Sun Ra was a figure who combined many of the things that most excite me. Jazz, futurism, science fiction, afrofuturism, space, pacifism and weird spirituality were important to his work and life and make him an incredibly inspiring person for me. His music has been among my favourite Jazz recordings for a long while.
In January the Australian radio show and podcast The Night Air broadcast “The Other Worlds of Sun Ra” as one of its final episodes. The episode told of Sun Ra’s story, featured musical pieces and presented a concise, magnificently edited overview of who he was. Aside from diving into one of Sun Ra’s many albums, I can’t imagine a better introduction to this fascinating performer.
Sun Ra’s visionary Afro Futurist project, begun in the 1940s, provided fuel for many strands of musical culture: he stood with one foot in rhythm and blues, one foot in free jazz and two hands stretched out into space.
His wild, cosmic philosophy and music fed into jazz, funk, reggae and ultimately techno and noise. We discover more about Ra with Amiri Baraka, the legendary poet/playwright/activist who collaborated with Ra in the 1960s and performs the tribute poem, ‘Message From Sun Ra’. There are archival clips of the Sun Man himself acting, chatting and delivering a unique ‘lecture’; and, of course, there’s plenty of Sun Ra’s strange and beautiful music.
Welcome to the Space Age, EARthlings!