Artist Feature: Asher Gamedze

Drummer, writer, and scholar Asher Gamedze is a growing force on the music scene in Cape Town, South Africa. I have had the pleasure of getting to know him through a couple of extended Skype conversations over the past seven months. Not only is he deeply committed to his craft as an artist, he has an even greater dedication to the community of artists, scholars, students, and writers of which he is a part. An integral part of the Interim, a community collective aimed at solidarity building both within Africa and via south-south connections, Gamedze has also begun to emerge a key musician within the South African avant-garde. This debut record is an incredible statement, a kaleidoscopic journey into his sonic universe, and hints at much more to come.

Cisco Bradley: What’s the concept behind your new record, Dialectic Soul?

Asher Gamedze: The concept is based on the dialectic and the Black radical tradition’s various inversions and extensions of that. It’s based in, and hopes to contribute to the ongoing struggles against capitalism-colonialism and all the forms of exploitation and oppression rooted in their violence. It is influenced and inspired by the multiple forms of resistance, the elaboration of revolutionary culture, and the idea that that is always evolving, necessarily, in a state of emergence. Musically it draws on a number of traditions that I have been surrounded by, involved in and exposed to including musics from the outsides of the jazz tradition, musics from the liberation struggle and from spiritual traditions in southern Africa. All of which I don’t see as separate and they share a common thread in their soul character.

CB: “State of Emergence Suite” is a magnificent opening statement. Can you talk about your mindset in writing and improvising that piece?

AG: I copy here a section from my liner notes: “State Of Emergence Suite: This suite, my composition, introduces the themes that constitute the album. It attempts to conceptually represent the colonial dialectic – the violence of colonialism-capitalism and the many different chapters and phases of resistance to it. ‘State of emergence’ speaks to the continual necessity of motion in our resistance and in our imagination and building of alternatives. Resistance is always in a state of emergence, never complete, never finished, always moving.

Thesis: The solo drums in free time symbolise autonomous African motion, moving through and resolving its own contradictions. The saxophone introduces the violence of colonialism and the necessity of reflecting deeply and honestly on how that has shaped us and our current conditions.

Antithesis: Steve Biko once wrote that Black Consciousness is the antithesis of white supremacy. From Coltrane to Cabral, Makeba to Malcolm, the Haitian revolution to Nehanda, this movement is about the many movements that have attempted to make the unthinkable – Black freedom – thinkable and real. Our responses to the violence of colonialism.

Synthesis: This is our refusal of the conditions imposed on us. It is the ongoing struggle against the material conditions we are subjected to. It is the ongoing struggle, and the positive manifestation of resistance, against the forms of violence and silence we are subjected to.”

From the notes you can see that each piece has its own particular character, each movement its own soul. So, in terms of the mindset in terms of improvising, it was just about a clear articulation and internalisation of the idea and to play from that place, which I think is captured in the written music itself: The written music gives you cues as to where you might be able to go with it and how you might get there. But there are always other possibilities.

CB: How have you gone about creating “autonomous African motion” with your drumming on this record?

AG: I mean, I think broadly in the world I have always been attracted to traditions that have that objective in mind – autonomous motion – you know, like historically. And I think a lot of revolutionary movements can be read through that. Like the Zapatistas, anti-colonial movements in the mid 20th century, the Haitian revolution, the syndicalist tradition, the Italian autonomist workers in many ways was people are organising for is to secure the material and social conditions that will allow them to move in and move through history in a way that they choose and determine. And this broad fascination with this form of historical motion and its pursuit overarches my approach to playing drums as well. If we think about music, historically, and across the world, it has always been a place where people have been able to, in their own way, and obviously within certain constraints, autonomously write their own form of motion. Every music has its own way of moving in itself and in people. And, through Amilcar Cabral, Sylvia Wynter and others, I understand and appreciate the importance of the elaboration of culture in the movement for liberation. Part of the struggle is articulalting and extending cultural forms through which we can move ourselves. So with regard to my drumming and the pursuit of autonomous African motion, the first important thing to mention is that ‘Africa’ is invoked as a political project, an anti-colonial project rather than any particular essential identity or even necessarily tied to geographic location. The second thing to add is that I see myself and my work – as an organiser, a writer, a musician, as a cultural worker – as participant in that collective process. On the album it is through the collective of musicians that this contribution is made, always as part of an ensemble. Saidiya Hartman speaks about the choir, which is also fitting.

