Herman Poole “Sonny” Blount – widely known as Sun Ra, needs little introduction to anyone who has skirted the the outer boundaries of the history of jazz. Among the 20th century’s most visionary voices – a wild and eccentric image of heightened African American consciousness, the ground he charted in his half century of output is unparalleled.
Within the world of Sun Ra, the imagery of ancient Egypt is almost impossible to ignore. An integral part of his philosophy of Afrofuturism – blending Black Nationalism, ancient spirituality, and science fiction, the country loomed large in his consciousness. In 1971, with members of his Arkestra, he traveled to there for the first time – exploring, and performing a number of concerts. Beyond personal appeal, the trip proved creatively fruitful – introducing the entourage to figures in Cairo’s growing jazz scene. The most notable was Salah Ragab – founder of the seminal outfits, The Cairo Jazz Band and The Cairo Free Jazz Ensemble, with who they would collaborate on their second and third visits, recordings of which came to light on the 1983 LP, The Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab Plus The Cairo Jazz Band – In Egypt.
I recently caught wind of a coming reissue of the above mentioned record. It reminded me of footage I’d encountered of Ra and his Arkestra on that first journey to Egypt. It also features further scenes from a tour in Sardinia. With no better time to pass it on, I leave you with the images and sounds.
Sun Ra and the Arkestra in Egypt and Sardinia (1971)