kamasi washington's 'hub-tones' music video visualizes abstract pan-africanism

October 24, 2018

words by: Bere Wangge

What do Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids,” Prince's “Purple Rain” and Sufjan Stevens’ “You are the Blood” have in common? All three songs pass the 8-minute mark, and they’re all epic. And now we get to add one more track to the list: Kamasi Washington’s “Hub-Tones.” 

  Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington

Taken from the American jazz musician critically-acclaimed sophomore album, Heaven and Earth, “Hub-Tones” runs a little just over 9 minutes. Earlier in October, Washington unveiled the visual for the song, directed by Jenn Nkiru who previously worked on Beyoncé and Jay-Z's “APESHIT.”  

“’Hub-Tones’ is me trying to connect my ancestors via music,” Washington says in an official statement, explaining that the track is his interpretation of the Freddie Hubbard classic.  “As an African-American, a lot of us don’t know the country of our origin, that’s why most of us take on the ideology of Pan-Africanism. I was trying to connect to my ancestors by connecting African rhythms with a Freddie Hubbard tune which gave me that connection in a different way.” 

kamasi washington unveiled the visual for hub-tones taken from his second album heaven and earth directed by jenn nkiru 03.gif

Taking her cue from Washington, Nkiru then incorporated her own Nigerian heritage into the storyline of the music video. “There’s a traditional ceremony called Oboni in the Ikwerre tribe, my parents’ tribe—the tribe of my heritage,” she shares. “The idea is through repetition, instrumentation and movement, to channel spirit, going deeper and deeper with the changing of each tone within the music till it becomes hypnotic and transcendent. I felt this level of immediate connection to ‘Hub-Tones’ plus with this being a Freddie Hubbard cover and him being the king of tones in jazz it all felt so symbiotic and fated.” 

kamasi washington unveiled the visual for hub-tones taken from his second album heaven and earth directed by jenn nkiru 02.gif

 The video sees three women dressed similarly in green, seemingly in a trance as they move slowly to the rhythm. “I... went about giving the women featured the choreography, movement and codes to take us deeper into that spirit-space,” describes Nkiru. To add to the “abstract Pan-African connection” that Washington has addressed, she included the Pan African Flag for The Relic Travellers’ Alliance by artist Larry Achiampong in the background. She also adorned the ladies in Nina Simone-inspired make-up and crystals, and made them wear sashes with “Nation Time” written on them. Lastly, she captured them under the lighting seen in the courthouse during the hearings of Anita Hill.  

“There are other hidden gems too but I’ll allow the audience to uncover them,” she adds. Watch the video below and try to catch those hidden gems!