Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah (Christian Scott)

Soundcheck: what does Afrofuturism sound like?

A playlist to accompany the »Afrofuturism« spotlight in the Elbphilharmonie.


»Being Black in America is a science-fiction experience,« American culture critic and musician Greg Tate once said in an interview. He was referring to the real roots of Afrofuturism, a space in the imagination where people from Africa and the African diaspora are the focus of futuristic ideas and settings in music, film, literature and other art forms. The term »Afrofuturism« was first used in 1993 in an interview essay »Black To The Future« by the critic Mark Dery, which had a considerable impact. Dery applied the term to a wide variety of of art, including pictures by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the novels of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler, films made by John Sayle and Lizzie Borden and music by Jimi Hendrix, Sun Ra, Parliament or even Public Enemy.

Dery's pathbreaking text asked: »Can a community imagine potential futures when its past has been deliberately wiped out, prompting it to expend energy on searching for traces of this past?«


aus dem »Elbphilharmonie Mixtape« von ByteFM

Sun Ra
Sun Ra Sun Ra © Sun Ra

ByteFM's "Elbphilharmonie Mixtape" dealt with the topic of "Afrofuturism" on 16 August:


When drawing up a catalogue of Afrofuturism it soon became clear that the answer to Dery's question was »Yes it can«. Especially in music, starting with the so-called space age in the 1950s, artists from the Afrodiaspora produced works rich in concept from the 1960s onwards at the interface of imagination, technology, space travel, utopia and liberation. From Hendrix's »Electric Ladyland« and John and Alice Coltrane's »Cosmic Music« through Sun Ra's »Space is the Place« and »Mothership Connection« by George Clinton's Parliament to contemporary artists like Janelle Monáe, Solange Knowles, Shabazz Palaces and Flying Lotus, Afrofuturism never disappeared in the decades that followed, and has been experiencing a renaissance since the mid-2010s that reaches into mainstream pop culture.

Focus Afrofuturism

In the 2022/23 season, the Elbphilharmonie is devoting a special spotlight to Afrofuturism, featuring legendary figures from the movement like the Sun Ra Arkestra as well as new sounds from the young generation such as Sons of Kemet or Theo Croker.

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