Saturday, November 7, 2009
Punk is dead... long live punk!
Granted, this tour is already halfway over, but I couldn't let it pass without saying something about it here at RF.
Afro-Punk is currently embarking on its first ever national tour! "What is Afro-Punk?" you ask. In short, it's a movement lead by kids of color seeking to shake up the perception that punk is sheerly a white people's thing. Says the AP website:
"When Matthew Morgan and James Spooner joined forces in 2002, their focus was giving a voice to thousands of multi-cultural kids fiercely identifying with a lifestyle path-less-traveled. Morgan, a visionary with 15 years in the music industry, instinctively understood that the indie rock/punk/hardcore scene had powerful appeal beyond the predictable Caucasian audience; the passion evident in writer-director Spooners hours of riveting hand-shot footage was the indisputable proof. The result: 2003s Afro-Punk, the seminal cult classic film spotlighting Black Punks in America.
Afro-Punk became a touchstone of a cultural movement strongly reminiscent of the early days of Hip-Hop. Alternative urban kids across the nation (and across the globe) who felt like outsiders discovered they were actually the core of a boldly innovative, fast-growing community."
It's not hard to find representatives of this movement among some of the most influential figures in the avant-garde. For one: Saul Williams, who is more or less considered an architect of the genre--and is headlining this tour. Living Colour (yeah, remember them?) are something of a godfather act, which makes perfect sense given their role in founding the Black Rock Coalition in the '80s. Living Colour have also graced the stage at the AP tour stops.
Evidence of the phenomenon's global appeal is evident too; folks may remember the piece that appeared at RF this summer on London's Ebony Bones, who was easily the highlight of July's Wicker Park Festival (despite being shunted off to one of the side-stages).
To be sure, though the movement adheres to the punk outlook there's a great amount of eclecticism within Afro-Punk--far more than "three chords and the truth" (which isn't really surprising; today's "indie generation" has long ago taken up the task of redefining each genre for its own uses). Its sound pulls from electro, rap, old-school hardcore, just about anything the artists can get their hands on. What ties them all together is a complete disregard for convention and an emphasis on folks of color being in the front.
The past several years have seen AP limit itself to a short (if incredibly notable) festival in Brooklyn that highlighted some of the best acts within the new movement. Now, with Afro-Punk taking to the road, it's giving voice to the countless multi-racial scenes whose main modus operandi is breaking down musical and social boundaries. Taking a step back, the whole phenom certainly reflects the attitude among youth today: brash, uncompromising, with a deep respect for the myriad musical movements that have become part of our culture's DNA, and with no respect for any authority that seeks to keep young folks needlessly divided.
With any luck, this tour will be yet another step in building a musical and cultural movement that can really shake the streets.