Afro-punk is basically the alternative culture of black people. That can mean in a musical sense like the black rock, punk, hardcore or metal scenes or in a cultural sense like with black fashion, spiritually & hair lots of hair like hence “Afro”. They are also big on fighting the good fight on all causes related to black people. The movement started out a documentary back in 2000 and then went on to start the highly successful summer festival in NY. Now I will say as technology has changed and certain things have become more excepting Afro-punk the movement has changed a little but the excise of the movement is still there.
The whole concept of Afro-punk started out of the brain child of James Spooner who grew up as a black punk. He is a bi-racial kid who listened to Eurocentric punk music but still considered himself black. He didn’t exactly feel he fit in completely with the white kids at punk shows and so in 2003 he went in search of other black kids in the punk scene and Afro-punk was born.
The Afro-punk festival got started back in 2005 after many black punks saw the documentary and started to connect with each other. They decided to have a meet up where live music was played and the whole thing was free. That part of the scene was great for a few years but in 2008 that changed. Now of course since then Afro-punk has taken a turn for the more commercial side and is no longer free and they get cooperate sponsors. Millions of kids come to a festival each summer and less actual punk acts are being brought to the festival stage. It has become more and more progressive and now focuses less on one genera of music but many different marginalized music groups. A lot of the original kids who followed Afro-punk in the festival and online were not feeling this new version of this scene. They felt it had become too commercial and wasn’t really using the “punk” in Afro-punk. James Spooner has even cut ties with the festival but still believes in the documentary and the movement he once created. Spooner now does something pretty cool is he is a vegan tattoo artist in California.
Tamar Kali-Brown the original Afro-punk women or at least in the documentary. She is kick ass! She is from NY and plays a lot of punk/hardcore music that goes deep. Like most punk music it comes with a really empowering message that inspires in this case young women and girls. One song talks about rape of young women while the video tells the story of a young black girl who likes punk music but all she sees in white faces and having to deal with self-image. She also comes from a rich ancestry of being Gulla Geechee and Mohawk/Cherokee. In the Afro-punk doc Tamar identifies with the punk movement because she sees a lot of her culture in the way they dress and the music. She said that she would see books of people in Africa in the bush wearing lots of crazy piercings and tattoos and go this is my culture. Then wear Mohawks to honor her Native culture and heritage so these things were never just the style of music. This chick goes all out and even has an orchestra which she directs along with her hardcore music. #revolutionarychick
Tamar Kali is a really important figure in the creation of the diy punk & hard-core feel of the movement along with many others before her like Bad Brains (who are from DC) and Fishbone who were some of the originators of the punk and hardcore scene.
How I Discovered Afro-punk & What I Like About the Movement:
I first heard of Afro-punk back in like 2011 or 2012 when one of my favorite bands Gym Class Heroes was slated to play their festival. I didn’t know too much about the festival or what it represented other than black people who rock which I wasn’t far off. Then in 2013, I watched the documentary and was like wow. I don’t consider myself a punk kid or anything like that but did grow up listening to rock music and discovering it in my teen years and I do like some punk and the sub generas of punk.
What I like about punk kids is their diy, activist, music loving, free spirit selves who just wanna make a difference in the world while making music. So when I discovered this thing called Afro-punk it got me thinking of myself and how music and the way it’s represented to me matters. It also got me thinking of where I grew up, who I hung out with and how I fit into my culture which helped form my musical taste.
I consider myself more of a hippie kind of person and music has always played a big roll in my life. After watching Afro-punk I went and I looked up bands with a black member or that is all black or black fronted. I of course already listened to bands with black leads or black members like Gym Class Heroes, Incubus, Red Hot Chilli Peppers (had a black drummer back in the ’80s) and then went to find my weird artist who didn’t really fit into a box like my Janelle Monae, Pharell and N*E*R*D*S, Lupe Fiasco, Cee-Lo Green, Eryka Badu ect. who all play Afro-punk today.
Afro-punk as it stands today is a more removed movement from the movie which I feel is still a beautiful thing. This version of the movement is more so about celebrating the sub culture, beauty and social justice of the black community today. They still support the black punk movement on some levels but also support other sub genera groups like alternative R&B, alternative jazz, alternative hip-hop, dance music djs, alternative-pop and just black rock in general. They have brought acts such as D’Angelo, Lenny Kravitz, The Internet, Cee-Lo Green and such which is dope. They even have gone over seas and have a festival in Paris now as well as a festival in the ATL. Afro-punk also supports the natural hair movement a lot and puts a lot of meaning into the afro part of Afro-punk as to mean natural hair not just African American. They also support the BMX community as well as diy movies and documentaries.
I think Afro-punk is a great movement you should all check out.
Here are some Afro-punk artist you should check out:
Earl Greyhound was a very boho grunge band back in the mid to late 2000s and they were like a staple at Afro-punk Fest back then. It was Kamara Thomas playing base/singing and a white guy on guitar/singing and a black guy on drums. They reminded me of a Led Zeppelin like band with sort of a Foo Fighters like sound. Also the way they dressed was like they were right out of the ‘60s-‘70s music scene. They wore their hair long or a ‘fro wore tonics, dashikis, cool dresses and bell bottom jeans.
Another Afro-punk women is Kimya Dawson who is a folky-indie artist who is very DIY and underground. She started out in the band the Moldy Peaches before going solo. Kimya was part of the AfroPunk soundtrack as well as had a pivotal roll in the movie soundtrack for Juno. She loves to wear the ‘fro and has piercings and tattoos all over her body and dresses very tom boy in jeans, shorts, t-shirts and sneakers.
D’Angelo played at Afro-punk fest over the years leading up to his 2014 release. He has a voice like no other. I just get this mood when ever I hear him. He is a R&B soul singer out of Virginia (yay) who got his start with two pretty great albums in the ’90s before going away. He has recently come back with an album late 2014 that has been on repeat on my iPhone since I first listened to it. He is amazing very much into the black rock scene and very socially conscious.
Gary Clark, Jr. Think a 21st century Jimi Hendrix. He has that whole hard guitar riffs mixed with that blueness kind of like Jimi meets BB King or Muddy Waters. Something that I love to see is African Americans playing traditional rock music. (cause if it weren’t for us…but you get it) he goes hard and brings back the guitar solo. (something missing in modern rock)
Lolawolf is the band of Zoe Kravitz, Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet’s daughter. It’s a great band that got that rock-pop vibe with an electronic feel to it plus her vocals are on point. Zoe has learned from her parents well. She learned from her mom on the fashion front and being very creative with her style and from her dad on the music front and how to be a great musician. Plus when you’ve got one of the original Cosby kids as your mom and two really hot dads (Lenny Kravitz and Jason Mamoa) you win in my book. #revolutionarychick
Kelis, Lianne La Havas, Lauryn Hill, Suicidal Tendencies, Grace Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Sharon Jones, Bad Brains, Shinobi Ninja, Shabazz Palaces, Body Count, Chuck D, DJ Lord, Questlove, Mykki Blanco Death, Rye Rye, Danny Brown, the London Souls, Theophilus London, Wicked Wisdom, Jean Grae, Eve Trash Talk, SZA, Unlocking the Truth, Gym Class Heroes, Janelle Monae, The Internet, Saul Williams, Willow and Jaden Smith, ect…
Till Next Time Keep It…DIY!