JonoJono Is Making Transcendent Art

Despite the rising visibility in media, Black artists have often been hidden in and on the alternative scene. There is still, among some, a belief that certain genres sit outside the realm of sounds Black musicians should make. Black rockers, punks and indie sensations are the community that Afropunk was founded for. The specific insistence and intention to create in this space is not only a form of resistance but an ownership of spaces we helped create and do exist in. One such artist is JonoJono.

Their latest release, Consciousness shifts between melancholic crooning and explosive lyrics that carry listeners on his journey with him. It’s easy to hear JonoJono’s influences on the track but it’s also clear that JonoJono is forging his own path and ultimately coming into his own. I had a chat with JonoJono about his latest single, the relationship between Blues and alt spaces and what it means to create transcendent art.

JonoJono sat on an antique tv set strumming a guitar. Image seen through smashed glass in Black and White.

JonoJono by Cass Ruffins

Consciousness has just been released, how are you feeling?

Happy that I released my 1st original material for the year of 2023.

Consciousness was written during the pandemic. What’s your experience been like from conception to execution? 

Well…for that time of writing the song and playing it, I was in the process of working on my project “in a toxic world” which was released in 2021. I was in a stuck mental place like everyone else at the time and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to grip reality of my emotions or drive. I felt like I lost touch of who I was and why I do what I do because all I had was 4 walls surrounding me and alcohol to help the day go by, and with that said – paranoia formed and spiritual stress came from it. I kept numbing those emotions and losing consciousness to survive to the next day. Some can say it was depression, but I say it was a catalyst to the rawness power of this project. 

Last year, you mentioned your journey from the church to alternative spaces. I particularly love the description of making Blues in a louder, heavier way. There’s still this perception of what Black music is vs what white music is. How has it been navigating this in your career?

There’s a stigma that needs to be broken on what skin color made what. It’s obvious that blues is the blueprint to all genres that everyone loves today, spanning from hip hop, metal, R&B, country, house/EDM, etc….Blues is the epitome of feeling and raw expression when there wasn’t anything else to use. For me, I stay to facts and history with my performances and influences and make it a point to educate any demographic that objectifies my craft and evoke conversations like these that aren’t inflammatory to let others understand why they do the type of sound their spirits link to. You can’t run away from the impact of black artists because 80% of music (outside of international/cultural genres) that is thought of by any race doing anything mainstream today, will indeed name drop a black artist at some point in time. That fact alone gives me peace and won’t allow me to waver in my sound.  

Word on the street is, you want to produce art that transcends genre. You’ve also said ‘music shouldn’t have a label as long as he’s authentic.’ So I guess, what does this look like to you?

There’s a term that I learned when falling in love with the Early Bay Area thrash metal scene and it’s called a “poser”. A “poser” is someone that uses glitz and glamour, or smoke and mirrors to get their push in the game. In present day time, that could equate to someone who goes for a genre that doesn’t fit them, or maybe an R&B artist that releases a vocally strong and demanding song, but in reality it’s all constructed and auto tuned, or they’re terrible performers but they have all the bells and whistles on stage to hide that fact that they can’t sing live or play like on the released record. Ever since one of my favorite bands like Metallica and peer artists at the time highlighted the disgust of being a “poser” it made me look into myself to make sure I carry this flag to not be that in anything I do. So when I sing, The mic is on. When I play, It’s me playing…when I write and produce on these topics in the sonic spaces of R&B or grunge or metal…that’s just how I feel at the time and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that emotional illustration & there’s nothing forced when I’m doing it. It’s who I purely am, I’m not “posing” for a particular demographic. I make music as my therapy and it gets me through life, not for the approval of others. It’s that mentality that opens the door to make something new and unheard of. We can look back and refer to the greats that innovated sound before us decades ago.

Somadina Is Here

If we’re talking star power, we’re talking Somadina. In November 2022, Somadina dropped her latest project, Heart of The Heavenly Undeniable (she likes long names). Despite releasing music across the past few years – early fans will recognize previous tracks such as ihy and lay low  – singles SUPERSOMA and Rolling Loud indicated that something new was coming. On SUPERSOMA, Somadina establishes herself as a force to be reckoned with ‘I know nobody can talk to me because I’m very bigger’. And on Rolling Loud affirms her star power ‘Look how bitch shine like wow’. For the past 2 years, she has been setting the stage for her entrance and finally; Somadina is here.

