‘History needs to be set alight’: Shabaka Hutchings on the radical power of jazz

Shabaka Hutchings has been thinking about the end a lot. “For there to be a change, there needs to be the end of what we want changed,” he says, oracle-like, sipping a black coffee. “You’ve got groups like Extinction Rebellion telling us that if we don’t radically change we will see the end of humanity. So how can we create something new to begin again?”

Wearing all black and well over 6ft tall, the saxophonist tends to speak softly in swirling allusions, a stream of consciousness referencing esoteric academics such as Kathryn Yusoff or Achille Mbembe. Yet, most will know him from his fiercely physical and resolutely unacademic onstage presence as a member of the bands Sons of Kemet (whose Mercury-nominated 2018 album Your Queen Is a Reptile was described by Pitchfork as “exhilarating and highly original”), the Comet Is Coming (their 2016 debut also received a Mercury nod), or Shabaka and the Ancestors. From the bookish to the sweatingly intense, the gap between the onstage and off is bridged by Hutchings’s singular focus: to effect change through the power of his music.

Read the interview in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 10/03/20]