Blues (Album, Black Studies, 2020)
So that moving from the middle passage forward (and backward), as Jacques Roumaine said, from that “railroad of human bones . . . at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean,” one traced the very path and life and development, tragedy, and triumph of Black people. How they had been “removed” from Africa and had been transformed by this hideous “trip,” and by the context of their lives in the actual “West,” into a Western people. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Du Bois points out, the majority of us were “Americans.” (Here, a pause, for “canned” studio laughter!)
At each juncture, twist and turn, as Black people were transformed, so was their characteristic music. It became emphatically clear to me that by analyzing the music, you could see with some accuracy what and why that change had been. To reflect that “newer” them, which I later termed, in the book Black Music, “The Changing Same.” In the continuously contrasting contexts of their actual lives. My deep concentration on the continuing evidence of surviving “Africanisms” and parallels between African customs and philosophies, mores, etc., and the philosophies and their Afro-American continuum were to teach myself, and whoever, that Black people did not drop out of the sky, although, “fo’ sho’,” they continue to be, despite the wildest of ironies, the most American of Americans.
But for all the syncretic re-presentation and continuation of African mores and beliefs, even under the hideous wrap of chattel slavery (“many have suffered as much as Black people … but none of them was real estate” –– Du Bois), there is one thing that I have learned, since the original writing of Blues People, that I feel must be a critical new emphasis not understood completely by me in the earlier text. That is, that the Africanisms are not limited to Black people, but indeed American Culture, itself, is shaped by and includes a great many Africanisms. So that American culture, in the real world, is a composite of African, European, and Native or Akwesasne cultures, history, and people. […]
Actually, Blues People is a beginning text. There is much work yet to be done to properly bring the music into the open light of international understanding and collective social development and use –– despite the massive commercial exploitation…*
— Amiri Baraka, Blues People: Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963)
*excerpt from the introduction of the 1999 First Quill edition by Amiri Baraka
Darkwater (Album, Black Studies, 2020)
Of them I am singularly clairvoyant. I see in and through them. I view them from unusual points of vantage. Not as a foreigner do I come, for I am native, not foreign, bone of their thought and flesh of their language. Mine is not the knowledge of the traveler or the colonial composite of dear memories, words and wonder. Nor yet is my knowledge that which servants have of masters, or mass of class, or capitalist of artisan. Rather I see these souls undressed and from the back and side. I see the working of their entrails. I know their thoughts and they know that I know. This knowledge makes them now embarrassed, now furious. They deny my right to live and be and call me misbirth! My word is to them mere bitterness and my soul, pessimism. And yet as they preach and strut and shout and threaten, crouching as they clutch at rags of facts and fancies to hide their nakedness, they go twisting, flying by my tired eyes and I see them ever stripped,—ugly, human.
The discovery of personal whiteness among the world’s peoples is a very modern thing,—a nineteenth and twentieth century matter, indeed. The ancient world would have laughed at such a distinction. The Middle Age regarded skin color with mild curiosity; and even up into the eighteenth century we were hammering our national manikins into one, great, Universal Man, with fine frenzy which ignored color and race even more than birth. Today we have changed all that, and the world in a sudden, emotional conversion has discovered that it is white and by that token, wonderful!
This assumption that of all the hues of God whiteness alone is inherently and obviously better than brownness or tan leads to curious acts; even the sweeter souls of the dominant world as they discourse with me on weather, weal, and woe are continually playing above their actual words an obligato of tune and tone, saying:
“My poor, un-white thing! Weep not nor rage. I know, too well, that the curse of God lies heavy on you. Why? That is not for me to say, but be brave! Do your work in your lowly sphere, praying the good Lord that into heaven above, where all is love, you may, one day, be born—white!”
I do not laugh. I am quite straight-faced as I ask soberly:
“But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?” Then always, somehow, some way, silently but clearly, I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!
— W.E.B. Du Bois, Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil (1920)
Black Metamorphosis (Album, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, 2019)
Lamin Fofana presents BLACK METAMORPHOSIS, the first installment of an album trilogy inspired in part by Sylvia Wynter’s unpublished manuscript of the same title written in the 1970s.
In his latest album, he contemplates the complicated process of understanding each other, while also desiring to accelerate the breaking of the world so we can move beyond the constraints of our time and dream up new sets of relationships. Lamin’s overlapping interests in history and contemporary circumstances and practice of transmuting text into the affective medium of sound brought him to “Black Metamorphosis” and the wider project of Black Studies. Sylvia Wynter’s “Black Metamorphosis: New Natives in a New World” is an unpublished 900-plus page manuscript written in the 1970s which is arguably one of the most important and most compelling interpretations of the black experience in the Western hemisphere.
What happens when black people find themselves in the West? What ways are African aesthetics forced to permutate, outside the margins and in the in-between spaces, and what transformative potential lies on the outskirts of normative existence, in the “liminal zones”?