Somadina photographed by Chukwuka Nwobi and styled by Bube Israel

At 22, Somadina is rich in life experiences and she’s only getting started. Born in Port Harcourt and firmly rooted in Lagos, her sound traverses her life in past environments including the Netherlands and London. Ultimately, it all comes down to the music that started it all. ‘My dad had a very deep love of music and the legends, so I was brought up in quite a musical space.’ This is evident in Heart of the Heavenly Undeniable (HOTHU). An incredible body of work, it seamlessly blends genres of punk, dance, psychedelic rock and more with the richness of Nigerian culture and history. The EP is incredibly versatile and fun. It shifts and twists becoming multiple things at once, testament to her belief that ‘music is a playground. It’s the place where I get to be my inner child, where I literally get to play.’ This youthfulness is evident when we speak. Somadina is smiley, bubbly and confident. To me, it reads as a surety of self and yet, ‘Going in, I was just like I don’t know what the fuck I want to make.’ Despite this, Heart of the Heavenly Undeniable showcases an unshakable belief in self and the freedom of trying new things. ‘The things that we think are our weaknesses are actually our superpowers. That’s where the growth really comes from.’ Welcome to Somadina’s world. 

For two years, Somadina explored the sound of HOTHU. In experimenting and researching influences, she pulled on artists from her childhood to make new discoveries about the versatility of sound. Because of this, Somadina is able to express herself across genres. ‘Everyone tells you you’re supposed to have a sound. My sound is my voice.’ She recalls listening to Bongos Ikwue’s Cock Crow at Dawn. The works of William Onyeabor and other musicians she learnt more about when she moved back to Nigeria as a pre teen all play their role in making the project what it is. The ability to incorporate the past with the present lends itself to its features. The balance of accompanying voices like Zamir, the Cavemen, Chi Virgo and L0la, serve as talents that contribute to unearthing more of  Somadina. ‘I wanted it to sound like Somadina featuring Somadina. I wanted it to just be like multiple variations of myself.’ This multiplicity of self means HOTHU is incapable of being one thing because it’s everything. Opening track Time 2 Time is alluring, an almost siren song capturing listeners and drawing us in. The shift in tempo encourages  movement and provides  an insight into the expanse of the project before mellowing out into the psychedelic feel that accompanies Y I Want U. We joke about the playlists HOTHU tracks should feature on. Sounds of chaos (Everybody Bleeds), music to let loose to (Dirty Line), sounds of discovery (Small Paradise), the sound of rebellion (Imagine Giving a Fvck) and ultimately, songs you should not be sober to (Crzy Girl).

Somadina photographed by Chukwuka Nwobi and styled by Bube Israel

The incredible feat of the EP is derived from her relationship with Nigeria. Its production and the features stem from Nigerian producers, artists and song-writers she worked with. Nigeria and the move back have been instrumental in developing her sound. ‘I’ve always loved music but this country is the place that brought out rhythm … it helped me come to terms with my identity when I was little.’ It makes sense then, that HOTHU embodies an exploration of sound and visual expression, ultimately paying homage to Nigerian culture. If you listen carefully ‘the Cavemen are playing drums, there are these little intonations of African culture. I felt the music elevate, we had more soul.’ But it doesn’t stop there.

Over the past few years, the Y2K aesthetic has taken charge in the mainstream. Nigeria holds a special place in the moment, as the rise of more Alté (alternative) artists has also championed the otherness in and of the arts and creativity. Nollywood has made a massive comeback in terms of newer visuals and the unearthed archives of past movies. Accounts like Nolly Babes are doing their part to keep this alive. HOTHU recognizes the role of early 2000s fashion in Nigerian culture. ‘I really like the fashion behind Nollywood… I’ve always wanted to incorporate it into the music in as much as I have a history of being in a different country, I like being inspired by that country as well’

So what’s next? What do you do, when at 22, you’ve dropped an excellent project, performed at a star studded festival, headlined 2 of your own shows (including a sold out second date), and attended a Sony music writing camp rubbing shoulders with producers, song writers and artists? Simple, you casually mention your next project. ‘I try my best to exist in reality… the people that love me, I take it, I accept love, I move in with it. But it’s a process and I’ve dropped this project, I’m looking forward to making the next.’

soul-punks the black tones smash fascists in new game

Growing up in the 90’s with semi-strict but formerly radical parents was weird when it came to video games. Mortal Kombat was off-limits for being too violent, but Wolfenstein was A-OK cause you get to “smash the fash.” [In hindsight, this was sound policy — I’m sorry about that tantrum, mom.] Seattle alt-rock sibling duo, The Black Tones, takes the cathartic power of fighting 8-bit white supremacists into the 21st century with They Want Us Dead, the video game they created as a tie-in for their new single. It’s a browser-based, old-school, side-scrolling fighter game with the option to play as either Eva Walker (guitar and vocals) or Cedric Walker (drums). Through a handful of pixelated levels, you duke it out with tiki-torch-wielding alt-righters, the Klan, and straight-up Brown-Shirts, all while a chip-tune version of the group’s new single, “The Key of Black (They Want Us Dead),” keeps you pumped. Ahead of the game’s release, AFROPUNK checked in with Eva about transforming their song into 8-bit action.

