Zulu Space Oddities: From Sun Ra to Lupe Fiasco

Love and Light Interested me so
That I dared to knock at the door of the cosmos
” – SUN RA Arkestra

There is music and there are artists that dare to throw caution to the wind, yet like a masterly boomerang wielder, ensure that whatever they throw windward returns exactly where they are. These artists are neither interested in trends, fashions, nor commercial interests, what they create is monumental beyond monuments, it is significant beyond their particular genre and draws humanity and the universe closer to the heart and to the meanings of Life. Sun Ra and Lupe Fiasco are just two of the ones we would like to shine a light on for now.
Of course there are many such phenoms, we can count at least 12 from the top of the head, but this is not a list of luminaries, it is about the serendipitous connections that visionary creators seem to have. In some cases there is a conscious effort to emulate each other but in some instances, it is just dividual morphism or happy coincidence and consequence.
Let us begin with a spontaneous poem I wrote while deeply engrossed in the music of the Hip Hop artist Lupe Fiasco and then we shall take a look at how both Fiasco and Ra come together in the cosmic balance of all things Black genius.

The Buddha is sage, impepho yabaNgoni
The sage Buddha devours everything
Esithebeni
Walking barefoot emisebeni
Yamalanga onke …
Bearing the terrible Black beauty of Kali
Black and Blue with the temperament of Krishna
Peaceable as Ausar the foremost of the West
The greensome 12 digital Lord is a maiden voyager
Lonely as a cloud of unknowing
Now contemplative under trees
Now a dervishly whirling wind under the sea

The Buddha is a sage
The Buddha is a black sage
Whose appetite is beyond eclectic
Grips nothing too firmly
And so it all, it all falls down
Mindless while mindful
Horsepower with no harness
No pressure, nor stress
No desire, no aversion
All risk so no risk
No test, nor failure …” – Menzi Maseko

Wikipedia has a serviceable description of who Sun Ra was if one is seeking a basic overview, but what we aim to illustrate here is how this artist has influenced generations of innovators far beyond his milieu, that is if anything was truly beyond the man from Saturn.
Here is an overview:

“Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, legal name Le Sony’r Ra;[2] May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993) was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet known for his experimental music, “cosmic” philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances. For much of his career, Ra led “The Arkestra”, an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up.

Born and raised in Alabama, Blount became involved in the Chicago jazz scene during the late 1940s. He soon abandoned his birth name, taking the name Le Sony’r Ra, shortened to Sun Ra (after Ra, the Egyptian God of the Sun). He developed a complex persona and an idiosyncratic, myth-based credo that would make him a pioneer of Afrofuturism.[3] He claimed to be an alien from Saturn on a mission to preach peace, and throughout his life he publicly denied ties to his prior identity.[4]

His widely eclectic and avant-garde music echoed the entire history of jazz, from ragtime and early New Orleans hot jazz, to swing music, bebop, free jazz and fusion. His compositions ranged from keyboard solos to works for big bands of over 30 musicians, along with electronic excursions, songs, chants, percussion pieces, and anthems. From the mid-1950s until his death, Ra led the musical collective The Arkestra (which featured artists such as Marshall Allen, John Gilmore and June Tyson throughout its various iterations). Its performances often included dancers and musicians dressed in elaborate, futuristic costumes inspired by ancient Egyptian attire and the Space Age. (Following Ra’s illness-forced retirement in 1992, the band remained active as The Sun Ra Arkestra, and, as of 2018, continues performing under the leadership of veteran Ra sideman Marshall Allen.)[5]

Though his mainstream success was limited, Sun Ra was a prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, and remained both influential and controversial throughout his life for his music and persona.[6] He is now widely considered an innovator; among his distinctions are his pioneering work in free improvisation and modal jazz and his early use of electronic keyboards and synthesizers.[6][7] Over the course of his career, he recorded dozens of singles and over one hundred full-length albums, comprising well over 1000 songs, making him one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th century.[8]”

