CHARLIE DARK: You’ve assembled a stellar line up for this years festival that has already got people talking. What was your approach to the curation and how did you go about getting the artists involved. I feel that the idea of curation has been taking over by number crunchers in board rooms so its beautiful to see a line up that looks and feels organic from the jump.
KING BRITT: As you know I have been curating for many many years, even when we didn’t know what that really was, we were bringing djs and live acts globally in a club context.
I am lucky to be in a position to know so many artists from various worlds and have cultivated relationships with many. When I was part of the curatorial team for Carnegie Hall, that was an opportunity to combine our worlds of clubs and high art ….
Approaching Blacktronika (this will be the third festival) is no different. The first one I had Georgia Ann Muldrow right next to Xenia Rubinos next to Chimurenga Renaissance. I ways think globally when budget allows.
With Brooklyn it was a bit challenging as everyone is touring again, but I needed to maintain the original vision. Most artists that I have for Blacktronika has been in class or will be soon. So I keep that pipeline open.
To have AntiPop Consortium is just mindblowing because it’s a reunion and it’s the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, what better time! To have my brother Duplaix and you! who happened to be coming anyway truly is like a full circle moment!
Maria Chavez is such a great friend and also a close friend of Francis the owner of PR as well, so we all were happy and Orion sun’s beat sets are magical, which I always try to get artists to do something they haven’t done or normally wouldn’t do.
CD: I remember talking to you when the idea was muted for a Blacktronika course and you seemed in two minds about taking such a big step into education. A few years down the line and you seem to have taken to the role of a teacher in a big way, I’m interested to know what have you learnt about yourself in the process and if any of the skills learnt in the studio and DJ booth have transferred into the classroom. Teaching obviously takes up a large amount of time but are we going to see you more frequently on stage and in the booth?
KB: Professor life is mind blowing man. I mean it is the perfect time in my life.
I was hired because of my skills from years of DIY studio and unconventional approaches to creating electronic music, so technically it’s been a dream. Relearning things so I can re-articulate in a way all my students can have fun with but also learning from them and their fearless approaches.
As far as Blacktronika, not seeing Black and Brown represented in the pedagogy around the origins of electronic music truly upset me. So be the change you want to see. I hit you up for your blessings on the name and boom …one of the most important archives that is continuing to grow. My first book Blacktronika Vol 1 is 2015 !
This resonated so heavy at UC San Diego that it’s one of the top classes and the ideas spread into production, political science, sociology and ethnomusicology. World building for sure.
CD:The original tag line for Blaktronica was ‘From Carl Craig to Coltrane and everything in-between because there’s more to Black music than Hip Hop and RnB’ . What’s your tag line or definition of Blacktronika for the next generation moving forward seeing as the boundaries around Black music have expanded so much over the last two decades.
KB: Ours has been “from Sun Ra to Flying Lotus to Moor Mother and beyond, we honor the innovators of color who have contributed to the advancement of modern electronic music”
I guess I need to cut it down hahahaha
KB: Since knowing you Charlie (since ’91) you have always been a trailblazer in your moves. Most recently with the impactful Run Dem Crew which shifted the consciousness around global unity thru the running …. A similar focus was done when creating the original (’99) BlacktroniCa events at the ICA in London, which truly gave light to many new artists of color (all mediums) that were bubbling in London and beyond (Sampha, Chris Ofili, Virgil Abloh)… How are you feeling about the seed you planted being revived, developed and brought into an academic and regular educational context thru my class BlacktroniKa classes and of course years of creating and experiencing the growth of our legacies?
CB: Meeting you at the age of 21 as I was first contemplating the idea of a career in the music industry was a pivotal moment in my development as a creator. You can’t be what you can’t see and it was important for me to see people like yourself and Digable Planets on a world stage doing your thing. You’ve always been a great mentor to me and having people who’ve blazed the trail before you pass on their knowledge is important especially in the music industry.
I’ve always reverse engineered ideas so the idea of a course has always been on the table from the very beginning but I knew that I wasn’t the person to lead it. I love the fact that it’s you leading the course and its been brilliant to see the guests who’ve come through and the reactions from the class. The torch is more than safe in their hands. I’m looking forward to seeing it being taught in more academic institutions across the globe.
KB: With the recent and necessary movement, to center Black and Brown originators back into the spotlight, reclaiming our place in the essential contributions to the advancement of electronic music and educating the new generation, what artists now do you feel carry the torch for innovative sonic spaces, particularly in London and the UK?
CB: There are a number of young guns popping upon my radar on a daily basis and whenever I hear about them I always try and reach out to offer encouragement and access to my wisdom if needed. I love what Tash LC and Jamz Supernova are doing in the booth, clubs and air waves and they are definitely two people I recommend for heads to check out. Tash LC and Jamz Supernova.
Yaw Evans is making big waves in the modular synth world, bringing a UK Garage rhythmical exploration into the modular world. I recommended he check out an Octatrack for his live shows and within a week he was posting videos with an inside out knowledge of its functions. That’s a continuation of Blacktronica to me, unlikely people making machinery do what it isn’t supposed to do just like we did with samplers and drum machines back in the day.
In the lyrical world there is an MC called Unknown T that I absolutely love. His ability to find the pocket in a groove is abstract and unconventional but it works in a Free jazz meets Be Bop kinda way. His fan base is massive and it’s great to see people pushing the envelope of what is possible and not just stagnating and getting comfy once the recognition arrives.
KBL You took a bit of a hiatus from music to focus on your amazing ambassadorship through running and health focus. Has that cleared energy for you to return back to the decks and studio and how has that shifted your creative approach ?
CD: Taking a break was the best thing I ever did because it spawned the birth of Run Dem which really built upon the foundations of Blacktronika but in a different space. The pandemic gave me the space to explore a return at my own pace and it’s been beautiful to be back in the Dj booth with a clearer mind and a renewed focus. For one thing I’m much healthier this time round both in mind and body so the energy levels are higher and my approach to playing records is far more holistic. I don’t even consider it deejaying anymore, more an evening of sharing music with the floor. In my younger years music was a way of building my name, a way of getting recognition in a world where I felt I had no voice, now it’s a form of medicine and i’m much more focused on using the dance floor as a way of bringing people together, a place of connection. In many ways my work with Run Dem is now informing my work in the music world, community is now everything.