CB: Your music is a call for revolution. What is the revolution and the future you envision?

AG: I must first say that it’s truly great to hear an impulse of the music articulated so clearly and that is has been communicated in that way to you and it has been picked up by you in that way, Cisco. And definitely the music is that as it is many other things. Then again, maybe all of those ‘other things’ are part of the revolution we are after. I recall an incident described by one of the people I consider a mentor, someone I feel extremely privileged to call a friend, and who wrote the most beautyful set of liner notes to dialectic soul, the renegade intellectual Robin Kelley. I can’t remember which text the incident in question is in although I suspect it’s in Freedom dreams: The Black radical imagination. The situation he describes is a conflict that emerged at a gathering at some kind of left formation in America in the 80s or 90s I believe. Again I might be hazy on the details but the general contours of it was a struggle around the cultural sensibilities of the movement. The, majority white Marxists insisting on ‘The Internationale’ and Robin and a small group of Black radicals shouting from their corner ‘we want Bootsy!’ I cite this incident because I think it highlights in many ways what one part of the history Black radical tradition has been about – a struggle against racial capitalism and imperialism, as well as, simultaneously against a Eurocentric Marxist tradition whose ontological and cultural roots are shared with the European manifestion of modernity that oppresses and exploits. And it has been through those struggles and that an autonomous history and tradition of revolt has emerged, is always emerging, in emergence. And that is a revolutionary whose bases are the cultural practices and cosmological worlds of Black people. That is very much the tradition in emergence that I understand my work to be a part of. You know – Bootsy, taken as a signifier for something much broader than him, and the struggle for socialism, together.

My thinking in recent years has been very much influenced by the thought and practice of the Zapatistas who are committed to a very open-ended vision of revolution you know – we ask the questions as we walk together. So I would be hesitant to suggest an end goal or even necessarily a single concrete idea of what that future is, what that revolution looks like or, will be. It’s as much about the process as anything. What the idea of asking the questions as we walk together suggests to me is a number of things. Central to that is the idea of doing it together, any revolutionary practice has to be based in collective, there is no other way. So it’s about being with people, it’s about a humility of not-knowing, but learning with and from each other as we try desperately to be better as people and build better worlds. Two more elements of Zapatista thought point us in this direction. The first is ‘one no, many yeses’ and the second is the idea of ‘worlds within worlds.’ The no is a refusal of the way that the world is currently constituted, it is a no to capitalism but it is an indeterminate and multiple anti-capitalism, many flowers must bloom. There cannot only be one answer, one hegemonic idea of the world we wish to build. That has to be open to interpretation and experimentation and improvisation. We need to build worlds in which children are safe, women are safe, trans people are safe, disabled people… worlds in which all oppressed people are safe where the fucken police do not determine whether we get home safe or not, this is key. Worlds where the basics of people’s existence is not determined by tyranny of the market but by themselves, and where people can learn with each other, have fun, realise ourselves together and experience joy. That’s the revolution I’m after.

CB: What is the meaning behind the album title, Dialectic Soul?

AG: You know I think the first came across the term was in CLR James’ Notes on Dialectics or in Julia Kristeva’s Revolution in poetic language where they both quote this section from Hegel which I will quote in full here: “The negativity which has just been considered is the turning-point of the Notion. It is the simple point of negative self-relation, the internal source of all activity, vital and spiritual self-movement, the dialectic soul which all truth has in it and through which it alone is truth; for the transcendence of the opposition between the Notion and Reality, and that unity which is the truth, rest upon this subjectivity alone.”

In simpler language, the dialectic soul is the motive force. Within the concept of the dialectic, it is negativity that both puts something in motion and keeps it moving, resolving the contradictions and moving to new terrain. Dialectic soul is the speculative fourth term of the dialectic.

So the album is about motion and the importance of motion, historically. It’s about the way that the concept of the dialectic itself has been put into motion, by Marx and later by revolutionaries the world over – Grace Lee Boggs, Mao, Cabral, Robinson – and it has been through these motions that it has been put to use utterly antithetical to the racist Eurocentrics who allegedly invented it.

CB: You’ve been active in #Rhodesmustfall and other political movements that have emerged in South Africa over the past five years. Can you talk about your involvement and what those movements have meant to reimagining post-Apartheid South Africa?

