Idris Ackamoor paints on a big canvas, in vivid colours. Listening to the 2023 episode of his multi-decade Afrofuturist odyssey, there are times when he and The Pyramids stir memories of Fela Kuti's Afrika 70 and Egypt 80 bands. At other times, it is Sun Ra's Arkestra. Next up could be an unplugged Parliament Funkadelic . And there are moments, when Ackamoor's tenor saxophone engages with Sandra Poindexter's violin, that one is reminded of Frank Lowe's partnership with Billy Bang.
Another foundational inspiration is Pharoah Sanders, whose broken-note-strewn tenor style Ackamoor frequently channels. Indeed, Ackamoor says that "Thank You God," which takes up most of side one of this 2-LP release, is a salute to Sanders' longform pieces "The Creator Has A Master Plan" and "Tauhid." (Check the YouTube below).
Like its immediate predecessor, Shaman! (Strut, 2020), Afro Futuristic Dreams combines the melodicism and spiritual intensity of Sanders and Alice Coltrane with an explicit, politically engaged message. Lyrics, long and short, are features of most tracks, and Ackamoor does not mince his words. Item: "Police Dem," which opens side two. Here Ackamoor rejects police apologists' hoary old "a few bad apples" schtick in favour of couplets such as "Police dem / Some good most bad" and "Police dem / All lies no fact." Ackamoor has made a close study of Kuti. On "Police Dem" the call and response vocals, horn arrangement, lyric subject-matter, and even the sound of the tenor saxophone solo, all evoke Kuti's Afrobeat.
In a 2020 interview with AAJ, Ackamoor explained that coming of age as a musician in the late 1960s he was part of a scene where "making music was about making change happen... It was about putting community before competition... [Earlier generations of musicians had been] raised to be crabs in a bucket. From the 1920s onwards, they were brought up on the idea of the cutting school, where you'd try and best each other in head-to-head jam sessions. 'I'm badder than this cat, I'm badder than that cat.' But my generation felt that the priority had to be unification. Competitive cutting was opposed to unity... There was a race war going on in the US. We needed to present a united front." We still do.
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