The path to the future begins in our pasts.
‘NiroBEAT Pit Party’ was presented by the Barbican and Co-produced by Jazz:Refreshed and K3 Media. The afrofuturistic trip took place on the evening 22nd of July at 8pm.
Described on Nitrobeat as: ‘Part showcase, part gig with fantasy art projections and theatrical interventions’, the project emerged from a series of artistic discussions to encourage new collaborative work that challenges the limitations and boundaries of identity that are historically imposed on diverse artists in music, theatre and across the performing arts.
‘Presenting a fresh and dynamic live gig, this flamboyant show sees artists from the worlds of music, mixed-media, spoken word and theatre collaborate as they take a shared journey into Afrofuturism.’
Directed by Benji Reid, the Jazz Re:freshed Band featured Cassie Kinoshi, TJ Koleoso and Israel Shabani performing alongside artists Juice Aleem and Xana, the night was hosted by Aina More and Roney FM.
On arrival to the venue, The Barbican, a British brutalist estate built during the 60’s and 70’s by Chamberlin, Powell, and Bon; this location could be seen to some as a brutalist spaceship-like structure with a retro-futuristic interior. SON later realised that this space was the ideal location for an afrofuturistic trip such as the ‘NitroBEAT pit Party.
As we took the lift to the lower basement floor to -2 to the foyer, it was as if we were being tele-transported to the lower part of a spaceship. The pre-show was underway, we encountered ‘Mission // Misplaced Memory excavate your memories’ – We were previously advised to ‘Come prepared to share a memory with a stranger/new friend and set off new cosmic connections’. This was an effective interventionist approach to connecting strangers at an event; groups of friends and strangers had already formed. Three girls dressed in navy blue overalls were balancing large brown bowls on their heads, they were approaching newcomers, we were also approached and offered a card from the large bowl; the card instructed us to ‘Find someone that reminds you of an old school friend and share a random memory with them. This participatory meeting game engaged the audience in conversation with strangers with drinks and dialogue flowing just before the show commenced.
Just as the foyer began to fill, we were called to queue and ushered into the seating area, guided through dark tunnels leading us into the theatre space. The space itself resembled a dark vessel, ready to transport its passengers, the audience on … ride.
As we sat in our seats, with the stage at the forefront, a large background screen projected vibrant 2D and 3D futuristic visuals created by K3 Media. The seats began to fill and the lights began to dim as the sound of the bass and drums dispersed throughout the space. We were met with poetic lyricism by the hosts of the night Aina More, and Roney FM (R Fraser-Munroe), Roney FM performed Spoken Word through the performances during intervals, taking us step by step further on our journey, as the narrator. Aina More began by performing and also interacting with the audience, the participation of the audience either singing along or answering her questions about what words could describe Africa from those that had been there or were from there. With a response of —Beats and Bass– combined with electronic hip-hop and psychedelic funk.
#afrofuturism: coined by US cultural critic Mark Dery,(Black to the Future). Afrofuturism refers to the growing global cultural movement that exists at the intersection between black history, the arts, technology, liberation and the imagination. It re-imagines historical and social narratives and weaves them together with alternative visions of the future, crossing continents with messages of inclusivity and free expression.
Xana performed, debuting the first song from her album ‘Animate the Archive’ and then performing a collaborative freestyle piece using words provided by the audience, the words had to describe the future; SON’s word was multi-dimensional. Xana, using her beat-sampler recorded her voice to create the beat to sing over, her voice truly transported us to another dimension, with a funky yet soothing sound combined with black and white visuals in the background depicting soundwaves with Cassie Kinoshi’s sax sounds, her performance was unique and memorable. Not forgetting the contribution of Juice Aleem’s electronic hip-hop freestyles using sounds of an eco-chamber, the collective informally explored the sounds of Afrofuturism creating a powerhouse of vibrations that at times made us forget where we were.
Towards the end of the show, Aina More invited the audience to come and join the band on the stage as they jammed out some free jazz melodies with Xana at the front on percussion. It was a warm welcoming vibe, a celebration of our creation of this alternative space and re-imagining the future through music,performance, spoken word, dance and beats and bass.
NitroBEAT’s aim to work with the most innovative creative voices, those who reject familiar and stereotypical tropes for a highly intersectional way of looking at possible futures and alternate realities.Afrofuturism will continue to influence our work as a philosophy that re-imagines historical and social narratives and weaves them together with future visions through a multi-art form process and as a guide towards creative emancipation.