AG: Yeah. Along with many other people, my work in RMF and other Black student formations was mainly in the collective spaces of writing and education in relation to the movement. I was part of the writing and education subcommittees of RMF and later part of collectives like Pathways to Free Education and Publica[c]tion. All of these in somewhat different but related ways were attempting to extend the work of the movement through building collectives around thinking and acting together based on an exploration of its politics. One of the common themes was to challenge the individual nature of academic production and think about a knowledge project in service of a liberatory agenda. Pathways is an attempt to think with people about the question of free education, broadly conceived, and experiment with expressions of what that could be. It has tried to build relationships beyond the student body around this question, with workers, trade unions, community organisers, etc, from the understanding that free education is a much broader concern than the university. One of the limitations of the student movement was its inability, by and large, to sustainably and meaningfully organise with progressive groups beyond the university. Publica[c]tion was an attempt to connect Black students and workers across the country, and beyond it, and to collaborate on a collective writing project where we would write and reflect on our own stories rather than leave that space to be monopolised by the media and publication chasing academics who are often all-too-willing to jump on any train to further their own careers.

In terms of the student movement’s role in re-imagining post-apartheid South Africa I would say that that work had already been underway for a long time. Black working class people have been protesting intensively around the conditions in which people are forced to live in this country, one of the most unequal in the world. In terms of events and processes that  challenged the post-apartheid dream and image, and I would consider the student movement one of those, I would have to point to struggles such as the Anti-Privatisation Forum and, importantly the Marikana uprisings in which the state executed protesting Black miners. All of these movements and moments exposed the lie at the heart of the ‘rainbow nation’, the mythical creation of post-apartheid South Africa which is still based on the very real exploitation and oppression of Black people. Particularly with regard to the student movement, apart from the real material gains such as, in solidarity with workers winning the insourcing of many outsourced university workers, one of the major effects, I think, has been re-politicising the question of colonialism and coloniality – racism, dispossession, patriarchy, and the important question of free education – into the public discourse. Again, it didn’t do this alone, and was not the first movement to put these questions on the table, it draws from a long lineage. But I think that is probably the domain of its most visible effect, the politicising of ‘old’ issues within the neoliberal moment.

CB: What is the role of radical collectives such as the Interim in transforming the cultural landscape in Cape Town and other places in South Africa today?

AG: I mean it would be dishonest not to state that the Interim is very much a minoritarian tendency within Cape Town and more broadly. So in terms of its effect on the landscape broadly I would have to say that it is limited. The space was founded as an autonomous, collective space for radicalising cultural work, a space to meet, to gather, to perform, to learn, to read, to be together. Cape Town as a settlement is founded in a material sense on the dispossession of African people. Throughout its history and right up until the present day, this dispossession has taken place through many different means and continues in disturbingly violent ways. The Interim was set up as a response to this. An attempt to make space in a place hell-bent on the dispossession and disappearance of Black space. And in that sense it is very much part of a history of spaces with similar intent, the world over, and in South Africa. There are a number of spaces with very similar orientations in different parts of the country, such as Black House in Johannesburg, and the Blk Power Station in Makhanda.

While it hasn’t succeeded at everything and the contradictions of the political question of space in Cape Town continually make it difficult, what we have been able to do is make space for activist work that otherwise might not have a home.

CB: Can you speak to the teachings of John Coltrane, Bantu Stephen Biko, Miriam Makeba, and Malcolm X and how those have manifested in your music?

AG: I guess all of these people, thinkers and actors in their own vein, have all in different ways been concerned with a certain quest of their own that is inevitably, due to the conditions of history and their choices, bound their lives up with other Black people’s. Even as they are invoked as individual names, we can’t think about them as individuals. We can’t talk authentically about John Coltrane without Alice, Elvin, Rashied, McCoy, Reggie, Jimmy… you know, these cats taught us about what you can do in collective. How the ensemble can be the Launchpad and the return site for the individual. Miriam Makeba’s life-map is an inscription of some of the most exciting politics of the 20th century. Her movements tell stories of pan-Africanism, international solidarity in a different era to where we are now. And her musical life reveals a beautiful synthesis between the spiritual and cultural context in which she grew up and an engagement with other worlds of music, there’s a strong aspect of a source or a well in her influences, at the same time, she continually displaces and decentres the very idea of that. Malcolm was one of the most uncompromising figures and I see a kind of honest and vulnerable aspect to him reflected in his disappointment in the Nation of Islam and his openness to move. So thinking about what the physical and spiritual journey of hajj, what that meant to him and what it did to his politics, his more concerted efforts at reaching out to the continent. He stayed in motion, further, he was committed to it. And that’s part of why he was so dangerous. Biko to me always references and signifies the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa as a varied ensemble. BC has been fundamental, in a paradigmatic sense, to my growth as a person and in becoming involved in politics and commitment to a certain way of being and acting in the world. BCM I think represents one of the most important relationships between a political philosophy and a political practice which in many ways was concerned with autonomous motion.

