Sun Ra Was One Cosmic Brother

On October 24, 2015 by Louis Falasha

Sun Ra Saturn Jazz

Sun Ra was a Jazz band composer/bandleader from Alabama who claimed to be of the ‘Angel Race’ from Saturn.

I’ve been hooked on this album of his for a few months:



In 1936, when he was in his 20’s, he claimed to have had this experience:

My whole body changed into something else. I could see through myself. And I went up… I wasn’t in human form… I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn… they teleported me and I was down on [a] stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop [attending college] because there was going to be great trouble in schools… the world was going into complete chaos… I would speak [through music], and the world would listen. That’s what they told me.

Hmm, so the aliens told him to leave school and make tunes all day, how conveniently nice of them. They were bang on the money though because he did alright for himself in the end.

His ‘cosmic philosophy’ and Afrofuturism was a great gimmick, although I think he genuinely believed what he said in the sense that him being from Saturn was metaphorical for being different, an outsider. He never broke character. I like the anecdote about when he was on his last legs in Hospital in 1993. A doctor asked Sun Ra where he was from and he said, Saturn. The doc called for the Neurologist. When the Neurologist saw who was lying in the bed he said, ‘of course he’s from Saturn, he’s Sun Ra.’

Sun Ra - Saturn Jazz

Sun Ra called his band The Arkestra and had them all live and work in single big houses in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Over the years there were about forty different musicians that played in The Arkestra. Although Sun Ra was – according to some – gay, very few people have commented on whether this transposed across his music and living situations and he never expressed any outward sexuality whatsoever, adding the touch of asexuality to the gimmick. It must have been such a strange time and place to be black and gay while also being spectacular, flamboyant and eccentric.

Although never reaching financial nor mainstream success (I’m sure he wasn’t bothered about that though), Sun Ra’s legacy is immense. George Clinton, Outkast, Janelle Monae, Digable Planets, Thundercat have all prospered by embracing Afrofuturism and bending it around themselves. It’s a relatively unexplored subculture that has much scope and unbounded room for development. There’s a great interview with Flosten Paradigm, an Electronic Music producer who grew up going to Sun Ra’s house as a child. He speaks about Afrofuturism coherently: Check it out here if you want.

Sun Ra used his gimmick for artistic purposes but he also had some strong and interesting influences too. He was raised in a highly spiritual family who shunned most formal religions. They were part of an African American masonic lodge and he would spend his time as a child utilizing the access he had to their extensive library of books on Alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Numerology, Astrology and many other esoteric texts.

Sun Ra 05

The man might’ve had some sort of solo mission he was keeping to himself, even if it was founded in delusion. We’ll probably never know.

This is a good video of Sun Ra and his Arkestra doing their thing. It is waaay out there.







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