On Storytelling, with Soul Science Lab
Pulling from jazz, jungle, funk, and everything in between, Soul Science Lab defies easy categorization. The innovative Afrofuturist duo will be taking over Hearst Plaza for Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day on July 28, showcasing their unique ability to captivate audiences through interactive musical storytelling. Looking ahead to their festival performance, Chen Lo and Asante Amin of Soul Science Lab discuss their eclectic influences, the power of culturally responsive narratives, and the producer as both chef and scientist.
Amanda Gordon: You've referred to Soul Science Lab as the next iteration of global hip-hop music. What kinds of international sounds do you try to incorporate in your music?
Soul Science Lab: We've been fortunate enough to travel the world sharing our music. Along the way we've absorbed sounds from across the globe. I think the influences have evolved, grown, and transformed. The through line that is always clear is the influence of music from the African diaspora. No matter what sounds we incorporate, this foundation always remains.
AG: Do you think hip-hop has a particular resonance for younger audiences?
SSL: Definitely! Hip-hop is an art form of adaptable communication that allows users to make it what they want it to be. It always maintains certain parameters, but has an innate flexibility and boundless creativity. This will always be attractive to young people. Hip-hop is a mouthpiece for the passions, experiences, and concerns of the youth.
AG: Chen Lo, as an arts educator, how do you see music as a means of transmitting values and cultural legacies, particularly within the African musical tradition?
Chen Lo: These characteristics are intrinsic to the West African griot/musical tradition. As musicians, storytellers, and musicians, griots used music and epic poems to pass oral histories across generations. This practice was specifically designed to transmit values and preserve cultural legacies. We exist and create in this tradition.
AG: Asante, what has been most challenging and rewarding about blending so many different instruments, musical textures, and genres?
Asante Amin: The most challenging thing about blending so many different elements is making sure you get the right mix and balance of all the ingredients you use. It's like cooking a special dish that uses elements that don't normally go together. You have to be a master, a scientist, and a little bit of a chef. The most rewarding thing is you end up creating something truly original that has never existed before. You create something truly original yet connected to pre-existing traditions and genres. It also shows that a lot of musical genres are all more connected than we realize on the surface. As a composer and producer I demonstrate connections and unity.
AG: As self-described "Afro Futuristic Griots," what is your approach to storytelling, both sonically and lyrically? What kinds of stories do you try to elevate through your music?
SSL: Amiri Baraka said that if you want to know the history of a people, listen to their music and survey their art. Our stories are reflective of our life experiences and those of people in our community and around the world. It is imperative to be relatable. It's also critical to create around themes of transcendence and possibility. We want people to believe that they can re-imagine and create a new reality. Our music is a sonic and lyrical interpretation of that sentiment.
AG: What are you looking forward to about performing at Family Day?
SSL: Lincoln Center is an iconic arts institution. It's an honor to share our work with children and families at such a venue. We're excited to be a part of such an amazing energy!
Amanda Gordon is the 2018 editorial intern for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.