As the music is part of my life and my approach to both emerges from the same set of influences, these are some of the less and more direct ways these cats are present in the music.

CB: The second piece on the record, “Siyabulela,” I understand to translate as “Thanks.” Can you talk about what that means to you?

AG: I copy again from my liner notes: “This piece is a mediation with and for those who have come before us, those who have left us physically but whose presence is with us in many other ways. We give thanks for them. The song comes from the church, we find variations of it, ‘Hallelujah Amen,’ all over southern Africa and probably further afield. Our version was inspired by how it was sung at a memorial for my friend Pinky Mayeng who passed in 2017. It was arranged by myself and Mavimbela who wrote the chords.”

The song is an invitation for everyone to remember, reach out to, reminisce about someone they love who has transcended the physical realm. It’s a gesture at their presence with us in various ways – whether we understand that as their presence in our memories, their impact on us as people, in their souls or in the physical things they left their traces in, photographs etc., they are still here and the song is with and for them.

CB: Can you speak of the images you have conjured with your poetry in “Interregnum?”

AG: Well I guess the images are surrealist in its truest sense, which is realist. In other words, the fantastical aspects of it try to capture and articulate something about the reality that cannot be articulated in reality’s terms itself. But also, as with all my work, there is an openness to its interpretation and the images might say different things to other people and that’s all valid. But you know, with specific references to the piece, which is called ‘the sun kissed’ by the way, there’s walls that can swallow you. And this is about growing up in a space that is hostile to you. But kind to you in a patronising way as long as you imbibe its values. And so the porch occupies the place of an out side. A space connected to where the walls can swallow you but removed from it. And the space under the porch I guess kinda represents more of a process that a place, the first time one really gets to sit with themselves and discover what they are good at, what they believe in, what they want to do and then re-enter the world and see how that can be put to good use within that. And it is knowledge of self that acts as a defence against the swallowing enormity of the walls, that which allows us to do our work in the world.

CB: Who did you hire for the band and why did you choose them specifically?

AG: The idea of ‘hiring’ people is both a dissonant and an apt word to describe putting together an ensemble for a record. It is apt in the sense that it highlights the aspect of work, musicians as workers, which I think is important. It seems dissonant because it seems to limit the realm of the relationship to one governed and determined by transaction, a capitalist relation. And part of what I’m interested in is how the spaces of production of music, as with production more broadly, on the one hand does mimic a capitalist relation – the sale of labour, perhaps without the elements of exploitation and accumulation associated with a capitalist – but on the other hand depends on and initiates a form of participation and collectivity that transcends, in multiple ways, the relation of hiring or being hired. And there’s something in that space that goes beyond the hiring that is beautiful and is something that in many ways cannot be accounted for in a fee or an invoice.

I was so deeply humbled and deeply appreciative of the way the musicians all brought their vastly superior knowledge of the music, their outstanding facility on their instruments, their own voices, and ultimately a really deep part of themselves to the music. And that’s something I don’t think you can pay for, Harney and Moten speaks about the idea of unpayable debts as the thing that connects us to each other in unspeakable ways. Of course it’s of paramount importance to value the work of musicians, and part of that is working out the terms of work ahead of time and paying people on time etc., and that’s something I’m very committed to. But exceeding that, there is this thing that people can bring to music work, free music in particular, that is definitely uncapturable by the capitalist imagination.

As this album was my first as a bandleader and I have unschooled ways of writing music, I needed people around me who were open to my methods, who I liked and respected and I was comfortable with, and of course were burning musicians. All of the people on the album are musicians who I have played with in various settings for different projects as a working musician over the last five or so years, some more so than others. I think it’s important to mention that I wrote a lot of the music not only with the specific instrumentation but with the specific cats in mind. So there’s very particular reasons, in addition to those already mentioned above, that I chose each musician – for their sensibility and their voice.

