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Interviews, Music

Interview: Afrika Bambaataa on the power of music

By: Josh Terzino

Afrika Bambaataa at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015 in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Kari Terzino/Aesthetic Magazine)

Afrika Bambaataa at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015 in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Kari Terzino/Aesthetic Magazine)

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ip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, which means “affectionate leader”, sat down with us at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas last weekend to discuss 808: The Movie, how music brings communities together, and more!   

You’ve been doing it a long time. Do you still get pumped in front of a live crowd the way you used to?

Oh most definitely. Especially when I’m playing with the band. Even though we’re doing a DJ thing we still get the same vibration going.

I wanted to talk a little about the documentary 808: The Movie, which focuses at the beginning on your “Planet Rock” and the beginning of that kind of sound. How is it that technology can change music so rapidly?

Well, different instruments, different mechanical sounds or regular basis sounds of people playing different instruments. Even walking down the street you hear noises. Birds or trees moving. Everytime you might hear different vibes or something in your house you hear a noise and you gotta make a beat to the noise. So it’s different frequency and vibrations that you get from different sounds and you gotta mess with it.

Do you find yourself doing that a lot?

Oh big time. Even watching television. Something comes by that has a distinct sound I say “Wow that sounds funky there. I wonder what that would sound like to a groove.” Then you wait for it to come back so you can try to tape it. You hear lots of different sounds and you just gotta go for it.

Is it weird for you at all to hear people talking about you now in how you helped shape their sound?

I give respect to the Creator and the people of the world that keeps me going. If it weren’t for other people enjoying what I do, then I wouldn’t be here.

Your music is all about peace, love, and unity. We need that now as much as ever.

That’s right.

How do you feel like music can bring a community together?

Well music always played a part. Whether we were dealing with peace, or dealing with war. Even when we don’t know music is playing. like when we go to shopping stores. You might hear a smooth set of music. You can talk to it, you can shop to it, then you might hear a certain groove or something and you think “I remember that!” You might not be paying it no mind, but music does a lot of things for the body. It’s good for the soul.

You pull a lot of inspiration from your surroundings. Have the places that inspire you changed as you’ve gotten older?

When you get to travel and see the world, that’s a big inspiration. When you go to different places, hear different sounds. Hearing people doing their style of music: singing, or rapping, all different kinds. Over here someone’s doing classical. Over here there’s Bulgarian music that sounds like Reggae. Then you hear another person singing in their native tongue to a rock beat. It’s interesting when you see humans, how they vibe to their different sounds that they got in their own countries.

Do you find that you get a good response everywhere you play, like the music is universal?

It depends. Like, today, we love the vibration when people become part of the show. Even though it was hard for me to even play because they were flippin’ those records and skippin’. So, you had to thank God we survived it and we could keep it to the thing that get its straight after while, cuz you gotta make it to the next record. It was so hard for me to put in on the 1, But I love when people get on the stage and get crazy. As long as they’re not trying to destroy or hurt each other. It’s all about love, I love it.

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