a small village on the Tuscan countryside and is now operating from the cosmopolitan, yet cozy and friendly Amsterdam, the best of both worlds.

In an in-depth interview with the experimental music blog The Improvisor, Craft describes himself as a bluesman, ‘blues’ not to be understood as a genre but as a well of emotion, and a heir of the intellectual and spiritual freedom of jazz, again not a genre but an attitude towards making music. If there is anything Craft reacts against, it’s the phenomenon, also described often here at Generation Bass, about musical flavours degenerating from open-ended expression into a fixed formula, a genre, that can be copied. This even goes for experimental or improvisational music or the use of computers as a gimmick instrument to merely ‘look’ futuristic.

IMG_20151015_233807

“I don’t care one tiny bit about the style of music called ‘improv’, in fact I think most of the people who play ‘improv’ are liars at this point.  They get up there and think they have to play like what ‘improv’ is supposed to sound like.” – Morgan Craft to The Improvisor

In this indeed highly original performance, he recorded loops of sounds, both harmonic and noisy, live played on his quitar and stacked new layers on top of it, including using a early 00s discman which transmitted hip hop beats to the pickup via headphones. He kept alternately adding and replacing elements so that the sound body organically evolved into an organic being able to propel itself. At several moments, Craft laid down his guitar and walked off the stage like a Leibnizian deity, resting after masterfully winding up the clockwork of the universe, now running itself in perfect harmony.

IMG_20151015_234336

Morgan Craft’s instrumental setup with guitar, discman and several connected recording and effect devices

Morgan Craft’s recent full album, improvised and recorded live

AFROFUTURISM NOW! @ WORM Rotterdam 14 – 18 October 2015

Afrofuturism

If you read Generation Bass frequently, you will almost certainly have experienced afrofuturism. We’ve used the term only a couple of times but since the very beginning, the scenes and genres that are now increasingly identifying itself with the afrofuturist movement are one of the driving forces that have inspired us in the avant-garde of music worldwide. So, what is afrofuturism?

Afrofuturism is a diverse patchwork of movements which have as a common denominator that they challenge the dominant, white/Western narratives about past, present and future in modern culture, from an African and Afro-diasporic perspective. This includes literature, art, music, film, fashion, dance and more. Be it Angolan and Portuguese kuduro and tarraxo, South African gqom, digital cumbia and baile funk all over Latin America, next-generation dancehall or now avant-garde club music, these genres all have immediate common roots in Africa and the African diaspora and are a reflection of a life that is shaped by the internet and the abundance of technology. In many ways, Generation Bass IS afrofuturism!

“High-tech low life?” Could be, but not necessarily. One of the main messages of the emerging afrofuturist movement at large is questioning and destroying the stereotypical roles that Western culture’s entrenched colonial-racist heritage is still posing onto people of colour and Afrodescentants in particular: the role of the primitive, the wild and the immature. A futurism born out of African culture is therefore continuously at risk of being perceived as an inherent oxymoron. Sometimes it is consciously created as such, like the blatantly colonialist monstruosities of British noise act Cut Hands, but often unconsciously enjoyed, in notions like the ‘tribal rave’ – which, to be honest, our own blog hasn’t stayed entirely clean of either.

So then, what could be a better way to appreciate afrofuturism than to listen and watch key voices from this movement themselves? This week Generation Bass will do exactly this and report daily from the exciting ‘Afrofuturism Now!‘ festival in Rotterdam.

‘Afrofuturism Now!’, one of the very first ever afrofuturist festivals worldwide, is a result of the Rotterdam avant-garde podium WORM in Rotterdam joining forces with Rotterdam’s global bass party Pantropical, who have both witnessed the rise of a promising afrofuturist underground in many areas of culture and decided it was time to bring it to perhaps one of the most innovative and culturally diverse cities of Europe. There will be lectures, performances, art exhibitions, film shows, fashion and several club-nights in the realms of science-fiction and forward-looking culture.

The experimental sci-fi film Noise Gate (2013) will be shown on Thursday at 20:00

Music headliners to look forward to are the Philly (USA) based experimental electronic producer King Britt..

https://soundcloud.com/kingbritt/high-above-king-britt

Egyptian electrochaabi virtuoso Islam Chipsy..

South African avant-garde alrounder DJ Spoko (Ghetto Boyz Entertainment / True Panther Sounds / Lit City Trax)..

..and the Portuguese underground legends DJ Firmeza and DJ Lilocox (Principe Discos)!

‘Afrofuturism Now!’ is above all a peek into a world that is confidently being built by people of African heritage for a multi-cultural future that is manifesting itself more every day.

Join Generation Bass now and >> GET YOUR FESTIVAL TICKET(S) HERE << !!

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Meanwhile, to get into the mood, watch here some gems that I selected from the Generation Bass archives..

The Ethiopian post-apocalyptic film Crumbs will be shown at ‘Afrofuturism Now!’ after the official opening at 22:00!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kadevbEgcQk

Post-apocalypse inspired gqom from South African producer Maramza!

Te review we wrote about ‘The Great Game’: joint masterpiece of Rabit with Chino Amobi from NON: “a collective of African artists, and of the diaspora, using sound as their primary media, to articulate the visible and invisible structures that create binaries in society, and in turn distribute power”, one of the most promising upcoming collectives in the afrofuturist avant-garde!

The cyberpunk ambient kuduro & gqom EP from the San Francisco based avant garde bass alrounder Kush Arora a.k.a. Only Now!

DJ UMB‘s ‘African Apocalypse’ mixtape for Okayafrica, featuring most artists from the Portuguese kuduro & tarraxo underground!

https://soundcloud.com/okayafrica/africa-in-your-earbuds-65-dj-umb-african-apocalypse

Our entire future-tarraxo archive compiled into one post and completed with a tribute mixtape from DJ UMB to this this uplifting afrofuturist subgenre!

The polyrhytmic techno mixtape with in-depth background from our befriended ‘Chinese afrofuturist’ DJ Zhao for Afropop Worldwide!

Ethiopia’s First Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Film [Transnational Post Apocalyptic Cinema]

crumbs-ethiopian-post-apocalyptic-scifi-film-miguel-llanso-715x477

This looks pretty interesting!!! We love all things Post Apocalyptic here, particularly if they’re Transnational!

“Decades after the apocalypse and after extraterrestrial life had been discovered, the few inhabitants left in a hostile earth have struggled to survive by squatting and rummaging to make ends meet. For many years an alien spaceship has hovered in the skies, undisturbed and dormant, slowly rusting away. Tired of picking up the crumbs of gone-by civilizations, Gagano dreams his life away when not living in a state of perpetual fear. When the spaceship in the sky begins to turn on after a series of freak incidents in the bowling alley that Gagano and Selam call home, our miniature sized hero will be forced to embark on a surreal epic journey that will lead him through the post apocalyptic Ethiopian landscape. As he confronts himself, his fears, as well as witches, Santa Claus and second generation Nazis he will find himself only to discover that the memories that brought him on his journey and that he always thought he had were not really as he had been recalling them.”

Via Okayafrica

crumbs-ethiopian-post-apocalyptic-scifi-film-miguel-llanso-poster