Art Is: Dameun Strange

Dameun Strange is a sound artist, multi-instrumentalist, and award winning composer whose conceptual chamber works, choral pieces and operas are focused on stories of the African diaspora, often exploring afro surrealist and afrofuturist themes.

AIRED: November 12, 2020 | 0:04:56

(cheerful music)

- I think of myself as a storyteller

because I always thought that

that's what I wanted to do with my music.

As my journey as an artist continued,

I wanted to tell stories that aren't often heard

or are quieted and in particular,

stories about people of African descent,

uh, from the African diaspora.

(bouncy music)

My name is Dameun Strange

and I'm a Sound Artist and Composer and Musician.

(suspenseful music)

As a musician, I've played everything

from classical music to jazz, to hip hop, gospel,

experimental, ambient electronic work too

then I've also written a couple of operas.

(melancholic music)

My mom was an inspiration to me artistically

and she is the first person that really taught me

how to write a song.

And she died at a fairly young age.

I feel like I had a decade of like trying to like

figure out who I was,

after my mom passed away.

And then I've had a decade of recovery as well,

where I found, found my journey back to composing

and being the artists that I,

that I thought I would be.

We are in my little lab,

um, and it's kind of where I like to map out projects

and do some fine tuning on, on things that I've recorded.

I think for a long time,

I had these ideas and I wanted to write for orchestras

but now I've decided that, that I don't need that.

That that's not the standard of excellence

and really feeling connected to my own traditions

as an African American

and then connected to my ancestors from Africa.

That's one of the reasons why I decided I wanted to learn,

learn the Banjo because that's an instrument

that I can directly tie

and, and find its roots uh, in Africa.

(lighthearted music)

Today I'm collaborating with Kahlil Brewington,

who has been a musical partner of mine

for almost two decades

and also with Ananya Chatterjea.

And she is the leader of Ananya Dance Theater.

So I, I've always been a fan of collaborating

with other artists outside of the musical genre.

I'm contributing what I do

which is sound and they're contributing movement.

And when it comes together

it's just a beautiful magic that, that happens.

(lighthearted banjo music)

I told him so that the meter

that I was going to play in

and Ananya asked me,

do you have like a mood or theme that I should think about?

And since I'm really working on pieces about water,

I just said, just water.

(lighthearted banjo music)

This piece that I was thinking of doing

was actually telling a positive water story,

because so often, um, for African Americans,

our stories about water are negative, whether it's about

the Middle Passage and Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

or about segregation from um, beaches and pools.

So my way of dealing with it

and healing uh, this phobia that I have

was to think of a positive story

but I want to go further

and really connect it to our ancestral roots.

So this past January, I was able to travel to Senegal

in West Africa.

And since Senegal is uh, very much a country in Africa

that is connected to the ocean,

it was just fascinating to be there

and to feel so familiar with the place,

looking into people's eyes, the Senegalese eyes,

I was like, I feel like we're very much connected.

(lighthearted banjo music)

What I want people to get out of my work

is to feel a deeper understanding

of the full spectrum of blackness

and then all the beauty that exists in that spectrum

to be inspired to learn more.

So for other African Americans in particular

or black folks, uh, to, to feel that they're heard

and that they're being celebrated.

And sometimes there's a, uh, an aspect of healing

that, that is a part of that too.

(lighthearted banjo music)


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