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March 2023
Vol. 22, No. 6

All the Bells and Whistles

Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music

by Scott PaulsonMarch 2023

The recent re-model of the lobby areas of UC San Diego’s Geisel Library allows for some exciting new exhibits. One of the new exhibit and lounging areas, quite near the library’s popular Audrey’s café, is called the Nest. Currently at the Nest, the tall spacious windows feature an introduction to Blacktronika.

Blacktronika, Afrofuturism in Electronic Music exhibit and the Geisel Library, UCSD Campus.

More specifically, this exhibit celebrates and shines a light on the UC San Diego course Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music, created by music professor and industry practitioner King James Britt. Throughout the winter quarter, you can visit the Nest to view an assortment of Professor Britt’s exciting course materials, a selection of vintage and modern electronica instruments of interest, and ephemera associated with Britt’s career and his current research.

The exhibit also features a look-up area where you can access King Britt’s website and aspects of his Blacktronika mission, including personal interviews with celebrities of the genre. Visit this site for a similar opportunity: kingbritt.com

King James Britt in his element.

Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music is a new UC San Diego lecture course that focuses on researching and honoring the people of color who have pioneered groundbreaking genres within the electronic music landscape. Genres span from Chicago house, Detroit techno and drum ‘n’ bass music. Using his position in the industry, and with King Britt’s known appeal, the class has been attended by many, including Questlove, Julian Priester, and Flying Lotus.

Afrofuturism is well-served by this exhibit, which also features supplemental materials such as sci-fi graphic novels from authors of color. It was such a pleasure helping King James Britt with this exhibit at Geisel Library. So glad he is on campus sharing his work!

Related Event
The Blacktronika: Club Experience pop-up is a physical in-person extension of the Blacktronika: Afrofuturism in Electronic Music course. The course honors all the innovators of color that contribute to the advancement of electronic music. Chicago and NY house, Detroit techno, Jamaican dub, funk, disco, hip-hop, amipiano and more are all rooted in Black music. These nights provide a remote course with the opportunity to experience the music the way it is meant to be, on a sound system in a safe space. Also provides an opportunity for all to unite for the rhythm. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required at music.ucsd.edu/tickets.

Blacktronika: Club Experience
Friday, March 3, 7pm
Conrad Prebys Music Center Experimental Theater
UCSD Campus

About King James Britt

King James Britt.

Pew Fellowship recipient, King James Britt (his real name), is a 30+ year producer, composer, and performer in electronic music. While continuing to be an active force in the music industry, he serves as an assistant teaching professor in computer music at UC San Diego. In this role, he carries a unique perspective, bringing a non-linear approach and knowledge to the department by focusing on various modern forms of electronic music pedagogy. King remains one of the go to authorities on Afrofuturism in music.

As a composer and producer, Britt’s practice has led to collaborations with the likes of De La Soul, Alarm Will Sound Orchestra, Saul Williams, director Michael Mann (Miami Vice), and many others, as well as being called for remixes from an eclectic list of giants, including Meredith Monk, Solange to Calvin Harris, and most recently collaborating with MacArthur Fellow Tyshawn Sorey for an upcoming album project.

In his role as performer, Britt has traveled the world, playing thousands of venues and festivals, including AfroPunk (NYC), Berghain (Berlin), MoogFest (Durham), Le Guess Who Festival (Utrecht), and the Kitchen (NYC). King was also the original DJ for the Grammy Award winning Digable Planets.

About the author: Scott Paulson is an Exhibits & Events Coordinator at UC San Diego’s Geisel Library. He’s also the official University Carillonneur, playing live song requests on the Library’s rooftop chimes.

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