Under the direction of Greg Tate, the musical possibilities were limitless

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The death of Greg Tate has left an immeasurable hole in the world of cultural criticism. He’s been celebrated as a writer in a variety of ways, from columns in most major publications to a mural painted on the side of BAM in Brooklyn. He was a revolutionary force in black thought, American thought, musical thought, and universal thought. However, his music – under the Burnt Sugar banner – has been relatively overlooked.

For more than two decades, Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber (and its many iterations) has hosted many of New York’s most daring musicians. Tate called Burnt Sugar “a territory band, neo-tribal thang, community hang, society music guild aspiring to the condition of all things molten, icy, racial, spatial, oceanic, mythical, antiphonal and telepathic.”

Tate’s music and his writing are inextricably linked; the community he built through Burnt Sugar and beyond presaged the current renaissance of boundary-breaking music that reflects the entire African diaspora. So, to close the 20th Annual Pop Conference, a gathering of music writers, we featured music from Burnt Sugar’s extensive discography interspersed with memorabilia from Tate’s work and life. Jared Michael Nickerson of Burnt Sugar, Vernon Reid of Living Colour, saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts and electronic musician and composer Christina Wheeler join Ann Powers of NPR Music in a musical memoir on the NPR Music YouTube channel.

Featured Music:

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber (feat. GT): “The Charmer” by All the zombies dig the brightness

Before Funk & Roll Splinter Cell by Burnt Sugar Arkestra (feat. Lisala & Vernon Reid): “Young Frankenstank” by THE DARKNUSS

The Bakol, In honor of Sirius Shadowboxers (extract)

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber (feat. Matana Roberts): “Naomi’s Lullaby” by More Than Posthuman – Rise of the Mojosexual Cotillon

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Room: “Lisala-Over-inna-Oakanda” by Oakanda’s Angels

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, “Coo Dank West Coast ‘Off the Top of the Dome’ Conduction”

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