12 Dec 2015

Aotearoa Futurism part one: Space Maori and Astronesians

From RNZ Music, 4:00 pm on 12 December 2015
Patea Maori Club’s Aku Raukura

The cover of Patea Maori Club’s Aku Raukura LP designed by Joe Wylie Photo: Joe Wylie

If Afrofuturism is where science fiction and technology meets popular culture of the African diaspora, could it be happening in Aotearoa too?

In part one of Aotearoa Futurism: Space Maori and Astronesians, Sophie Wilson and Dan Taipua put this question to hip hop artist Che Fu, psychedelic rock guitarist and peace ambassador, Billy TK Sr, and his son, vocalist and guitarist Mara TK of Electric Wire Hustle, to find out whether they identify as 'space Māori'.

Space Maori, Astronesians, and South Pacific Futurists

By Sophie Wilson

My father longs for the streets of a city where people don’t sleep, and in my youth he left gifts for Tane Mahuta, 'Lord of the Forest'.

His latest origin story makes more sense than ever:

In the beginning, extra-terrestrials discovered planet Earth. While they were here they discovered the beauty of nature, but couldn’t adapt because they were spiritual forms. So they decided to build a machine to carry out their vision for what they saw on Earth. That machine was the human body.

When Vincent Wilson was a teenager in the late 1970s, he moved to Auckland from Samoa with his mother, sister and brother. A decade later, he was raising me between the swamp Kauri forests of Northland, and the stereo.

The goal for us is to find those extra-terrestrials. They created us so we could trace the roots of where we come from. It’s something I can believe in. Something greater than myself that keeps me connected to myself.

I am the result of these stories, and a brown nerd. Some of my friends are brown nerds too, like Daniel Taipua. 

Dan is a media analyst both on and off the clock. He, like We, receive media at the speed of light. Equally, the latest technology and our immemorial histories are things to rejoice in. And we think Mana Vautier is a skux.

Over the past few years, Dan has woven these words into one kete: Space Maori, Astronesians, Polyfuturists, South Pacific Futurists. This kete, we’ve decided, describes Maori who imagine, create or are receptive to ideas that play with, and sometimes even obliterate, the boundaries of technology and time.

Sometimes it manifests in an album cover depicting a stylised Maui with an electrified sound cable fishing up chrome-plated whare by its tekoteko (centre pole carving), which itself is a chrome-dipped robot. Other times, it metamorphs whakapapa into a 3D virtual game.

“What is it about writing?”, Charlie Rose in 2000 asked African-American science fiction writer Octavia Butler.

You’ve got to create your own worlds. You’ve got to write yourself in.

Butler evenly laid out this tohu, this key to understanding the ahua, the existential makeup of her novels. It could easily be a tohu for Aotearoa Futurism, a term Dan and I have remixed from a word created seven years earlier in Mark Dery’s essay “Black to the Future”, which drew an imperative line between African-American writers, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delaney, Steve Barnes and Charles Saunders.

Speculative fiction that treats African American themes and addresses African American concerns in the context of twentieth century technoculture - and more generally, African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future - might, for want of a better term, be called “Afrofuturism” .- Mark Dery, Black to the Future

Today there are Afrofuturist music festivals that feature or publicly discuss artists like Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, Derrick May, Missy Elliott. And earlier this year, Albert Wendt and Karlo Mila attended an Indigenous Science Fiction conference in Hawai’i.

This discourse presents questions never before asked in Aotearoa: If this is going on in the States, is it going on at home? If it is, what would it look like? And can it legitimise my dad’s crazy alien stories?

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Music Details 

Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Song: Valleys of Neptune
Composer: Hendrix
Album: Valleys of Neptune
Label: SONY 640562

Artist: The Shadows
Song: Peace Pipe
Composer: Paramour
Album: The Shadows: In the 60s
Label: EMI 792765 

Artist: Human Instinct
Song: Stoned Guitar
Composer: Tekahika,Greer,Waide
Album: Stoned Guitar
Label: ASCENSION 560736

Artist: Billy TK’s Powerhouse
Song: Beyond the Material Sky
Composer: Billy TK’s Powerhouse
Album: Life Beyond the Material Sky: The St. James Concert
Label: GEMA            lw 4021/22

Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Song: Stone Free
Composer: Hendrix
Album: Valleys of Neptune
Label: SONY 640562

Artist: Lee Scratch Perry
Song: Message from the Black Ark Studios
Composer: Lee Scratch Perry
Album: Jamaican E.T.
Label: Sanctuary/Trojan

Artist: Lee Scratch Perry
Song: Super Ape
Composer: Lee Scratch Perry
Album: Super Ape
Label: Island

Artist: Flying Lotus
Song: Theme
Composer: Stephen Ellison
Album: You’re Dead!
Label: WARP 610256

Artist: Sun Ra
Song: Future
Composer: Sun Ra
Album: Jazz by Sun Ra
Label: REALGONE  131621

Artist: Afrika Bambaataa
Song: Planet Rock
Composer: Baker, Robie, Soul Sonic Force
Album: Afrika Bambaataa: Looking For The Perfect Beat: 1980-1985 (Compilation
Label: TOMMY BOY 981457

Artist: Missy Elliott ft. Pharell
Song: WTF (Where They From)
Composer: Elliott, Williams
Album: Block Party
Label: Goldmind / Atlantic

Artist: Che Fu
Song: Waka (Remix)
Composer: Ness
Album: Waka
Label: BMG   678482

Artist: Mammane Sani
Song: Tunan
Composer: Sani
Album: Mammane Sani et son Orgue
Label: Sahel Sounds

Artist: EWH
Song:  The Spirit; If these Are Last Days
Composer: EWH
Album: Love Can Prevail
Label: EWH   promoaeons

Artist: Mara TK
Song:  Hikoi feat. Hone Tuwhare's 1975 Land March poem; Strong Wind Through The Trees
Composer: Mara TK
Album: Hikoi the Soundtrack
Label: private

Artist: Che Fu
Song: Top Floor
Composer: Ness
Album: Navigator
Label: SONY 504584

Artist: Che Fu & DLT
Song: Chains (remix)
Composer: Thomson,Ness,McNaughton
Album: Chains
Label: RCA 139352

Artist: Che Fu
Song: Machine Talk
Composer: Ness
Album: 2b S.pacific
Label: BMG 162992

Artist: Che Fu
Song: He Kotahi
Composer: Levi,Ness
Album: Navigator
Label: SONY 504584

Artist: Che Fu
Song: The Natural
Composer: Waddams,Ness
Album: Navigator
Label: SONY 504584

Artist: NPME (New Pacific Music Ensemble)
Song: Moontide
Composer: McMillan, Nicholas
Album: Avaiki
Label: PACIFICECHOES