A look back to the future of African-American music
It would be hard to identify any other form of artistic expression that contains an equally harsh juxtaposition of oppression, exclusion, humiliation on the one side and self-liberation, empowerment and independent, forward-looking creative accomplishment on the other as found in jazz as the African-American community’s originary form of expression.
An early example is the work of pioneer James Reese Europe (1886–1919). As early as 1910, he created the Clef Club in Harlem, a stronghold for the interests of African- American musicians, and in the final year of World War I, he was deployed to France as a musician and a soldier in the Harlem Hellfighters, an African-American regiment. Europe and his fellow musicians were admired for their combat during their assignment to the French army and the regiment’s band was celebrated by audiences for their sensational syncopated music. Starting from the arrival of jazz in Europe, Jazzfest Berlin will set out to trace an emancipatory historiography of African-American musicians, with an audio- visual piece by Jason Moran on James Reese Europe and the Hellfighters as one of its highlights. Other focal points will be the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago (1965) and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (1969) under the direction of Roscoe Mitchell. Their practise of musical and social selfempowerment would prove to be groundbreaking. And finally, the focus will round on Nicole Mitchell, whose Afro-futurist and multi-cultural work “Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds” examines our present in the light of an imagined future, and on Camae Ayewa, raising her voice for resistance in the personage of Moor Mother and as the champion of the Black Quantum Futurism collective within the group Irreversible Entanglements. In the magic mirror of Afro-futurism, imagined and real encounters, forward and backward motions and multiple temporalities, the blazing focus point of the ‘present’ with all its sonic, narrative and activist fronts and creative challenges will be explored, intensified in two panel conversations with the artists and two film-screenings.