Reflecting on the sonorous power of Sylvia Wynter, BLACK METAMORPHOSIS , which is the title piece on this release, this is an attempt to transmute Lamin’s interpretation of a concept he finds deeply inspiring and illuminating of his own experience as a black African in contemporary Europe.
Brancusi Sculpting Beyonce (Hundebiss Records, 2018)
“Brâncuși sculpting Beyoncé in gold lamé” is a line from Mike Ladd’s song “Blonde Negress” from the album Negrophilia. The album was inspired by Petrine Archer-Straw’s book of the same name (with the subtitle “Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s”).
The book explores the Paris art world’s embrace of black American and African culture — and its co-option of black art and culture, which played heavily into Art Deco, Cubism, jazz, etc. I read the book some years back, but I love how Mike Ladd warps it, drawing a long line between Beyonce and Brancusi, whose Sleeping Muse was inspired by African masks.
Doubleworld (Sci-Fi & Fantasy, 2016)
In October 2014, a physician was diagnosed with ebola in New York City. He had returned from working with Doctors Without Borders, in Guinea. I was living in Brooklyn at the time. I remember the amount of panic and confusion and outright fear-mongering this ignited – from city officials down to average New Yorkers in the subway. It was as if the entire city was about to be engulfed by the disease. The climate was toxic. While this was happening in New York, the outbreak was spreading and killing thousands of people in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. As an African immigrant living in the States with family in Sierra Leone and Guinea, I observe the events and moods reflected on both sides of the Atlantic. In the end, a Liberian man died in Dallas, a nurse’s dog died in Spain, while more than 11,000 people perished in West Africa.
New Horizons (EP, self-released, 2015)
Another World (EP, self-released, 2015)
This music was inspired by NASA’s New Horizons interplanetary space probe, its recent historic encounter with Pluto, and the excitement and optimism that brings. I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between the suits the Johns Hopkins engineers wore while working on the spacecraft, and those of the doctors and nurses fighting Ebola in West Africa. While reaching into the universe and beyond is absolutely wonderful and vital, it makes one wonder how we can launch a spacecraft three billion miles into space, while thousands of people die from preventable diseases because generating vaccines for poor people is not a priority.
With this piece, I want to convey a certain mood, a feeling of being adrift at sea somewhere between catastrophe and paradise. We live in a complex world today, and depending on the lens you look through, the possible futures shift. The future can look dim and uncertain – because at the present things are not going so well for the people of planet earth.
I was thinking of the thousands of African migrants braving winter storms and twenty foot waves in overcrowded rickety vessels crossing the Mediterranean Sea and hoping to reach Europe, while European governments are deliberately letting them drown or locking them up to deter others from coming. It’s absolutely depressing and shameful what’s going on.
First Symphony (EP, Sci-Fi & Fantasy)
Like White Lightning Up a Black Snake’s Ass (Single, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, 2013)
Africans Are Real (EP, Dutty Artz, 2012)
Dubious Prey (EP, Sticks N Stones Recordings, 2012)
What Elijah Said (EP, Dutty Artz, 2010)
What Elijah Said is Lamin Fofana’s debut release. This is lucid, detailed dance music. Three tunes are uptempo: a squiggling infectious electro riddim (either 85 or 170bpm), the slinky 125bpm 4×4 bonus track, and an exquisite piece of instrumental beatwork that sounds like a sober Flying Lotus. The title song bides its time with a well-paced electronic skank. Mysterious samples throughout suggest Lamin’s background in political strife and social upheaval.
Artwork: Boy holding florescent bulb, photo by Brendan Bannon, Dandora Dumpsite, Nairobi. 8/29/2006. Hundreds of trash pickers scavenge the dump for food, plastic, glass, and metal. Areas of the dump smolder from a slow burn of plastics and detritus just under the surface. Local activist have attempted to close the site due to pollution concerns.
Dutty Artz follow their tropical bass agenda to introduce the synth-seared fusions of Lamin Fofana. Originally from Guinea, via Sierra Leone, and now based in New York, Lamin puts a wealth of experience and environments into his sound, crossing bridges between Southern Bounce, African Hi-Tek, and sublime electronics with coherent ease. ‘Happy 2010//Dark Days Are Coming’ opens the set with a crushed rolling motion, like a halfspeed dread version of Shaangaan electro transferring far moodier vibes. ‘I Will Admonish You And Give You Absolution’ steps the pace to a more sinuous bounce mode with slowfast snare rolls and ultra-glaring synth motifs, before ‘What Elijah Said // Eye On The Devil’ takes the atmosphere far darker, electronic and downbeat, sounding strangely like Vladislav Delay meets Raime, if you get me? Closing matters on a melancholy dancefloor vibe, ‘Dance In Yr Blood’ gives Afro-Funky-compatible percussion topped with spherical metallic signals which we’d more commonly associate with techno, placing him out there like some darker adjunct to DVA. An effortlessly intriguing set, totally worth your time…