<< Front page Arts May 14, 2004

Afro-Punk seeks a black audience

When most people think of black music they don’t think of punk rock. Afro-Punk, a documentary by James Spooner shown by IFS on April 30 in Craig Lecture Hall, seeks to prove otherwise.

Centering around four people who have dedicated their lives to the punk rock life-style, this well-edited film enhances their stories with interviews and performance footage from bands like Bad Brains, Fishbone, Cipher and Dead Kennedy’s. From the beginning of this film, an important point was made: punk rock is black music. From Jimmy Hendrix to the Bad Brains, rock and punk rock is an invention created by members of the Black community — something many of us have ignored or forgotten.

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Bad Brains, they were one of the definitive American hardcore punk bands of the early 1980s. Influenced by the Sex Pistols and Bob Marley, these former jazz musicians came together and created a group which would later inspire American hardcore punk groups to come.

Unlike a lot of music documentaries, the film tackles a lot of hard issues dealing with the loneliness and duality of being a person of color in a white community as well as exile, interracial dating and black power.

The film also delves into issues black punk artists have when finding an audience, particularly a black audience, when the majority of interest comes from a predominantly white community. And while the current audiences tried to embrace the statements behind the music, a lot of artists still found themselves yearning for a community of their peers.

While some found ready black audiences, others never did. Afro-punk also shares this problem—it sought the black community, punk or not, as an audience.

Unfortunately, due to the multitude of other activities that Friday — the hip-hop lecture, Battle of the Beast and a history lecture, to name a few —Afro-Punk did not find its audience at Oberlin.


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