Energy Signature@ Town Futurist Sessions

Energy Signature@ Town Futurist Sessions

Afrofuturist hip-hop in Oakland? Yes, yes, y’all. The cosmology of beats and rhymes and cyclic reality of cipher sessions has manifested through the Town Futurist Sessions, a monthly party at the Legionnaire which envisions avant-garde, often improvised, live hip-hop throwdown as ritual space:  a place where the sacred and the spiritual meet experimental electronic rhythms.

At the first Town Futurist Sessions in March, emcee Sunru Carter,  producer Korise “Big Tunes” Jubert and sound engineer Dejah Fortune (aka Frequeasy Collective) presided over an impressive bill of experimental hip-hoppers, singers, and instrumentalists, including Kev Choice, Antique, Aima the Dreamer, Cole, Dakini Star, Davu, Uriah Duffy – even a burlesque dancer. It was, Carter says, a “frequeasy” vibe which covered “innerground” territory.

The Frequeasy vibe.

The Frequeasy vibe.

“You didn’t know exactly what was going to happen that night,” Carter recalls, adding, “We just opened that sh*t up and it was straight up magic. It was just seamless beats with every different vocalist that touched it … half the people I haven’t even seen in my life… but they were flowin’!”

Everyone inside the venue, he continues, seemed “directly connected to the room.  That’s that old magic. Where you just conjure something that’s beyond [you]. You create that place for everybody to get healed.”

Finding Innerground: Big Tunes

Finding Innerground: Big Tunes

The next day, he says, it was clear that something religious had happened. “People said they felt healed. They felt moved in themselves. So that’s church, when you can move people. When they feel moved, and they feel elevated and evolved, you’re not just doing a show anymore, you’re creating a container to evolve.” In that moment, he says, the Legionnaire’s upstairs room became “ritual space, where identity is lost and we tap into our ancestral currents.”

Voodoo Soul: Fantastic Negrito

Voodoo Soul: Fantastic Negrito

A flurry of back-and-forth messaging was exchanged through social media; video clips and photos began to circulate. Carter and Jubert realized they had something special, and quickly assembled a Facebook page and began making plans to document future Sessions, and spread the Town Futurist concept through networking with like-minded individuals all over the world.”There’s a futurist in every town,” says Carter, a snazzy, flamboyant dresser known for making his own outfits which blend the tribalism of the African diaspora with b-boy flair and metaphysical touches.

Back to the Future: Antique

Back to the Future: Antique

An entirely different group of artists came out for the second Futurist event on April 2nd. These included Holly Saucy, Orko Elohim, the Genie, Ras Ceylon, Fantastic Negrito, Hunny Tinted, Syar Dali, Ka Ra Kirsey, Future Perfekt, the Town Futurist house band and Carter’s rock band, the Last Dragons. Visuals were provided by Deadeyes, Sage Stargate, Safety First, and Smithstonian in addition to a photostream of artist images from the first event on the wall.

The sense of mystery, of leaving expectations at the door, was just as prominent. Dynamic vocalist Kimiko Joy made two separate appearances, one during a long freestyle session — which also saw Legionnaire proprietor (and former “full time b-boy”) Prozack Turner rip the mic raw – and later with Future Perfekt. Ceylon’s revolutionary-minded flows were also on point, while Fantastic Negrito, accompanying himself on piano, evoked the “Voodoo Soul” of a New Orleans dive bar. Big Tunes’ tunes – all original beats and remixes – kept a mostly midtempo pace, while a sweat-drenched Carter stripped down to his tattooed, bare chest as he clawed his way through “Russian Roulette,” a garage-y, apocalyptic rave-up which sounds like the progeny of The Stooges, Bad Brains, and K-Rob & Rammellzee.

Ray Ceylon gets open @ Town Futurists

Ray Ceylon gets open @ Town Futurists

Who are the Town Futurists? you might ask. According to Carter, they are “the ones who have come from the ancient future to save the world. Or directly affect the reality with their art. Or with their expression. So it’s the ones who are here now, who tap into the lineage of art, of culture.”

A Town Futurist session, he adds, “thrives off of collective energy, it thrives off of the alignment of the stars. Every alignment of the stars reveals a different aspect of the story. Every star that enters the cipher brings another element of the story.  Anybody that shows up, no matter if you’re on the bill or not, it’s all about the energy that’s in the room.”

Channeling an 'ancient future': Sunru Carter

Channeling an ‘ancient future’: Sunru Carter

The Frequeasy Collective aren’t new to this – Carter was previously a mainstay of The Grow Sessions, a solar-powered organic hip-hop party which happened on the (since-shrunken) expanded First Friday footprint South of W Grand. He’s been repping the futurist vibe for years; on 2010’s “Big Cities,” he raps, “rise to the occasion/ yes we’re facing a total situation/ and we can’t even change the station.” Jubert, meanwhile, started off back in the 90s as a member of Boogie Shack, which branched out from throwing after hours house parties into artist production, before becoming a co-founder of the Towntroniks collective, known for making Afrofuturist EDM with a Bay Area flavor.

