VIDEO + AUDIO West Coast Premier: Darius James and Val Jeanty, in performance at The Lab

Friday, April 19 - 7:00 pm PS to 9:00 pm PST
The Lab, 2948 16th Street (at Capp), San Francisco
Darius James and Val Jeanty b&w images

Full program video: Darius James and Val Jeanty: April 19, 2019
Video highlight clips: Darius James, with Val Jeanty, electronics and percussion, introduces then reads from his satiric novel, Negrophobia: An Urban Parable | Darius James, with Val Jeanty, electronic drums, reads from an unpublished work in manuscript, set in New York City's Lower East Side

“Our work is Spiritual so it will take on a form and name as we progress.”  Val Jeanty

“Darius James is a great writer.”  Kathy Acker

“I read Negrophobia when I was still in grad school…. It was one of those good but rare occasions when I thought that there might be one other person in the world who got what I was doing.”  Kara Walker

This evening's performance at The Lab — San Francisco's outstanding non-profit performance and new music space — is presented as the second evening of a three night program in The Poetry Center's In Common Writers Series. (In this instance, one of our artists writes with electronic drums, working in a tradition that takes up traditional Haitian percussion  translated to the medium of electronic instruments.)  Supported by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, for this premier West Coast performance we are happy to offer free admission!

Darius James (author of Negrophobia: An Urban Parable and That’s Blaxploitation!; writer and on-screen narrator in the highly recommended documentary film The United States of Hoodoo) joins with Haitian electronic music composer/percussionist/turntablist Val Jeanty (aka Val-Inc) for the West Coast premier of their collaborative performance project.

“Val and I agreed early on it was much more important to develop the work before we gave a name to our project. Though we have been working on this for a few years, only recently have we begun defining what it is. The only thing we knew, it was spoken-word married to ritual drumming and it was based in an authentic expression of Voodoo. Voodoo is very simple. It is spirit and the interaction with spirits. Voodoo has a bad rep because 1) the French are embarrassed they lost the jewel of their colonial empire to ‘ignorant savages’ (see: Hayti: Or, the Black Republic); 2) An alcoholic journalist in the late ’20s kickstarting present-day disinformation (see: The Magic Island by Wm. Seabrook). The truth is its spiritual reality and beauty is no different from Hinduism or Tibetan Buddhism (it just might take a dead chicken or two to get there...). What Val and I have observed is that the loa are readapting and changing (the old cycle of death and rebirth of the gods). We reflect that change.”  Darius James

Darius James, writer, lecturer and spoken-word performance artist, is author of five books (among them the novel Negrophobia: An Urban Parable, newly reissued 2019 by New York Review of Books Classics; That's Blaxploitation! Roots of the Baadasssss 'Tude (Rated X by an All-Whyte Jury); and Fever Water, limited edition, with illustrations by Tân Khánh Cao). After two decades as a freelance writer in New York City, in 1998 James left the US for Berlin, where he worked as a writer, radio host, and theater director, and appeared on television and in film. The documentary film The United States of Hoodoo (2012) features James as co-writer and on-screen narrator, following the traces of New World African religion across the US, from Brooklyn to Robert Johnson's Mississippi hometown; from New Orleans to Oakland and Seattle, and back home to Connecticut where his travels began, musing over his recently passed father's collection of African masks. James has written for The Village VoiceVibe, and Spin; penned liner notes for Richard Pryor’s LPs and covered Sun Ra’s anthemic “Nuclear War” in German(!); he interviewed artist Kara Walker (“I Hate Being Lion Fodder") as well as record label founder-producer Ahmet Ertegun, for What I Say: The History of Atlantic Records. Darius James makes his home today in Hamden, Connecticut.

Val Jeanty, aka Val-Inc (@valjeanty, Twitter and Instagram), Haitian SoundChemist, VodouElectro composer and educator, lives and works in New York City. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the great-grand niece of 19thcentury Haitian composer Occide Jeanty and granddaughter of a Mambo (Vodou) priestess, Jeanty incorporates her musical and spiritual traditions into a fusion of electronics and African Vodou rhythms. She has worked with an array of artists: as turntablist/ composer/ sound sampler with Steve Coleman and Yosvany Terry; as percussionist with Tracie D. Morris and Douglas Kearney; and as recording engineer with Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, and the late Gerri Allen. Her Afro-Electronica performance-installations have been showcased in New York City at the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Village Vanguard, and internationally at SaalFelden Music Festival in Austria, Stanser Musiktage in Switzerland, Jazz à la Villette in France, and the Biennale Di Venezia Museum in Italy. Val Jeanty lives in Brooklyn. Audio at Soundcloud.


Related events:

In Common Writers Series
Darius James and Val Jeanty
workshop performance and conversation

Thursday April 18
7:00 pm @ The Poetry Center
Humanities 512, SF State, free and open to the public
supported by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund


In Common Writers Series
Darius James
solo reading from Negrophobia

Sunday April 21
7:00 pm @ City Lights Books
261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
free and open to the public
supported by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund

In Common Writers Series Thanks to a generous grant from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, The Poetry Center will present six double-programs (twelve events in all) during 2018–19, featuring a series of remarkable writers from across the US, paired in conversation and performance with, for the most, local area writers with whom they share strong affinities. Each featured guest writer appears at The Poetry Center—we're doing outreach in particular to students and faculty in SF State's College of Ethnic Studies—reading and in conversation with their paired guest writer and the audience. Then, moving off-campus, both writers read their work at one of the Bay Area's local bookstores. We want to recognize our bookstores as crucial cultural centers and, paradoxically maybe, among the most long-lived and durable cultural sites in this violently gentrified region. Details on our six 2018-19 programs and featured artists here.

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The Poetry Center
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Event sponsor: 
The Poetry Center and The Lab