Journey With the African Space Program
The African Space Program is a music collective that embodies neo-soul, punk, and funk. They bridge the gap between performer and audience with their eclectic and unapologetically feel-good vibes.
“We’re more of a collective than a band,” Kiwan told the crowd at Punk Black’s show at 529 “[we’re] just a group of queer-ass, brown-ass, Black-ass folks.” Influenced by punk, rock, funk, and pop sounds, lyrics like, “I want to smoke for real this time,” reflects the blasé humor in their songs.
At their live performance, the spirit of punk and funk wraps you up in an inescapable groove. Getting people moving freely, they close the space between performer and audience. Their music and performance are intentional in that it seeks to provide a healing space centering queer POC.
A dive into Kiwan’s mind reveals inspiration behind the name of the collective that speaks to the experience of being black and creating art. After leaving another “failed” band, Kiwan found themselves in a space of alienation and disenchantment with the white band scene. “I did not want to be another band,” Kiwan remembers, “and I was feeling like I needed an escape.” The name African Space Program has a story behind it about a character who escapes to a black queer planet to leave the white world behind. Ultimately, they find that even though they want to stay on this planet, they feel a pull to go back to where they came from and their people. When Kiwan got the collective together, they were ready to be in front of a creative vision, and not behind someone else’s. The idea of what a band is comes from a white experience and perspective often times, but Kiwan reminds us that, “I think music that originates in beats from black culture should be played by us.”
Since the start of this year, African Space Program has performed with Hussy at The Bakery Atlanta, Clutch with SFQP, Murmur at the Remembering Trans Lives event, and lately at Guilford College in North Carolina. The vision of this group leaves no doubt in the mind of Frema, singer and performer, who says, “Who the fuck is tryna listen to a white boy band where not everyone can be attracted to each other?”
With influences from EDM and disco, Frema explains that the song “Strong and Resilient” was a spell they include in their everyday morning ritual to build self-confidence. Singer, performer, and hype-person NOVA wrote the song “Live a Life of Luxury”, describing how to embody the luxury of the moment. NOVA says “I’ve spent a lot of time in rooms with boys kissing,” and that made them feel as if they could luxuriate in love and the present moment. NOVA says they went back to old school R&B to figure out how to create their sound.
Exalting the creativity of the collective, the group is a coming together of individual artistic personalities and visions. Leaving the traditional band structure behind, the group performs songs written and led by various members. Drummer Stevie, also sings and plays the guitar, Oya provides soca and calypso influence with bass clarinet and d’jembe drum,Kiwan sings, plays d’jembe, bass guitar, or hypes up the crowd, and improvisation is a forte of the collective. Sinan plays on the keyboard and guitar. With jazz influence and general improvisational style, he finds it easier to work in the background where he can go into the music and be weird without having to perform. Sinan claims the collective works so well because “we’re all really good musicians who can do a lot of different things.” Being a part of the African Space Program is important for him because “our music collective really represents Atlanta, especially the real Atlanta.”
The band will be playing for the Community Roots Fundraiser on July 7th.