~ Posted in honor of African-American Music Appreciation Month, June 2017 ~
“The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly.” [Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss]
At the center of African culture is a category of creative forces related to time and space – called hantu in Bantu philosophy – explored, harnessed and traveled by musicians whose artistry arguably falls under the relatively new category of “Afrofuturism.” Some have suggested that Afrofuturism attempts to fill a cultural void for consumers of Tinsel-town’s romanticized silver-screen portrayals of futuristic, colorless and even soul-less Utopias that have been inspired by hi-tech space-flight technologies and industries. However master-drummers, artists, griots etc. of African descent in the Diaspora have always sought these dimensions of time as a way to connect with an ancestral past, brutally severed by slavery, and to envision a future from that space in their oral-aesthetic divining, prophesying, coding, recording, and storytelling of the communal pathways to a soul-filled state of bliss that is independent/free of the vampiric curse of humanity’s adversarial forces. We hear it in the 50s and 60s jazz stylings of Sun Ra, John Coltrane, and Alice Coltrane… nurturing the renaissance of collective consciousness that was then taking hold throughout the African world. From there Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic seasoning prepared us for the 70s and 80s – a period that witnessed space explorations by George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic, and the cosmic signals being beamed out from Jamaica by dub innovators King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry. During these decades Maurice White established his leadership of the group Earth, Wind and Fire on some of the best ever soul, R&B, and funk music while keeping community consciousness “hip”/woke with hits such as “In the Stone.” Alongside MJ’s “Remember the Time” and Prince changing his name to an unpronounceable ankh-like symbol, Afrofuturism continued to pour forth from the 90s – neo-soul artists (Badu…) & hip-hop artists (Outkast…) – up through the present-day re-imaginings of Ras G, Janelle Monae, and others…
Hantu operates as non-linear space and time, unlike the Eurocentric construction of space and time used to justify the paradigm-of-progress narrative of “history” – undergirding our modern disciplinary scholarship and informing Hollywood’s dreamtime narrative – which holds that later is better and the conqueror is superior to the conquered…
According to Martin Bernal, Christian reaction against Greek religious identification with its ancient Egyptian predecessor was the driving force behind such Aryan accounts of civilization. Designed to promote the myth that Greece was the epitome of European civilization and its ‘pure’ genesis, this ‘Romantic Hellenism’ recast ancient Egypt as a static civilization relative to Europe. Thus the imperialistic, religious, and romantic elements in this hegemonic paradigm-of-progress fueled the rise of the racism needed to support justifications for African colonialism and enslavement, as well as the American policy to exterminate indigenous peoples. [Bernal, M. 1987. Black Athena Vol. 1: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece, 1785–1985. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers U Press]
During the time and space of slavery, African descendants seeking a future of freedom through the Underground Railroad were aided in large part through coded wisdom in spirituals such as: Steal Away to Jesus – a call to freedom which to slave-owners sounded like a harmless longing to be with the heavenly master; Wade in the Water – advising the use of water routes to throw slave-owner’s dogs off the scent of the escaping slaves in the lyrics “…God’s gonna trouble the water…;” and Follow the Drinking Gourd – an astronomical map song referring to the Big Dipper (“drinking gourd”) which points to the North Star – the direction of freedom for enslaved Africans. Such songs provided several clues about how to navigate and survive that journey to freedom. Within this oral-aesthetic cultural context, Afrofuturists have continued the tradition of creating and facilitating spiritual pathways for community liberation and next-level consciousness.
For Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire – as evidenced in the artwork and song lyrics of the group’s albums – his spiritual journey back-to-the-future was largely informed by Old-School African sources, strategically constructed and indelibly carved In the Stone of ancient Kemetic installations. The Giza Pyramids White is pictured visiting (above) were designed, arranged, and built in direct orientation to the constellation of “the Hunter” ~ Ausar. Monuments “on earth as in the heavens,” they exist to map and reveal the mystery of the journey towards spiritual reparations – the eternal love between the Divine Seeker and her God per the EWF lyrics: “…true love is written in the stone…” [See “Pyramid Wisdom & Story” and “Heru ~ Djedi Sky Walker” posts for more]
The Giza Pyramids thus provide evidence of hantu as a profound and timeless / eternal cultural force – demonstrating that African spirituality has always been in alignment with nature and the cosmos. Therefore the Eurocentric paradigm-of-progress narrative is itself undermined by pyramids such as Giza and temples such as Luxor because these monuments to African spiritual wisdom are prime examples of the original sources which were much later appropriated to create the western mythologies and false justifications decried in the research of Bernal and numerous other scholars. The Luxor Temple [built beginning 1392 BCE] of the Amun~Mut~Khonsu Holy Trinity provides a cipher of eternal truths, not only in the architecture (an idealized human form) but also in the artistry and carved inscriptions, such as the following proverbs:
- Your body is the temple of knowledge.
- If the Master teaches what is error, the disciple’s submission is slavery. If he teaches truth, this submission is ennoblement.
- The kingdom of Heaven is already within you; if you understand yourself you will find it.
- Men need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source.
Below is a gallery of selected Earth, Wind and Fire album covers spanning the band’s prolific career over recent decades, each conveying images for the “true seeker” wishing to connect to the ancestral spiritual “source” of the EWF lyrics: “Hearts of fire creates love desire, Take you high and higher to the world you belong…. Hearts of fire creates love desire, High and higher to your place on the throne…” [from That’s the Way of the World, 1975]
- Last Days & Time  ❤ Spirit  ❤ All ‘N All :
- Fantasy  ❤ I Am  ❤ Faces :
- Raise  ❤ Powerlight  ❤ Electric Universe :
- The Eternal Dance  ❤ Millennium  ❤ In the Name of Love :
- Grtst Hits [’98] ❤ The Promise  ❤ Now, Then & Forever :