Photo credit: Robert A Tobiansky / Getty Images for SXSW
Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in electronic music is a college course taught by composer King Britt at the University of California, San Diego. On April 1, 2020, acclaimed writer, musician and visual artist Greg Tate had a rewarding conversation with author Ytasha Womack and King Britt, via Zoom, about Afrofuturism for the course. Here’s that conversation in its entirety.
Greg Tate was a multidisciplinary artist whose recent passing at the age of 64 shook the foundations of the arts and entertainment.
Writer, musician, visual artist and breeder, Tate was a polymath and revolutionary in the truest sense of the word. A native of Ohio and a child of the black arts movement, Tate was a staunch futurist with a keen understanding of the scope, beauty, and direction of black culture that often bordered on clairvoyance. His missives on the former had been circulated regularly since his adopted searches in New York. In each of them, Tate’s ability to articulate, question, and reinvent the nuanced movements and jive of the African Diaspora for the global stage was limitless. At Tate, there was a palpable love for the dark that served as the focal point of his life’s work and inspiration for others constrained by the words he was generous enough to share; Tate has long been considered the standard bearer of cultural writers of all stripes, through his signings as a columnist for The voice of the village to the content of his seminal book from 1992 Flyboy in Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America. Tate’s early presence as a mainstay of the craft has positioned him as a literary force whose analytical skills and expertise are compared to people like Amiri Baraka and Stanley crouching.
Promethean by nature, Greg Tate’s approach to his own art and the works of others was that of a scholar and clinician dissecting time and space to transmute the cosmic and the everyday with decisive vision. , an eloquence and a distinct singularity. Likewise, Tate’s intrepid musical exploration and his founding impact on collectives like the Black Rock Coalition (co-founded by Tate, Vernon reid, DK Dyson and Konda mason) and Burnt sugar The Arkestra room, would contribute to the springboard of modern movements in black assertion, eccentricism, innovation and freedom, including James spooner‘s Afropunk and – to a lesser extent – Okayplayer.com.
In what might be known as his most defining role, Tate mentored peers and emerging artists. An artistic force in his own right, DJ, producer and songwriter from Philadelphia King Britt is one of that number. Introduced by bassist and Black Rock Coalition co-founder Vernon Reid at a BRC event in the late 1980s, Britt and Tate became friends. After bonding Sun Ra and Stevie Wonder“Contusion,” they kept the conversation going for decades as Tate encouraged Britt to push the boundaries of her own creative work. This path guided King Britt through a number of milestones, including the founding and constant proliferation of Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in electronic music – Britt’s future University of California San Diego course anchored in his dream of “teach in a club. “Launched at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, the first lecture in the series included a conversation with Greg Tate and the author Ytasha Womack.
King slowly opens his chests for class (where he had in-depth conversations with everyone from Questlove to Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces.) And he was kind enough to ask Okayplayer to introduce the conversation between Tate and Womack who took place on April 1, 2020. In an email, King Britt wrote about the conversation:
“This video was the very first interview I did for my very first Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music class at UCSD. It started a few weeks after the initial quarantine, so due to the uncertainty it was taken to Zoom. The video shows Greg Tate and Ytasha Womack discussing Afrofuturism, music, dance, and the cultural influence of African Diaspora sound lineages. In the video you can really see the generosity and love Greg has for the culture and the support he has always given me and the next generation. Eternal love my friend, tell Miles and Hendrix that we said hello.“
Click below to watch the exclusive feed of King Britt in conversation with Greg Tate and Ytasha Womack.