[Collection] – ‘Afrominimalism: 1966-1978’


Stream the mixes while you read; download at the bottom of this post.


Minimalism as a musical form is typically applied to a small coterie of “Western art music” composers who employed the “innovations” of cyclically repeated motifs, melodic simplicity and clarify, a heightened rhythmic emphasis, drone and phasing in lieu of traditional harmony, the collective ensemble voice over individual virtuosity, etc. I love, or at least admire, a lot of the music made within that musical sphere. But minimalism in music does not originate in the “Western art music” traditions (or in Modernist ideologies, whose minimalism tends to be superficial and sterile). Instead, musical minimalism at its most profuse and most profound is heard in non-Western, non-white music. And inasmuch as musical minimalism has shaped the lion’s share of great music in the last half-century around the world, its foundations, apex, and influence are found in the music of African and Afrodiasporic people. Minimalism at its best is Black music, and this set of mixes, ‘ Afrominimalism: 1966-1968‘ is intended as the briefest of celebrations of the many ways Black artists brought musical minimalism to the fore for the whole world.

In the music on ‘Afrominimalism,’ minimalism takes different forms with different emphasis, but in ways that (I hope the mixes persuasively demonstrate) have a common core. Minimalism can mean any or all of the following: giving the sound not made equal weight to what is played; employing space between sounds with care; utilizing restraint as a means of heightening sustained impact; using intentionally fewer and simpler elements but intermingling them in complex ways; emphasizing the whole over its constituent parts. Or put more simply: minimalism is music where less is absolutely more. In the late 1960s and the 1970s the individual forms these qualities shaped were incredibly varied and transnational: Jazz and Fusion in New York or Brazil or South Africa; stripped-down proto-Punk in Zambia or Michigan or Germany; futuristic Dub or timeless spiritual Rastafarian music in Jamaica; rekindled Southern blues in new sonic contexts; auteur-driven R&B from Detroit and the West Coast; to, perhaps most iconic of all, stripped-to-the-bone funk, born in the South of African roots, expanding around the world and returning to Africa to inspire new music across the continent. Unifying these many approaches was a burgeoning sense of Afrocentrism, pride in being Black and African or of African heritage, which fueled both artistic expression and political action that mutually reinforced each other.

Black minimalism beyond the years in this mix would also grow into Disco, Boogie, electronic funk and pop, House music and myriad offshoots, multiple waves of streamlined R&B, punk/post-punk/new wave (often white but deeply indebted to Black music), endless forms of electronic dance and art music, and forty years of hip-hop evolution. Without the Black artists represented here (and the thousands not) music and what’s good in the world would be unrecognizable. Without Black minimalism’s essential proofs that “less is more,” we would all be a lot less . Fortunately though, this music isn’t good because it’s important; it’s important because it is so incredibly good. Some of it is likely very familiar, some less-so. But I hope you find that tying it together with the common thread of its minimalism, you’ll hear it in new ways, and be inspired to follow (and financially support) the many musical paths that were and are created by Afrominimalist music.

I’ve been percolating the idea of mixes centered around “music with space in the mix,” and about minimalist popular music, and about the more spiritual side of jazz, reggae and funk for many years.  In generating the ‘Le Monde du Funk‘ series and the “Old Souls” mix of contemporary music with an Afrominimalist tendency in the last year, I finally realized a few months back that all of these ideas were really one.  Hat tip to David Toop’s brilliant playlist and article in Wire covering Black minimalism across decades for lighting the fire under me to finally boil it all down (I started with over 11 hours of music in my first cull).  Most of the music featured across these four mixes remains in print, so I implore you, go forth and buy as much as you can.  The full tracklist and booklet can be downloaded here, but the artists included are:

Roy Ayers Ubiquity · Augustus Pablo · Nite-Liters · Chrissy Zebby Tembo · Boscoe · Soul Throbs · Death · Fatback Band · Ramsey Lewis · Last Poets · The Meters · Fela Ransome Kuti & The Africa 70 · Can · Kool & The Gang · Marvin Gaye · Nina Simone · Sly & The Family Stone · Don Cherry & Jon Appleton · James Brown · Kenya & Tanzania Folk Musicians · Milton Nascimento · Batsumi · Stevie Wonder · Alice Coltrane · Exuma · Gibson Kente · John Lee Hooker · Leon Ware · Hamza El Din · Howlin’ Wolf · Richie Havens · Yusef Lateef · George Duke· Jimi Hendrix · Cymande · Labi Siffre · Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway · Miles Davis · Bill Withers · Dadawah · Pierre Akendengue · Burning Spear · Bohannon · Shuggie Otis · Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari · Bobby Hutcherson · Syreeta · Herbie Hancock · 24-Carat Black · Dumisani Abraham Maraire · Hedzoleh Soundz · Osibisa

Download Booklet/Tracklist Only | Download ‘Afrominimalism: 1966-1978’ Here (630MB)

Stream here:

Subscribe to Musicophilia | Follow Musicophilia on Twitter | Stream Musicophilia Mixes on Mixcloud | Join the Musicophiliacs Group on Facebook


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s