Jersey born, Brooklyn reborn Aleijuan Afuraka makes music for every kid that was ever called a ni**er. He suggests a melody for all the enslaved Africans lost in the Middle Passage, and provides a groove for those existing on the outskirts of mainstream society. His latest release, Mermaidz Fr: Outerspace, is a voyage into otherness. Produced alongside Lionel Sanchez Jr., the progressive EP and accompanying self-directed music videos are a multimedia manifesto condemning and enlightening a society to which Afuraka’s alter ego, Mark Darkfeather, does not belong.
Raised in a Pentacostal home, Afuraka’s strict upbringing was geared towards the spiritual world, where the baptismal waters could provide divine powers. Yet he found his calling on the radio in the neighborhood barbershop. The soulful jazz notes like saxophonist James Moody’s “Moody’s Mood for Love” combined with his preference for Octavia Butler novels provided his young mind with the means to explore an interest in fantasy.
As you can see in the video for “Mr. Manning’s Barbershop,” Mark Darkfeather prances in the garden wearing body paint, a Viking ram horns helmet, and little else. This performance art (in the vein of artist Carrie Mae Weems) is a throwback to high art. Aleijuan Afuraka tackles gender and societal boundaries in his self-depiction as an African god who saved slaves thrown overboard by spiriting them away to other planets.
His expressive costume and film are a call to build up modern day African-Americans with a sense of self by replacing Europe’s usurped African tales of the gods’ existence with a deeper connection ownership of the past.
“The Starbucks double-tailed mermaid is an African symbol,” says Afuraka. “I’d like to show the lines between the physical, the spiritual and the mental, to show that our imagination is important in the healing process. I like to believe that fantasy can make sense and be applied to what we do every day.”
Afuraka has played a midwife (mid-husband?) role to the birth of the Afropunk movement, moving in similar circles as luminaries Saul Williams and Tamar Kali-Brown while tramping about the Brooklyn music scene. Mermaidz Fr: Outerspace follows up previous musical efforts like The Drkfthr EP (1999) and The Elixifx (2004), solidifies his contributions and heralds a commitment to bring his message to the masses.
“I believe the mainstream has opened up,” he says, “and men and women are now accepted to be able to say things they weren’t before. I believe in the purpose of this music, and my purpose is higher. I do this for the art.”—Suede
Suede has spent a decade between the America, South Africa and Tanzania creating content for print, TV, radio and digital media. His interests include photography, pop culture, social media and travel. Follow him on Twitter @iamsuede.
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