Thembinkosi Mavimbela – bassist – we have known each other and played together for many years in other bands. He’s a really deep musician. There’s this thing that some bass players have – Johnny Dyani, Jimmy Garrison, Reggie Workman, Herbie Tsoaeli, William Parker, Charlie Haden – where it feels like they are playing from the earth, Mavimbs has that thing. He’s also a skilled and talented arranger and he helped me graciously out with arrangement for a couple of the tunes.

Robin Fassie-Kock plays trumpet on the album. He is a dear friend, we’ve played and toured together with different artists. Robin was central to giving me the confidence and encouragement to do the album and do it in my own way, I’ll always appreciate that. It goes without saying but he’s a tearing horn player. Incredibly lyrical, thoughtful, sentimental, capable of invoking a range of emotional sensibilities, he has this ability to play out over the band which opens up this beautiful space to play underneath him.

Buddy Wells plays tenor saxophone, he has this way of playing from within, inside the band so it’s this different kind of conversation to what I have with Robin. Buddy is deeply and widely experienced in the South African music scene, he has played with and continues to play with many important musicians and is well in demand. As a veteran he is also open to playing with younger cats like myself, this is something I respect. As a player he is heavy. There’s a real beauty in his playing which seems often torn from echoes of darkness in his sound. Deeply steeped in the tradition of South African musics he channels people like Winston Mankunku and also has the ability to play more out sensibilities which I try to push him towards as he is a very responsive, conversant player.

The vocalist on the album is Nono Nkoane. I had played one or two gigs in her band, playing her original music a few years ago. I was quite astounded and moved by her tone and the composure on the mic. I mean her tone is unbelievable and she’s technically brilliant, she got the real strange melodies on one of the tunes straight away. I really needed a vocalist who can sing as part of an ensemble – not a lot of vocalists can do that. A lot of vocalists, when they sing they want to be the main thing that’s happening, the feature, which is cool in many contexts but it wasn’t right for my project. I need someone to play very clear roles, in ‘Siyabulela’, almost with the sensibility of a rhythm section player, she got that.

CB: How did you meet Angel Bat Dawid and what impact has playing, recording, and touring with her had on you?

AG: I was linked up with Angel by one of my closest friends Teju Adeleye who is based in London. Angel had met Tej when she visited there a couple years back. Angel has since become very dear to me, she is a person I love very much and continually learn from her and am inspired by her creative energy, work ethic and her uncompromising sensibility on what she believes and what she wants to do. Back in 2018 when she visited South Africa we had arranged to meet at a coffee shop in my neighbourhood. We got talking and then discovered we both had a love for Black creative music, the avant garde. I saw she had her instrument with her so I asked if she wanted to come back to my place and play some music, to which she instantly and enthusiastically agreed. We got back to my house, listened to some Art Ensemble, smoked some herb and then had the most magical jam session which she recorded on her phone and eventually she put on her beautiful album The Oracle, the track is called Capetown and was recorded in my room. For both of us that session was really important and significant in both our lives and we frequently reminisce about it. For me it was quite a revelation to get to play with someone who comes out of the tradition of great Black music in Chicago and it was really an affirmation for me that I can play that music. And that’s more an affirmation about what the music is about rather than saying anything about me, or my playing. So it was very much a commitment to that kind of openness – if you have that sensibility, an openness and a humility – you can get down with anyone regardless of where they come from or what their level is, and that’s where musicians really fly at their best I think.

And really the rest of our relationship has been an extension of that impulse. Through Angel I got to visit Chicago last year and got to play with some of the finest musicians I’ve ever had the privilege of playing with. And it’s no accident that these are also some of the most beautiful, loving people I have ever met, many of which I am lucky enough to call my very close friends now. In many ways I inherited a family, I experienced such love and welcoming from so many people. I also got to play with her and the Brothahood in Europe last year, an experience which I will never forget. It was an intense tour, lots of travelling lots of gigs, but it was so amazing to be able to play that music everyday with people who really came up in that tradition and, each in their own individual ways, are extending that in multiple directions.

Another thing I must add about Angel that I have the utmost respect for her for, is her attitude and commitment to transparency and honesty around being a bandleader as an employer. With Angel you always know exactly what the situation is in terms of money and she communicates that really well and follows up on it in good time. Whether the whole band was splitting a door deal at a small venue in Chicago and we made $10 each, or it’s a festival in Europe and there’s some more bread, it’s always done fair and there’s no funny business. I have a lot of respect for that as it’s an ethos I am committed to as well as I take the politics and question of work very seriously. And it’s not spoken about enough in the music scene and a lot of cats could learn a lot from her.

