Moving the Centre

“A phrase from Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, “moving the centre”, stuck with me. The idea that the centrality of one’s knowledge could be perceived in a mode lucid enough to allow for a shift in its parameters and hierarchical biases opened up a myriad thoughts and questions. How can we move beyond the ways of listening and interpreting sound that we believe to be self-evident?” Shabaka Hutchings

This week on the Chronic we look music as language. As world-building and myth-affirmation. Music as technology; as ways of seeing, dreaming, breathing.

In We Need New Myths, saxophonist and composer Shabaka Hutchings probes the musical narratives of jazz and hip-hop. He plays outside the time signatures common to diasporan interpretation and orthodox analysis. Moving beyond the value systems and invisible hierarchies that shape understanding and impose context, he imagines another sonic architecture.

In 52 Niggers, Stacy Hardy looks at the life, rhythms and modalities of Julius Eastman

“He took to the mic. He said: “There are three pieces on the programme. The first is called Evil Nigger and the second is called Gay Guerrilla and the third is called Crazy Nigger.” He spoke smooth. He flowed easy. He mirrored Pryor’s buzz in making obscenities sing. He paused after each title. He let it hang. He waited for it: the reaction, breath suspended, waiting for a ripple, a laugh, some kind of recognition of the humour at play. Nothing. Fuck. His audience was silent. Not even a twitter, a nervous giggle. He held the pause a second longer – Jesus, even he felt like laughing – but no, nothing. Just silence, just Eastman, just his nerves’ systematic operation, his blood’s endless circulation.

He tried again. His voice wavered. His voice woofered. It bounced high and wide. FUCK – Overfeed. Overamp. From the start. He said, “Nigger is that person or thing that attains to a basicness or a fundamentalness, and eschews that which is superficial, or, could we say, elegant.” He said, “There are 99 names of Allah.” He paused. He said, “There are 52 niggers.” But still it wouldn’t go away. The whiteness always returned, whiteness woven into the fabric of Culture, whiteness locking everything else out. Silent. White faces stared back. Blank, unmoved: they could see only one.

Looking at reggae, technology and the diaspora;  Louis Chude-Sokei documents the transatlantic (un)making of Dr. Satan’s Echo Chamber.

“Let me humbly begin with the history of the Universe. Western science has provided us with a myth of origins in the “Big Bang” theory which locates the beginning of all things in a primal explosion from which the stars, moons, planets, universes and even humanity are birthed. Because Western science’s obsession with cause and effect has focused on the process of contraction and expansion in the universe (mirroring its colonial and neo/post-colonial conceits), it is the role of another kind of science to interrogate the metaphor in the term “Big Bang.” Indeed, the fact that “science” in the Jamaican vernacular is a synonym for “bush magic” or the occult, allows me to ground these metaphysics in the folklore of the Caribbean.”

For more stories, head to The Chronic