Where did you get the idea for the game?

We loved video games when we were kids. So when one day about a year ago my boyfriend Jake and I were talking about the band having its own game, the idea to fight hate groups was a no-brainer. We came up with the idea to use the Kung-Fu template, that old NES game, and Jake reached out on Facebook and our programmer Corey Kahler answered the call. He introduced us to David Brender who designed the characters and levels.

How does the game tie-in to the song “The Key of Black (They Want us Dead)”?

The game’s music is an 8-bit version of that song. And the song itself is about these people who want us dead simply because of us being who we are, Black. This can relate to people with other identities as well though — Queer, Muslim, Trans, whatever. It’s about these hate groups that are infiltrating the police department, politics and so on.

What was your favorite game growing up?

We really liked Super Nintendo games like Super Mario World, Starfox, Donkey Kong Country, Tetris Attacks and Smartball. As well as Playstation games like sports games (EA sports), and action games like Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear was like a movie, it was intense!

Any plans for a sequel?

If someone wants to give us money to do a sequel, we’ll keep making them. Otherwise this might be it. Jake is chiming in here and saying he’d love to see the game modified for cell phones but that would take an investment.

Do you have any more music coming out soon we should be on the lookout for?

Yeah! Next year we’ll have a full-length record coming out, which will include “The Key Of Black.” We worked on most of the music with the legendary producer, Jack Endino, also known as the Godfather of Grunge. We’re very excited to get it out into the world!

Check out They Want Us Dead and pick up The Black Tones’ latest single on the group’s Bandcamp page.

love blossoms ‘from the grave’ in militia vox’s latest

Just in time for Halloween, you say? Militia Vox is back with another haunting ballad, this time in the form of “From the Grave, From the Heart,” a brooding electro-industrial rock track.

The New York-based musician known for her darkly ambient grooves and industrial rock flair, Militia Vox brings heavy drama and theatricality to her engrossing musicality, and her latest is no exception. A ghostly visitation for Cupid, Militia Vox says the song came to her in a dream:

“I could hear the music and sounds so clearly. I saw my own death and my ghost came back
to tell a loved one not to be afraid, but that I couldn’t move on without them.”

“When I woke up, I had to put it down (record it) immediately. But there was an initial fear of writing like a swan song or Lacrimosa, because I have so much more to say and make. But I had to get this out of my head and share it.”

Photo by Kevin Vonesper

voodoo rocker militia vox conjures a haunting, yet healing remedy for grief in her latest single, “ [ air ]”

Industrial rocker Militia Vox has been cooking some new music this summer. The industrial rock goddess and AFROPUNK Brooklyn performer just released the video for her voodoo heavy jam, “[ AIR ]”. A darkly ambient industrial track about loss that will simply leave you breathless. “Recently, within the span of a month, I lost 5 people that truly effected my life. 3 of them were like family,” Militia Vox says. “Their loss has been mind-bending. While thankful to know them while they were alive and having spent formidable years with some of them… I’ve been hit with the slow, dull and rude reminder that there simply is never enough time. ”


Photo by Lou Roole

take the trip of a lifetime with psychedelic-blues duo mescalines’ ‘brazilian voodoo exportation’

The latest from Brazilian psych-blues duo Mescalines isn’t an album as much as it’s a long rambling walk through unfamiliar terrain. Their instrumental jams revel in open spaces, taking circuitous routes before evaporating.

The interplay between drummer Mario Onofre and guitarist Rubens is easy and open, rarely rising to tension but always full of interesting twists and turns. Highlights like “Samba de Essauouira” and “Homem Chuva” highlight a lowkey symbiosis, while the band is never better than when they focus on painting vivid sonic landscapes like the chilled out standout “Diaspora” and the twinkling stars of “Travesseiro de Nuvens.”

Brazillian Voodoo Exportation is an album you can get lost in. Like the best adventures, you come out the other side a little different than how you went in. It’s out now from Quadrado Mágico.

‘sorry to bother you’ soundtrack features janelle monáe, the coup, lakeith stanfield and many more…

‘Sorry To Bother You” opened on Friday the 13th to an electrifying response form audiences, and now writer and director Boots Riley’s band ‘The Coup’ just released the first single off the film soundtrack. The song is titled ‘OYAHYTT” and features ‘Sorry To Bother You’ star Lakeith Stanfield, who drops a verse in the second half.

‘The Coup’ will be releasing the soundtrack for Riley’s directorial debut, featuring the likes of Janelle Monáe, Killer Mike, E40 and more. ‘Sorry To Bother You’ also happens to be the name of the band’s 6th studio album.

Sorry To Bother You is out in theatres nationwide.

escape the chaotic political climate with psychedelic-soul rockers con brio’s slice of paradise, ‘explorer’

“Don’t the sour make the sweet taste sweeter?”

