Blurring the edges between philosophy and mysticism, modern art and radical political critique, the Afrofuturist impulse has been a cultural force since the mid-20th century. That’s when jazz visionary Sun Ra and his Arkestra first touched down on Planet Earth and told humanity that space (outer and inner) is indeed the place.
It’s an impulse that in the new millennium has only grown more diverse thanks to a proliferating number of African-American musicians who use Afrofuturism as a platform to launch their own, unique visions. Among these explorers are cosmic jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, post-everything beat maker Flying Lotus, R&B cyborg Janelle Monáe and dystopian noise-rappers Death Grips.
The innovative, boundary-smashing work of Nicole Mitchell, whom Chicago Reader music critic Peter Margasak has hailed as the “greatest living flutist in jazz”, has contributed new life to Afrofuturism in the 21st Century.
A voracious reader of science fiction since her youth (Afrofuturist author Octavia E. Butler in particular has exerted a heavy influence on her music), the musician, composer and educator has released a string of albums that fold themes centered around technology, spirituality, race and gender into profoundly exploratory jazz that oftentimes reaches far beyond the genre in which it is rooted.
Her vast sound can and often does encompass contemporary classical, globally oriented fusion, gospel, spoken word, funk-inspired groove research and even brittle shards of avant-rock.
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