The alternative black experience
Written + Photographed By Simbarashe Cha
Summer music festivals are all the rage, though it could fairly be said that the Millennial generation are beginning to have a real love-hate relationship with them. Nearly 25 years ago Lollapalooza began as last stand for Jane’s Addiction but quickly morphed into the biggest alternative draw for Generation X. Woodstock revived and failed. In the UK: Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury lit a torch that would soon be seen across the pond and from afar. Pitchfork, Bonnaroo, South by Southwest, but of course, Coachella…
So many music festivals, an endless supply of hipster grass space, grass juices that’ll only exist for the weekend and grass smoking. For better or for worse there is an elite class of festival-goer who must know the work of every artist on the bill (because somehow that’s superiority).
So many hip and underground black artists play the B-stages to rabid audiophiles who, in some surprising twist, know their work. You can dig a little deeper and find plenty of music festivals dedicated to the celebration of black music. It’s only at Afropunk, though, where the celebration revolves around the truly alternative black experience:
These are some of the mantras you’ll find on enormous banners flanking the main green stage at Afropunk. A festival that’s transformed from a genuinely underground punk-rock affair just over a decade ago to a flagship destination for the likes of D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones and Lenny Kravitz.
A polarising feat to be mainstream — but honestly, nowhere near as mainstream as any of the previous festivals mentioned — the positives are still many and bright.
For me, it all starts with the attendees, decked out and creatively coiffed in a way that isn’t nearly as pretentious as some of Afropunk’s counterparts, at least not yet. When Afropunk asked me to take over their Instagram feed last weekend and express my feelings about the festival, I could only think that it very much is Black Fashion Week. And this is a very, very good thing.