CB: How would you characterize your approach to drums and percussion? Who are your influences? Where do your sounds and rhythms come from?

AG: Big question. First and foremost my influences have been the people I have played with, and secondly all the many gigs I have watched over the years. Those are the two spaces I have learnt the most from.

On a real general level I guess my approach has largely been informed by groove and time concepts that make me and other people feel something – the neck-breaking headnod, getting down on the one, interesting articulations of time, relentless and unstoppable motion etc. I’ll inevitably leave out many here but a few more specific references would include Maleem Mahmoud Gunia’s ensembles as well as other gnawis. Groove concepts from the Maghreb more broadly have intrigued me and I’ve checked out some of that stuff. Obviously various groove concepts from Southern Africa – Malombo music, ‘South African’ jazz, church and other spiritual musics.  I’ve studied a lot of J Dilla’s grooves, his sensibility has been central and his is always present in mine I think. Ayanda Sikade is also a big influence as are Louis Moholo-Moholo and Makaya Ntshoko, the latter two being amongst the pioneers of free jazz, particularly in Europe in the 60s and 70s. I love Brian Blade and Marcus Gilmore. Elvin Jones has been one of my biggest teachers over the few years and I have a deep affinity for Rashied Ali. An aside on the last point is that one of my favourite things someone has ever said about my playing was in a review of Angel Bat Dawid’s 2019 album The Oracle, on which one of the tracks is a duet between the two of us, ‘Capetown’ which was recorded in my bedroom. The reviewer speculated as to whether I was ‘the secret son of Rashied Ali.’ Ali has been important to me in opening up terrains and realms of time that both exceed certain ideas of playing time but still swing. Milford Graves as well has been an important influence in that regard, thinking about, and playing, time beyond time.

Right now I’m on a tip I’ve been on for a while of tryna get a more ‘percussive’ or more ‘percussion’ based sound out of the drum kit. So working with drier sounds, less ride-based, less traditional swing although I will always have deep love for that concept which is ever present in my playing and life, but swinging nonetheless. And more kinda continuous evolving patterns and phrases voiced across different parts of the instrument. There’s glimpses of this playing on dialectic soul, but the locus of the groove concept on the album is more explicitly the ride cymbal. So I guess I’m interested in shifting the centre or locus of the groove concept, or even completely decentring it you know. So you just have more like a sense of rhythm and time that is continually moving and you are just colouring that in with different parts of the kit. Rather than continually stating the facts as facts, ie. ‘this is the rhythm and the groove and I’m playing it.’ The groove becomes more constituted by all the voices you suggest and what they say to each other.

All of this and other stuff.

CB: What place does the saxophone have in the sound of the Africa and its diaspora? How do you weave that history into the fabric of your music?

AG: That’s a huge question wow. But I guess the place of saxophone is in the recorded archive – Ornette, Bird, Fela Kuti, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, Manu Dibango, Winston Mankunku, Kippie Moeketsi. And maybe there’s two ways to extend that answer. The first is to say that, particularly in American music that commonly gets called jazz, saxophone players have often been amongst the most important innovators in the music. Obviously bop is now so closely associated with Bird, the new thing with Coltrane, Pharoah, Albert, Archie, Black creative music with Anthony Braxton, there’s obviously many others. And this is not to say that they were the only ones (because how do you account for Cecil and Sun Ra, for example?). But maybe that there’s something about this horn that is related to its closeness to the human voice that is at play in this whole thing. That there is something about this instrument that most closely represents the scream (see Moten, in the break), that people are able to articulate, give shape and expression to the anguish of the experience of violence that the creation of Africa and its diaspora is rooted in historically and in the contemporary. The second thing is to point to the context of the instrument’s emergence in European classical music (even as reed instruments exist in many places across the world) and how it came to be in the hands of Black people. Largely that is through church bands, marching bands, army bands, school bands, often the bands of institutions not so down with the struggle of Black people. But the story is that Black people articulated and told their own story on this instrument, they made it their own. And there’s something profound in that right, because it’s about the importance of always moving forward with whatever tools and ideas are available to us at a given time.

Cover Photo Credit: Lungiswa Gqunta

Cisco BradleyArtist Feature: Asher Gamedze