Culture

Premiere: Greg Tate, Ytasha Womack & King Britt on the Power of Afrofuturism

Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music is a college course taught by composer King Britt at the University of California San Diego. On April 1st, 2020, acclaimed writer, musician, and visual artist Greg Tate had an enlightening conversation with author Ytasha Womack and King Britt, via Zoom, about Afrofuturism for the course. Here is that conversation in full.

Greg Tate was a multi-disciplinary artist whose recent passing at the age of 64 shook the foundations of arts and entertainment.

A writer, musician, visual artist and selector, Tate was a polymath and revolutionary in the truest sense of the words. A native Ohioan and child of the Black Arts Movement, Tate was a staunch futurist with an acute understanding of the breadth, beauty and direction of Black culture that often bordered on clairvoyance. His missives on the former were broadcast regularly from his adopted digs in New York City. In each of them, Tate’s ability to articulate, question and reimagine the nuanced movements and jive of the African Diaspora for the world’s stage was boundless. In Tate was a palpable love for Blackness that served as the focal point of his life’s work and the inspiration for others compelled by the words he was generous enough to share; Tate has long been regarded as the standard bearer for cultural writers of all stripes, from his bylines as a columnist for The Village Voice to the content of his seminal 1992 book Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America. Tate’s early presence as a pillar of the trade positioned him as a literary force whose analytical skill and expertise is compared to the likes of Amiri Baraka and Stanley Crouch.

Promethean in nature, Greg Tate’s approach to his own artistry and the works of others was that of a scholar and clinician dissecting time and space to transmute the cosmic and the quotidian with decisive vision, eloquence and crisp singularity. Similarly, Tate’s fearless musical exploration and founding impact upon collectives like the Black Rock Coalition (co-founded by Tate, Vernon Reid, D.K. Dyson and Konda Mason) and Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, would help to springboard modern movements in Black affirmation, eccentrism, innovation and freedom including James Spooner‘s Afropunk and — to a lesser degree — Okayplayer.com.

In what might come to be known as his most impactful role, Tate mentored peers and rising artists. An artistic force in his own right, Philadelphia-bred DJ, producer and composer King Britt is amongst that number. Introduced by bassist and Black Rock Coalition co-founder Vernon Reid at a BRC event in the late ’80s, Britt and Tate became friends. After bonding over Sun Ra and Stevie Wonder‘s “Contusion,” they sustained the conversation across decades as Tate encouraged Britt to push the boundaries of his own creative work. That path has guided King Britt to a number of milestones, including the founding and steady proliferation of Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music — Britt’s future forward University of California San Diego course rooted in his dream to “teach in a club.” Launched at the outset of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, the first lecture of the series featured a conversation with Greg Tate and author Ytasha Womack.

King is slowly opening up his vaults for the course (where he’s held in-depth conversations with everyone from Questlove to Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces.) And he was gracious enough to have Okayplayer premiere the conversation between Tate and Womack that took place on April 1st, 2020. In an email, King Britt wrote about the converstation:

This video was the first ever interview I did for my first ever Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music class at UCSD. It started a few weeks after the initial quarantine, so due to uncertainty it was conducted on Zoom. The video is Greg Tate and Ytasha Womack discussing Afrofuturism, music, dance and the cultural influence of African diasporic sonic lineages. In the video you can truly see the generosity and love that Greg has for the culture and the support he has always given me and the future generation. Love eternal my friend, tell Miles and Hendrix we said hello.

Click below to view the exclusive stream of King Britt in conversation with Greg Tate and Ytasha Womack.

 

Karas Lamb

Karas Lamb writes and digs for tunes you haven’t heard yet. She wants to listen to your music. Follow her on Twitter @karaslamb.

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Karas Lamb

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