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Sun Ra/Henry Dumas: The Ark and the Ankh

Whatever it was Sun Ra was trying to tell us during his 79-year visit on planet Earth, he meant it-that much I know. But no matter how many interviews with Ra I read, no matter how many times I watch his bizarre fable-cum-blaxploitation flick Space Is the Place, his finer points remain too complex to define.

In the short interview with Sun Ra on The Ark and the Ankh poet/writer Henry Dumas probes the pianist’s Egyptian-headdress-capped brain for thoughts on the usual Ra-fare (outer space, astro-infinity, equations, etymology, Christianity, the black man’s plight, etc.) and receives answers typical of any other Ra interview: vague ones. Like the adventurous music he created with his Arkestra (who are heard in the background on this lo-fi disc), Ra’s worldview comes from a combination of ideas both traditional and unexplored, but he’s uninterested in explaining that worldview to Dumas in logical, concrete terms. Were Ra a college student writing papers with the absurd analogies he feeds Dumas, including a comparison of mortality to a presidential election (apparently death isn’t certain, we choose to die) he would have found himself on academic probation.

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