SXSW Music Spotlight: Moor Mother

Camae Ayewa lets the space speak to her

Photo by Bob Sweeney

Camae Ayewa can promise only that there will be trumpet.

“I don’t plan. What I play, the mood I lean into – it’s up to who the crowd is and what the space is asking for.”

“I don’t plan. What I play, the mood I lean into – it’s up to who the crowd is and what the space is asking for.” – Camae Ayewa

Call that a threat. A California-based poet, professor, and Afrofuturist organizer, Ayewa approaches the stage – or rather, pew – packing a dizzying compendium of potential styles. The music released under her Moor Mother name ranges from freewheeling avant-jazz to rigid, post-human, hip-hop industrialism. And that’s without factoring in the post-punk and experimental-club side projects she’s lent her steely, unwavering delivery to since her last SXSW.

“And this particular space – we’re talking about Texas, in a church! Come on, that’s heavy,” Ayewa laughs. “I can’t even try to run away from it. Like, ‘Oh, I just want Texas barbecue.’ ’Cause I know as soon as I get to the barbecue place, the thing I need to say, it’s going to confront me. As a poet, I’m like a medium receiving messages.”

No matter her sonic vessel, Ayewa is clear about the aims of Moor Mother’s incantatory storytelling. To thread the line between can’t-look-away confrontation and the healing siren song of musical catharsis; to dwell within America’s darkest histories in order to speak toward a “better future.”

“The Blues Remembers Everything the Country Forgot,” as one of her tracks puts it.

“I’m playing with some ambient artists, some singers – it’s kind of like, a nice church program. So I think I’ll start in that vibe,” Ayewa says, floating the possibility of material from her forthcoming album Jazz Codes. “But if there are some rowdy kids then, hey, let’s get rowdy a bit. I’m just going to tap in.”

Aquiles Navarro of Irreversible Entanglements accompanies on, yes, trumpet.

Moor Mother

Thursday, March 17, 9:05pm, Central Presbyterian Church

Extra Experimental

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