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When "Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry" burst on to the airwaves, we were in the middle of 2020, in the depths of a global pandemic, in the grip of the Trump administration, and witnessing the continuous brutality towards Black people, in the US and across the globe. Released on Planet Mu as a surprise on Juneteenth 2020, "Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry" was a sonic response to the past and present events unfolding.

Now available on vinyl for the first time along with a 60 page zine, plus 30 more minutes of audio with the bonus track 'On Bloodthirst and Jungle Fever'.

Rhythmanalyst DeForrest Brown Jr. created with his project Speaker Music, an album of "street-level fire music" exploring poet Tsitsi Ella JajiI’s concept of "stereomodernism," creating a painfully beautiful record of battered pieces of techno and spoken word. Over its original 49 minutes, the album plays out as one piece, with a disjointed and jittering rhythm that runs through the middle like a dislocated spine. The listener is presented with sonic windows, that abruptly open and close. Hazes of horns fill the air, voices murmur, free jazz drums roll and shatter, police scanners chirp in and out, while drones and synths cut through the electric storm.

Opening with 'Amerikkka’s Bay' where 18-year-old writer Maia Sanaa and Brown Jr.’s cousin reads out her poem about Black victims murdered by police, the listener is immediately challenged into hearing this reality. "Too tight. Too tight. In the hands of his oppressor he feels the burden of his people’s strife. She knows that if she dies the man who so viciously took her life will be able to go home that very same night, joyfully eat dinner with his kids and wife then kiss them goodnight, forgetting the little girl who he just made a memory."

This piece of poetry appears in the 60 page zine of collected writings by Black theorists and poets which provides further context.

For some, music can be a way to escape our reality and to turn on, tune in and drop out, but for others, it is a medium to provoke, educate, and turn up. "Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry" is not an easy listen, and neither should it be. It is an audio document of this current moment, and we should not look away.

Top 10 Albums of the Year Exclusive

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Excerpt from the Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry zine

  • Top 10 Albums of the Year 2020: Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry
    Top 10 Albums of the Year 2020: Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry
  • Top 10 Albums of the Year 2020: Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry
    Top 10 Albums of the Year 2020: Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry
  • Top 10 Albums of the Year 2020: Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry
    Top 10 Albums of the Year 2020: Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry

Excerpt from Stereomodernism: Black Techno Consciousness - by DeForrest Brown, Jr.

As Amiri Baraka saw it and Tsitsi Ella JajiI expanded, a Black music explores different perspectives and approaches to living in trauma in a prescribed future. The systemic displacement of Black communities in conversation with a linear consideration of Black music (from blues to rock to jazz to soul to funk and techno) shows a kind of communication emerging from a people learning to speak the way they would like to within a set of societal confines.

Following Juan Atkins’ expansion of funk, whose own form consolidated jazz and soul, Derrick May introduced “Hi- Tech Soul.” In an interview with the online magazine Beat, May describes this soul music that has been optimized by Japanese technology and European music sensibilities, saying:

“It’s not that we’re trying to change the name of Detroit techno, it’s just that we’re trying to bring the awareness back to the core of what this music was always about. This music was always about technology and it was always about soul, it was always about the people that made it, it was always about those elements. We just sort of have to stand tall and say look, this is who we are, what we represent and at the same time we have to look forward, plan and do our best and show this is where we come from. Where we go from here, where techno ends up I can’t really tell you. But all I can say to anyone is, Detroit techno is Hi-Tech Soul.”

........

The scope of JajiI’s stereomodernism evokes Baraka’s sense for a Black “unity music” as a call for an “imagined community” for a newly constructed ethnicity. As Black people engaging with white technologies powered by fractured European ideologies, the meaning of “soul” for us extends beyond genre classification and encapsulates our situation of being categorically inhuman in the eyes of American governing bodies and people. Techno and its romantic qualities of Hi-Tech Soul come from a long history of endurance and adaptation to a future that was not assigned to us, speak- ing to systemic dynamics and to the feelings of Black people working towards a future that isn’t indebted to white American utopianism.

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