"Piri" is one of the new generation of blazing drummers taking Afrocuban music into the 21st century. The youngest member of the musical family known as "Los Chinitos", he was a musical prodigy, playing in sacred tambors (drum ceremonies to honour the Orishas) and rumbas (secular Afrocuban drum, song and dance music from the street that is at the heart of Cuban music in general) from a very young age. Now 30 years old, he is a flagbearer for the new-school. An inspirational musician, he is universally-regarded by his peers as one of the greatest drummers playing in Havana right now.
We are working on having Piri come to Europe this autumn to share his incredible gifts with a series of workshops and concerts in France, the UK and elsewhere.
Check out the videos in this link to see Piri throwing down some righteous Diasporic riddim fire. Candela!
I went to the Afropolitans event last night at the V&A in London. Been having lots of discussions about what the term means.
The term “Afropolitan” was coined by Taiye Tuakli-Wosornu in her 2005 article 'Bye-Bye Babar'. She uses it to describe the new generation of global Africans:
You’ll know us by our funny blend of London fashion, New York jargon, African ethics, and academic successes. Some of us are ethnic mixes, e.g. Ghanaian and Canadian, Nigerian and Swiss; others merely cultural mutts: American accent, European affect, African ethos. Most of us are multilingual: in addition to English and a Romantic or two, we understand some indigenous tongue and speak a few urban vernaculars. There is at least one place on The African Continent to which we tie our sense of self: be it a nation-state (Ethiopia), a city (Ibadan), or an auntie’s kitchen. Then there’s the G8 city or two (or three) that we know like the backs of our hands, and the various institutions that know us for our famed focus. We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world.
It seems to me that, as defined above, ‘Afropolitan’ is a fitting and needed term to describe a specific, privileged generational group. Who wouldn’t want to be an Afropolitan? Educated, travelled, multilingual, connected, superfly and stylish as fuck, it’s a desirable club to belong to.
I would argue, however, that unless it is expanded to include those of us in the ‘Up from Slavery’ Diaspora and unless it connects to an historical and political sense of mission and purpose it risks being merely an elitist, nu-school version of that awful, self-serving 80’s brand ‘Buppies’ (Black Yuppies - Young Urban Professionals).
That there is a globalised, connected African cultural renaissance happening right now is self-evident. All over the world there are people of African descent re-envisioning what it means to be black, what it means to be African, rediscovering the past, reinventing the future. It’s a beautiful thing.
But we need to be more than just fashion. It’s not enough to just be ‘the coolest people on the planet’. The current generation of ‘narrow’ Afropolitans (ie. only those with African-born parents who have spent time on the continent and abroad) have found themselves and their identity in relation to the ‘Up from Slavery’ Diaspora. Show me one Afropolitan who hasn’t been influenced by Hip-Hop, Jazz, Reggae, African American and Black British urban fashion, the films of Spike Lee, the image and ideas of Malcolm X or Muhammad Ali.
The Global African Family has always been culturally, politically and historically intertwined. Every great African and Diaspora thinker has ended up being a Pan-Africanist: WEB Du Bois, CLR James, Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Franz Fanon etc. Even Martin Luther King, whose image has been sanitised by history, began to see the struggles of African-Americans as being inextricably-linked to the wider, global post-colonial struggles in Africa and the Caribbean towards the end of his life.
In short, if the term “Afropolitan” is to mean anything beyond popping some - let’s face it - head-turning styles and superfly swag that incorporates 40s/50s jazz age cool with flashes of traditional fabrics, 80s day-glo colours, skinny jeans and nerdy glasses, then firstly it needs to include ALL OF US of African descent and secondly it needs to be connected to some sense of political, cultural and social change.
It should offer us an idea of being black that, instead of being restricted to the played-out stereotypes of victimhood, thug-life, dancing, rappin etc is rather about being educated, committed, travelled and motivated. If it doesn’t connect with enacting cultural and political change and developing economic and social power then it is just a bunch of privileged black kids dressing up and thinking they’re oh-so-cool. The established power structures of white privilege ain’t gonna lose any sleep over you, no matter how many white kids you get to make feel lame cos their swag can’t match yours.
I want Afropolitan to be an identity that means you not only look drop dead fabulous but that you have found a way to connect yourself to the current of Pan-African thought in history, that you honour the incredible struggles and gains of the 20th century and use your privilege to contribute - in whatever way works for you - to the noble vision of the future that inspired our parents and grandparents to build a world in which we could exist at all.
In Ifa we say, one tree alone does not make a forest. Likewise, the identity ‘Afropolitan’ needs to be made flexible enough include all of the Diaspora, and also all those who aren’t fortunate enough to have opportunity, education, travel, money and swag. It should be a club without gatekeepers and about embracing something forward-thinking and inclusive, something that offers a dynamic, new, self-authored identity for people of African descent worldwide. In that sense I am happy to call myself Afropolitan.
I’d love to hear peoples’ thoughts and comments. What do you think?
Please show your support and join the campaign to save the Africa Centre in London. The trustees are attempting to force through the sale of the main building in Covent Garden under very suspicious circumstances, without any meaningful consultation and in a totally undemocratic way.
The Africa Centre has been a meeting place for Pan African activists, intellectuals, artists and everyday peoples since 1964. People like Wole Soyinka, Walter Rodney, Desmond Tutu, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Ali Mazrui, Sembene Ousmane, Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutola, and CLR James - to name but a few - have all passed through its doors and held lectures, discussions and cultural events.
The first-ever gig in London by Brazilian Afro Bloco heavyweights Olodum was at the Africa Centre. Soul II Soul held their legendary club nights there in the 1980s. Highlife, Reggae, Soul, Afrobeat, Samba and many other music expressions from around Africa and the Diaspora have all been represented there.
It is misguided folly at best, and a terrible disaster, to sell off the Africa Centre just at a time when there is a global renaissance of African and Diaspora thought, culture, activism and new visions.
More than ever London needs a visible space to house the exciting new developments in the story of Africa and her children worldwide.
Join the campaign and please express your support!