middle passage myths: go fund drexciya’s graphic novel
By Piotr Orlov
January 4, 2019
Detroit’s foundational techno music scene has many great stories, but few of them match that of Drexciya, the electro duo of James Stinson and Gerald Donald who often went purposefully unacknowledged on their own releases. For a decade before Stinson’s tragic passing from a heart condition in 2002, Drexciya brought together tales of the Middle Passage — specifically, of Africans thrown overboard from slave ships — with myths of Black people’s underwater regeneration, survival and the building of a new heroic society, and set it to radical synthesizer music. Drexciya’s creative ideas were tailor-made for visual representation. Which happened to be the realm of Detroit artist Abdul Qadim Haqq, whose paintings provided imagery for many of the city’s legendary electronic musicians, and who for much of Drexciya’s career teased out Stinson and Donald’s imaginations through gorgeous cover art. Now, Haaq is compiling these ideas into a graphic novel — and he’s crowd-funding its production.
The Book of Drexciya, Volume One will visually expand on the mythology that Stinson and Donald brought to life through sound, and promises to be “the first in a series that will tell the Drexciyan storyline in its entirety. From the origin story to several hundred years after the founding of the Drexciyan Empire.” The book will be helmed by Haaq, and assisted by other veteran artist/musicians in the Detroit community, including another prominent figure in the city’s techno community, Alan Oldham (aka DJ T-1000). The project has the full support of Donald and surviving members of James Stinson’s family, and its target for completion is September 14th, 2019, which would have been Stinson’s 50th birthday. In addition to artist compensation and production costs, the proceeds from the crowdfunding will also go to Stinson’s mother “to help bring relief and lend support in a time of need…[as] hardships have fallen on his family” since James passing.
Though Drexciya’s music made almost no commercial headway during James’ lifetime, their musical influence and their engagement with African diasporic history to shape a fantastical and heroic Black future, made Stinson and Donald deeply ahead of their time. To say they were AFROPUNK as fuck, would be a massive understatement. In his absolutely essential contemporary Black music text, More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction, the author/philosopher Kodwo Eshun describes Drexciya’s music as “monsters from the low-end which submerge you into liquid dystopia….Each [release] militarizes Parliament’s ‘70s and Hendrix’s ‘60s Atlantean utopias. Their underwater paradise is hydroterritorialized into a geopolitical subcontinent….The Bermuda triangle becomes a basstation from which wave jumper commandos and the ‘dreaded Drexciya stingray and barracuda battalions’ launch their aquatic invasion against the AudioVisual Programmers.” And Kodwo is not exaggerating.
In the hands of a visual master like Abdul Qadim Haqq, how could such work not turn into an incredible graphic novel? Please support The Book of Drexciya, Volume One.
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