Psychedelic- Rock and Soul septet Con Brio pulls off a surprising trick on their latest release, Explorer. Hiding just beneath the breezy pop hooks is a deep reservoir of serious musicianship, and moments of urgency and smart social criticism. It’s the rare album with a pop sheen that hides a deeper message.

Starting with “Saddle Up,” the band showcases a skill at dense layering. The song builds from spaced out electro R&B into an anthemic coda anchored by a deft horn section. The first half of the album is heavy on the poppy come-ons, but the band always interjects the songs with surprising touches, the old school soul hook that bursts out of “Texas Summers,” the compellingly understated horn licks in “Body Language.” And then “Heart Shaped Box” announces the album’s powerful second half.

Let me digress for a second to say that this is probably my favorite Nirvana song, and I’ve heard “Heart Shaped Box” covered more times than I can possibly count. I’ve never heard a band take the song and make it their own in the same way. So I don’t say it lightly when I say this is probably the best cover of that song I could possibly imagine. Damn. “Royal Rage” marks the band’s first big statement song; a track about frustration, hopelessness, and rebellion in the age of American fascism, that has far more to say than a song with as strong a hook as it has should say.

“United State of Mind” is the star of the show. A bouncy rhythm and retro soul feel that looks to find hope in a time when hope is in short supply. Where most of the songs have hooks and production touches that look to the future, “United State of Mind” looks back to 60’s soul and early funk to make a point about the modern age that would have made the Immortal Saint Gaye proud. That the album closes with tracks called “High Spirits” and “Feels Good,” sets the band’s mission statement. “Royal Rage” aside, this is an album about trying to find the joy in life when the world is a slowly spinning dumpster fire. I didn’t realize how badly I needed this record when I spun it the first time, but Explorer maybe the most essential pop record of summer 2018.

Stream it above, and catch Con Brio on tour now. Dates and tickets are here:

this masked and mysterious trap/hip hop/rock group throw tradition out the window and challenging the status quo

Don’t let right wing pundits convince you that the voice of the artist isn’t crucial in times of political turmoil. Art is a renowned tool of resistance and Trap/Rock/Rap group Monsters On The Horizon are joining the age-old tradition of using music to challenge the status quo. This group is creating an alternative lane for ‘Art x Music x Connection’ by subverting traditions in music relating to production and marketing. Taking a page from the likes of Daft Punk and The Gorillaz, the group wear masks to conceal their identities in our current age of social media and over-exposure. The mystery surrounding the group adds to an existing allure built on a reputation of releasing albums on Halloween and Friday the 13th.

“We, as Monsters On The Horizon, are here to challenge the status quo and encourage a new perspective. We believe in music and art as a vehicle to awaken ideas and desires in others and promote introspection and observation of the world around us. Mr. Scary is a culmination of that belief, specifically in creating a dialogue with respect to the many issues plaguing society today”

Their newest single ‘Mr. Scary’ drops tomorrow on Friday the 13th, bringing with it a blend of Trip-Hop, Trap as well as Urban and Rock and Roll vocals, delivering a soundscape that exudes a sense of power and even resistance. Most bands have to build their name touring the NYC bars/club circuit but Monsters on the Horizon keeps to their ‘tradition’ of throwing tradition out the window by having a monthly ritual event that started with 13 friends and now hosts hundreds and features other underground musicians.

Monsters On The Horizon are AFROPUNK Battle of the Bands contenders and have shows on Tuesday July 17th at Coney Island Baby 169 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009 w/ Beauty in The Machine. Saturday August 4th for the Get Carried Away Music Festival which will be on a Yacht departing from Brooklyn Army Terminal 140 58th St, Brooklyn, NY, and and a mini tour for the Salem Horror Movie Festival October 10th – the 14th in Salem Massachusetts.

Bring your masks.

reach a death-defying climax with psychedelic singer kayla starr’s ethereal ep

Kayla Starr’s music charts the previously unknown territory lying between psychedelic rock, pop, goth, dreampop, and R&B, so it’s fitting that her latest EP is called Exception to the Rule. It’s a dreamy, hypnotic affair, dripping with melancholy and seismic distorted bass.

The EP is at its best when Kayla Starr pairs her ethereal voice with raw and noisy sounds. Opening track “Say You Will” builds from a haunting guitar line into a threatening bass, before she launches into the reverberating stratospheric chorus. The song carries a menace that never quite erupts, sustaining an unearthly tension through the end. “Deepest Sea” brings Kayla Starr’s sound into nearly metallic territory, with howling noise enveloping her voice. The song reaches a death-defying climax while earth shattering waves of distortion swirl around her voice.

The depth of production, and the nuance in Starr’s voice make this the kind of EP that rewards (and maybe even demands) listening on repeat.