Fast-forward: Sunru and Big Tunes

Fast-forward: Sunru and Big Tunes

If all goes well,  the Town Futurist Sessions could manifest in other cities (much like “Motown on Mondays”), becoming what Carter calls an “innerground railroad,” allowing artists to freely network with each other. Carter and Joubert say they’ve received favorable responses from Los Angeles and as far away as Japan, though neither have plans to abandon the Bay Area. But in order to make that future a reality here and elsewhere, he says, “We have to create our own buzz.” The next Town Futurist Sessions happens May 7 at Legionnaire Saloon; artists TBA.
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Jimmy Jean-Louis as Toussaint Louverture

Jimmy Jean-Louis as Toussaint Louverture

Three days after seeing the epic “Toussaint L’Ouverture,” the three-plus hour film remained  at the forefront of Oakulture’s consciousness. The movie, which documents the rise of a Haitian-born African from plantation slave to military hero and champion of independence, was an unquestioned highlight of the just-completed 12th edition of the Oakland International Film Festival, which finally seems to have found its niche as a vehicle for provocative independent cinema, as well as a platform for local filmmakers. “Toussaint L’Ouverture” was exactly the type of film you’d expect to see at OIFF: a sweeping story about a prominent yet unsung black hero whose themes of liberation are entirely relevant to Oakland’s activist community.

OIFF/Oakland Film Society's David Roach

OIFF/Oakland Film Society’s David Roach

Yet each of OIFF’s four days offered plenty of substance. Last Saturday, after a full day of visual fare at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, the actors, directors, producers and screenwriters behind the festival’s dizzying array of cinematic food for thought gathered for the first-ever OIFF “Film Market,” which spotlighted auteurs such as Diallo Jeffrey and Robert “Fleetwood” Bowden. Each presenter screened 10 minutes of footage and briefly talked about their work – a great way to quickly sample a selection of indie films. It was a watchable, enjoyable time – helped along a bit by Geoffrey’s battered catfish dinner, all sides included.

Diallo Jeffrey and Jacquie Taliaferro at OIFF's Film Market

Diallo Jeffrey and Jacquie Taliaferro at OIFF’s Film Market

The next night, the Souls of Mischief documentary “Til Infinity” closed out the festival, along with Karen Seneferu’s hauntingly poignant short, “From Fruitvale to Florida: Strange Fruit No More,” and “They Die by Dawn,” a Afro-Western graced by the presence of Erykah Badu and Isaiah Washington. Once again, David Roach, the OIFF’s founder and tireless promoter, deserves credit for what he’s brought to Oakland’s cultural arts scene, and if there was a slight criticism of the fest, it would be that the programs were packed very tightly; it would be nice to see OIFF’s showcases and events extended for an entire week in the future.
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Grand opening of Eesuu Orundide's new show @ Solespace

Grand opening of Eesuu Orundide’s new show @ Solespace

“Toussaint” was also on the mind of artist Eesuu Orundide. While some were disappointed with the omissions and historical revisions made to Louverture’s story, “I was looking for a hero story,” Orundide confides; his assessment of the film was that it delivered.

Detail from "Sugar 2.0"

Detail from “Sugar 2.0”

Coincidentally, Orundide’s new exhibition, “Sugar 2.0,” outlines the connection between the soda and rum industries built on sugar cane and plantation slave labor. The artist says he had been working on the show— which juxtaposes images like a slave bill of sale, pictures of nameless black women, Coca-Cola bottling plants, and Jamaican and Haitian rum labels on woodprints and mixed-media canvases–for months; watching a historical biopic set in Haiti’s slavery days brought the themes he traces in “Sugar 2.0” home tenfold. As he says, “sugar is a story that picks up speed with slavery to produce it and now we are slaves to its consumption, all in the name of capitalism.”

Oakland artist Eesuu Orundide

Oakland artist Eesuu Orundide

“Sugar 2.0” runs through April at Solespace.

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This week’s picks:

Bryant Terry’s National Afro-vegan Book Launch Party, April 9, 7pm, $13-$40, Impact Hub Oakland, 2323 Broadway.

Lagos Roots Afrobeat Ensemble, April 11, 10pm, $17, Yoshis, 510 Embarcadero

People’s Grocery Spring Plant Sale, April 12, 10 am, 3501 San Pablo Ave.

Shakir Stewart Ascot Awards and Gala, April 12, 6:30 pm, $40, Bella Ultra Lounge, 561 11th St.

Bombino, April 15, 8pm, $20-$25, New Parish, 579 18th St.

 

 

One Response

  1. Rocky Seker

    Thanks for mentioning “They Die By Dawn” was a West Coast premier brought to the fest by Black Cinema At Large. 🙂

    Reply

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