Black Colonialism is Afrofuturism- Rise of the Afronaut
Updated: Jul 5
Black Vulcanite, 2015 ©
From the underground Bronx ‘ghettos’ to the ‘shanty’ towns of Kingston right through to the ‘Native Yards’ of the Cape wine lands, the descendants of those thwarted by the notorious, genocidal and diabolical transatlantic human trafficking operation from the 14th century, developed a diasporic culture of seeking to connection with the drum beat of the mother continent as means of resistance and sustenance of self. The music or ‘chants’ that would be conceived from this pregnant canvas would influence social revolutions for centuries to come. Inspired by attitude towards forced hard labour, escape from oppression, return to motherland and love for the fellow (wo)man, genres ( not to be dogmatic) of this protest music would evolve, overlap and emerge to what we know as Rock Steady, Ska, Jazz, Gospel, Rhythm & blues to what we know as Hip Hop. Beyond anything else, all these were sub cultures of a deeply humane spiritual resistance and protects against status quo. This tribute paper seeks to pay respect to Africas standing and undisputed protest music new age soul rebels, Black Vulcanite, who come from a long lineage of musical healers .
Gill Scott- Heron. Image subject to copyright
With the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in America taking shape, the inevitability of protest music emerging as a weapon against the unjust system was at the doorstep of the it enforcers, screaming freedom at full watt on the music systems and park /street jams all over the free world. If Africa was the root of this resistance culture in music, America was the birthplace canvas for political thought for the marginalised and unwavering status quo. The Last Poets are such healers born from this, in particular Gill Scott Heron. Scott-Heron is considered by many to be the first rapper/MC ever. His recording work received much critical acclaim, especially one of his best-known compositions, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’’. With the turntablist techniques such as scratching and beatmatching developed along with the breaks and Jamaican toasting, a chanting vocal style, was used over the beats. Aforementioned sub culture emerged with at this point with critical thinking and afrocentrisim emerging as a guiding philosophy, which allowed freedom seeking expressionists to transfuse their message of soul rebel revolts. Even though the coining of the philosophy came about in the early 90s, these were the first fragments of Afrofuturism. Inspired by black critical thinking like that of Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington from the early 1890s. Between the late 70s, 80s and 90s, pioneers like Zulu Nation, Afrika Bambata and the Native Tongues emerged in full swing. Scott-Heron was able to blend jazz with spoken word, which would later be manipulated by the sampling geniuses RZA and Dr. Dre of Wutang Clan and NWA respectively. They would go on to commercialise this protest form of conscious hip hop fused with Jazz samples (AfroJazz/ Jazz Hop) for global consumption. In Africa, hip hop was heavily influenced by the political and militant resistance against colonial and neo-colonial governments. Southern Africa has a distinct protest footprint as the 70s, 80s and 90s were clouded with intense political climate looking to establish independence, and drive for self-identity post colonialism. We already had Fela in West Africa and his pioneering Africa 70 and Egypt 80 crews. Miriam Makeba and her love for FRELIMO and Samora Machel brought us ‘Aluta Continua’ with her unwavering support for Mozambique. Angola was also a heavy militant stance and culture was its tool to express such. Like Jazz and Afrobeat , Hip hop carried an extremely revolutionist message in these parts The Cuban influence in the revolution in Angola inspired a certain Namibian based A- 51. Heavily propelled by idea of family, responsibility, and expression of personal freedom. Fundamentals that are essentials of Afrofuturism.
Black Vulcanite. Image subject to copyright.
Which brings me to the focus of this paper, Black Vulcanite, the healers A-51 was a harbinger for in Africa in as far as protest Hip Hop is concerned. Philosophically sound, soul rebels, street smart and lyrically astound geniuses. One third of the crew is a direct descendant of a frontline documented social revolutionary of the last century, a contemporary to Che. The ‘Empire’ as they are affectionately known to their diehard fans, are unequivocally the beneficiaries of the Black Star Liner Movement. They are by default the sons of Dead Prezs’ paradigm shifting entertainment drive of ‘let’s get free or die trying’. Black Vulcanite has done what Scott –Heron did, carry protest through spoken word on Afrocentric sound. They don’t stop there. Fiddling with social theory and human evolution with an African future in mind. Bob Marley is the last revolutionary artist to inspire the world through the thought of an Africa with shared responsibilities and a collective future. When these digital shamans produced ‘How to Rap about Africa’, juxtaposing rap and academic fields fluidly and trans-disciplinarily, I was sure I was in the presence of millennial travellers to this world. Binyavanga Wainaina will never die. ‘Jupiters’ Love’, the only track with a video from the Black Colonialist album was shot in the infamous Taal Monument in Paarl’, Cape Town. The oxymoron being the Afrikaans language being a specific tool of oppression in resistance driven southern Africa, and a protest movement projecting its afrofuturistic agenda at this landmark just shows that outside of popular ‘fallist’ movements; the Empire has been influencing a critical thought agenda around existing and monumented colonial statudes. Long has been the continent been mired in negative narrative. ‘African Socialist students space programme, an extension of the Zambian Space programme of 1964’, this is the opening prologue track of the same titled album ‘Black Colonialist.’ Here we find black excellence before Black Lives Matter. The trio took it upon themselves to interrogate the deliberate snubbing of African scientist during the so called space race. Whilst they already had the ‘AfroMap of Space’.
But whose race is it? World ‘super powers’ continue to undermine the needed reparations of colonialism, hence the music tone Black Vulcanite has taken is that of repatriation and ‘Reparations’.
Black Vulcanite. Image subject to copyright
The contribution, Niko, Mark and Ali have made to pan African humanity before anything else is amazing. Their work makes sense of what has happened before in all protest hip hop and social history in general. Modern digital archive if you ask me. The drive to Africas’ health, living and thinking is unprecedented, to the point where the line is drawn through hip hop to not claim back but to assume positions humanity within power, in Africa. They mocked the Zambian Space Mission, but they neglected the power of projecting such thoughts to young African minds when USA and USSR failed to accomplish their own space missions. The same way the designed artificial borders in Africa in 1886 in an attempt to colonize. Hence the wail in Black Vulcanites’ ‘Reparations’.
Photographer Cristina De Middel presents "The Afronauts," an exhibition documenting Zambia's little-known attempt to reach space in the 1960's, on view in New York City at the Dillon Gallery from Sept. 5 to Oct. 12, 2013. (Image: © Miriam Kramer/SPACE.com
‘’Right before the Germans came and changed our Bantu Surnames, we was out Timbuktu and believe we was surely learning, we was turning metals on the ores civilization we saw, so higher than the condor nor bald eagle. Before you turn the page and treat me like Charles Taylor, you throw me to the Haige. I want to present MY case and sue for damages. For every child you portrayed a savages, we want pay back for the resources call it the law of averages. We want our music back from people like the beatles and elvis presley’’, commanding the lyricism ensued by The Last Poets, beats like the jazz of the Wutang. The question though, from Afrofuturism and beyond lyrical ‘genioushood’ and resistance against unjust systems, can technological advancement respect African customs without deteriorating its value systems?
‘’The Dirty. Another category of job tasks that robots are exceptionally positioned for are the “dirty,” often unsanitary or hazardous jobs that can otherwise have an adverse effect on human health. Most often these are the roles in society that are unfavourable, but 'somebody has to do it’’.
How this does relates to hip hop, its history, protest music and human advancement? This is the Empires’ work, and all other undying revolutionaries in this afrodigital era. Okins’ rendition of this in his The Dirty Robot Day Off EP speaks volumes for the next movement. Remember the Future!
Guerrilla the Curator