Back in 2007, I interviewed James Spooner, maker of the 2003 documentary Afro-Punk, about the AFROPUNK Festival, which was directly inspired by his film. The director/producer told me that he never dreamed that his passionately produced, low-budget documentary would go on to jump-start a burgeoning cultural movement, inspire the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) annual arts festival, and name him as its co-curator.
"Afro-Punk was a film about being a black punk rocker in a white world. And we had a really good few screenings at BAM.... that escalated into doing a series with a bunch of other films that evoked the same feeling of black thinking or black rebellion all telling the 'other' black story," Spooner told me at the time, adding that the folks at BAM had the idea of building a whole festival out of it. Now in its tenth year, AFROPUNK Festival has grown exponentially into a much bigger and broader event with a lineup that is off the hook and transcends the subgenre that gave it its name.
James Spooner's "Afro-Punk" 2003 documentary that inspired the AFROPUNK Festival
Among the myriad of diverse acts scheduled for this year's festival, are Bad Brains and Fishbone - both of whom were in Spooner's documentary - along with such others as Meshell Ndegeocello, The Internet, Body Count, the Cro-Mags, CX KiDTRONiK, D'Angelo, The Bots, Trash Talk, SZA, Alice Smith, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, King Britt, and tons more. The newly-expanded AFROPUNK festival includes, in addition to punk, lots of DJs and producers performing. This year presents a special Tribute to DJ Rashad - the influential late Chicago footwork producer who died back in April. Performing will be members of Rashad's Teklife crew, Chicago footwork pioneer RP Boo, Dance Mania ghetto-house originator DJ Deeon, Lit City Trax founder DJ J-Crush, and The Era dance crew from Chicago. Another sign of the expanding festival is the newly added AFROPUNK AFTER DARK, which organizers say, aims to transform the neighborhoods of Brooklyn into a captivating playground of music and culture events in venues starting at 10:00pm and including the Black Weirdo party and King Britt's celebration of Sun Ra's centennial, The Beautiful Noise. The AFROPUNK Festival 2014 happens this Saturday and Sunday (August 23rd & 24th) at Brooklyn's Commodore Barry Park and other locations. For full listings and ticket information click here.