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Meet the Afrofuturism Curatorial Council: King James Britt

Afrofuturism—Carnegie Hall’s next citywide festival in February–March 2022—explores an ever-expansive aesthetic and practice where music, visual arts, science fiction, and technology intersect to imagine alternate realities and a liberated future viewed through the lens of Black cultures.  

King James Britt is one of the five leading Afrofuturism experts brought together to share their passion and knowledge in creating this visionary festival. 

Britt is a Pew Fellowship recipient, electronic music producer, composer, and performer. He is an assistant teaching professor in computer music at University of California San Diego, where he created the lecture course Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music, attended by many pioneers including Goldie, Marshall Allen, and Questlove.

Learn more about Britt and his thoughts on the ever-expansive aesthetic and practice of Afrofuturism in the following Q&A.

What does Afrofuturism mean to you? 

It is the cultural movement that intersects music, visual art, literature, politics, science fiction, and of course technology, but rooted in the cultural histories of the African diaspora used to shift the consciousness around Blackness for today and tomorrow.

What’s the place of music in Afrofuturism and who are the key artists? 

I grew up in a household where my mother knew Sun Ra, and we used to go to rehearsals with the orchestra and my dad owned a barbershop and collected funk and soul records. So my mom was into jazz and free jazz and then my dad into funk and soul. So having that in the house, along with science fiction, was my DNA.

Music represents the sonic possibilities of Afrofuturism. It is the expansive soundtrack to a collective action of dream to reality. A great starting point is Sun Ra’s music and his film Space Is the Place. As a Black man growing up in the Jim Crow South, music was a vehicle for creating possibilities. These came to fruition when Sun Ra migrated to Chicago to work with Fletcher Henderson’s big band. This education—along with his love of Egyptology, electronics, and Astro-Blackness—was the foundation for the Sun Ra Arkestra, a band of like-minded musicians on a mission to save the Black community.

When you listen to Earth, Wind & Fire or Sun Ra, there’s an audience that can relate to them, the iconography and the artwork. The music is a vibration and you feel that. You are going to feel dub reggae whether you like it or not; you are going to feel Detroit techno. You are going to feel the authenticity coming from these sounds.

Hear the Music for Yourself

The sonic essence of Afrofuturism is jazz, funk, R&B, Afrobeat, hip-hop, and electronic music. Celebrate this ever-expansive aesthetic and practice this playlist curated by King James Britt, available on Apple Music.

“Afrofuturism x Carnegie Hall Pt. 1 is the first in a series of curated playlists leading up to the citywide festival that starts in February. There are many groundbreaking artists to cover—artists of yesterday and today, and the creators of tomorrow. With each playlist, we will dive deeper into artists’ catalogs to present a true scope of afrofuturistic sonics ... Buckle up!” —King James Britt

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