Enter the prolific super MC/Rapper/Composer, Lupe Fiasco.
It would require a few more pages to describe the proficiency and scope of the prodigy called Lupe Fiasco, suffice to say that not since De La Soul or Digable Planets and Shabbaz Palaces, has there been a Rapper possessing such a heightened sense of cosmic balance. His music is simply larger than his genre, his lyrics are unparalleled and with the advent of his latest album Drogas Wave, he has simply gone beyond the level of musical world building and created an epic of gargantuan proportions. Drogas Light and Drogas Wave are an Afrocentric Science Fiction odyssey unheard of, except maybe since Deltron 3030 or Del The Funky Homosapien and Dan The Automators collaboration …( more on that later).
Here is a review ( I shall add mines in another post):

Interrogating This Notion of Nation

I have often refuted this notion of nations, especially when it comes to the peoples of Afrika. What is a nation and can we find better definitions and peaceful resolutions to our own being, our constitutions as well as ensuring that we are not further exploited by foreign interests as Afrikans/AbaNtu? But beyond just my own pan-Afrikan interests, I believe that nationalism anywhere is a powerful inhibitor of progress and humane relations. It may sound like a contradiction coming from a pan Afrikanist as much of pan-Afrikanism has been fueled or driven by the protection and even projection of national sovereignty for formerly colonized peoples. But we may have inherited a lot of regressive ideas from our colonisers, and nationalism which may have been useful at some point of the struggle for independence,  it has now become a thorn and a hindrance to Afrikan and global progress.

One of my favourite writer, Mario Vargas Llosa has been a vehement critic of the notion of nationalism. here is a piece from an interview:

“The basic idea of nationalism is wrong,” declares Vargas Llosa when we meet at his publisher’s offices in London. “The idea that to be born in a given place is a value in itself is ridiculous. Totally ridiculous! Now the Scots want to be independent. That would be very sad. I don’t think Scotland is going to be privileged by independence. On the contrary, this is not the march of time – the march of time is for the dissolution of frontiers, integration, common denominators. Nationalism appeals to the tribe, the basic primitive tribe. No, no, no, we must fight this – Scotland must fight this. But we must fight colonialism too,” he says, adding that he is in favour of European union despite the current crisis. “We have had almost 60 years of peace in Europe for the first time in history, which is a great achievement. Never forget, nationalism has produced the most brutal and cruel wars in history.”

The elder is very clear and articulate here, but I would like to share something that is constantly on my mind, regarding questions of security and progress in the continent of Africa. The Congolese and Ethiopian situations are always a tough subject, as they both have a long history of ethnic and class conflicts, many leaders there have tried various ways to force some kind of national unity among their people, history has proven that this tenuous arrangement has only served to make matters worse. This article looks at the Ethiopian situation in a similar manner.

Please read and respond. I will add my full thoughts later as I have written about this on other platforms.

http://ayyaantuu.org/walelign-mekonnen-the-question-of-nationalities-and-ethiopias-persistent-crisis/

the idea of the idea

“If we are to understand the future of a people, we must appreciate its past. For the way of life of a people in any time and place is built out of past customs adapted to present circumstances and needs. This way of life is what anthropologists call ‘culture’. As anthropologists use the term, all peoples have culture, for culture is their customary way of doing things. It includes all aspects of life; the way they make things, the way in which they organise their society, the way they look at the world about them, even attitudes and sentiments and feelings they share.” – Dr Walter Goldschmidt

While thinking about the way ideas proliferate and become ways of life, I found myself perambulating towards philosophical theories. How do specific thinkers and societies become synonymous with phrases such as ‘I think therefore I am’, or Biblical phrases, ‘As a man thinketh so he is’, or the Nguni become known for Ubuntu, or ‘Umuntu ungumuntu ngabanye abantu’/ A person is a person through other people?

Essentially we are concerned about the issue of thinking, thinking freely may sound simple enough but we live in a world where many are persecuted for even attempted to assertively think and act freely. Since a person is only fully self realized through interactions with others, Afrikans are among those people whose becoming has been curtailed by various levels of unfreedom …