Sun Ra Arrival Day Broadcast

Sun Ra Arrival Day Broadcast
Wednesday, May 22, 2024 - 1:00am to Thursday, May 23, 2024 - 1:00am

WKCR is excited to announce a 24-hour broadcast for May 22nd celebrating the 110th anniversary of the arrival of Sun Ra (1914-1993). This special broadcast will run from 1:00 am on the 22nd until 1:00 am on the 23rd. It will preempt all regularly-scheduled Wednesday shows.

Le Sony'r Ra (born Herman Poole Blount and known by most as Sun Ra) began his life in Birmingham, Alabama, where he studied piano under teacher Fess Wheatley at Industrial High School, before attending Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College. By the mid-1940s he had moved to Chicago where he apprenticed with swing bandleader Fletcher Henderson (with whom he had his first professional work as a pianist, and also served as a staff arranger). This mentorship eventually led to him experimenting with his own bands and compositions during the 1950s, often utilizing instruments previously deemed as unconventional for jazz music. Sun Ra’s bands were also some of the first jazz bands to employ electronic instruments, including electric piano, clavioline, celeste, and synthesizers. The Sun Ra Arkestra was officially formed in the mid-1950s and led by Sun Ra until his death in 1993. During his roughly forty year leadership of the Arkestra, with whom he relocated to New York in 1960 and Philadelphia in 1968, Sun Ra and the band invented a music that was deeply rooted in spirituality, various philosophies, and multimedia experience. While many would be quick to label this new sound as Avant-Garde, Sun Ra held that the music was more than that: “[My Music is] more than avant garde, because the ‘avant garde’ refers to, I suppose, advanced earth music. But this is not earth music.”

While the musicians in the Arkestra often changed, several crucial contributors stayed with the group for many years such as John Gilmore, Ronnie Boykins, Pat Patrick, and Marshall Allen (who currently leads the band). Although rare, Sun Ra also made a handful of special sideman appearances while leading the Arkestra, recording with musicians such as Walt Dickerson and Billy Bang.

Sun Ra is an eternal pioneer and cosmic adventurer, and he continues to be a guiding light for those very fortunate to have discovered his music. His music and concepts have ignited inspiration among artists and movements spanning diverse realms, including Afrofuturism, and electronic music. His legacy persists as a testament to his enduring influence as one of the preeminent artists of our time, and WKCR is honored to celebrate him this month on the 110th day of his arrival.

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