Musician. Poet. Teacher. Mystic. Pioneer of Afro-Futurism Jazz. These words only begin to describe the deeply compelling artist known as Sun Ra (1914-1993). Over the course of his lifetime, Sun Ra and his “Arkestra” released more than forty studio albums and mesmerized live audiences with a sonic and visual mélange informed by Ancient Egypt and Science Fiction.
Born in Alabama, Sun Ra’s musical career took shape in Chicago and New York. In 1968 he relocated to the Germantown section of Philadelphia, which would serve as the base of operations for the Arkestra for decades to come. As a result, his musical influence continues to thrive in and across the city.
The Kislak Center has recently acquired two important collections that will help scholars to better understand Sun Ra’s legacy, including the research file of jazz historian John Szwed, whose Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra was first published in 1997. Civic Engagement Curator Samantha Hill will be in conversation with Szwed about the archive he assembled while researching and writing the biography and its potential for research, teaching, and outreach.