The Music of Muata25

MUATA 25 (formerly Blast Murray) guitarist, composer, producer. Muata25, a musician who creates alluring complexities. He fuses polyrhythms and lush tonalities to craft hypnotic soundscapes. Influenced by Sun Ra, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Ornette Coleman, he is planted in the fertile cultural soil of Afro-Futurism. Using abstract rhythms, quirky trance inducing sonic mosaics and polytonal melodicisms to paint fractal sound pictures, he has an idiosyncratic lyricism that is beautifully strange.

rasx: When did you first realize you were attracted to music?

Muata25: When I was seven. Was chosen to explain class science project on vibration. Got into vib(e)rations and been there ever “sense.” Realized at 17 when I did my first gig that I could actually get paid to do music. What a revelation. It is an evolving thing. The most powerful (in the realm of our experience) instrument is the human voice. The most beautiful is birds. The most utilitarian is the computer. However, on reflection, my favorite instrument is the universe A need for independence, self reliance and the desire to actualize my own ideas.

rasx: When you were around 17 what kind of music were you playing? What kind of regimen did you have?

Muata25: I was an electric blues improv’ freak. I would play for hours doing licks and learning blues tunes. Mostly Buddy Guy and Hendrix stuff.

rasx: What broke you out of that mode?

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Muata25: I heard Bitch’s Brew, by Miles Davis, got turned on to Coltrane and Eric Dolphy and chanced upon Sun Ra at a parade around Central Park. I actually jumped on the back of his float and rode and listened for an hour. I think my DNA got rearranged. Was never the same.

rasx: What?! You gotta drop a history lesson here! What was Sun Ra doing in a parade?

Muata25: I have no idea. I was walking to the park one night at about 9 PM and heard this sound. There was Ra on a float with the Arkestra playing away. In the 70’s I had played on flatbed trucks with an avante garde jazz ensemble as part of a voter drive. In those days all sorts of art stuff was funded. I guess Ra had a parks department connect, or maybe just some of that infamous Ra magic.

rasx: Well, that’s just an example of you playing improvisational licks with the universe! When did other people start asking you (and paying you) to play music in public?

Muata25: When I was 19. Started playing rhythm and blues and Latin music in bars in Harlem and the Bronx. That same year I lucked up and got in a band that played in Central America for six months. That was my first taste of being out of the US. Little did I know that it was the first of several extended stays I would have in foreign climes.

Partial list of collaborations/sessions: Tom Tom Club, Eurythmics, Terence Trent D’Arby, Sheila B. Devotion, World Famous Supreme Team, Toni Halliday (Curve), Ofra Haza, Cindy Schneider (B-52’s), Marius Muller-Westernhagen, Feargal Sharkey, Geoff Williams.

rasx: So maybe this is how Afrofraktal was born? Here you are getting African music through all of the Americas: Northern, Central and Southern—and then to travel the world and see first hand what impact African music forms have on the world—you saw a very complex and powerful force?

Muata25: Man, you wouldn’t believe it!!! In Honduras the only English music on the jukeboxes was James Brown!!! Not Elvis or the Beatles, James Brown!!! In Paris, where I lived for 4 months, the Arab store I bought my veggies from always said, “Get down, like a sex machine”. Again, James in the house. From calypso to jazz to reggae to funk, even some African music. I’ve played it all. The best thing I heard about black music was from a German girl in Hamburg who said Black music brought sunshine into her dull grey European life. But it’s funny. The most dominant African musics are by the Diaspora here in the Western hemisphere, not that produced in the motherland. As a session man in Europe I used to piss off white musicians by reading music better than them. They had this superiority thing about African and Caribbean musicians in Europe who lots of time didn’t read music. In Paris I made it a point to point out mistakes made in the charts and reading parts to the French guys to make my point. But it is the funk that truly rules. For me that and dub are the soundz of life. Afrofraktal is about creating funk from turbulent and chaotic sounds. It can be all over the place but the groove shines through and centers the action. I been a free jazz virtuoso, studied European music theory, played “Giant Steps”, been in big bands and TV orchestras; for me it’s all about the funk and the drum. I been through all that music over-intellectualism shit; give me the funk and dub.

As a session man in Europe I used to piss off white musicians by reading music better than them. They had this superiority thing about African and Caribbean musicians in Europe who lots of time didn’t read music.

rasx: What was the reaction from family during all this? Or did you earn the title “little man” (or, rather, lil’ man) during your pre teens so world traveling would be no big deal?

Muata25: They were okay with my moves. I was involved heavily in politics in my teens (Black Panthers), so doing something as innocuous as music was probably a relief.

rasx: Well I must mention that the funkiest song on Earth is “Payback” (“the big payback!”). I sometimes amuse myself with the fantasy that the last thing General Custer heard at Little Big Horn was a scream just like James Brown’s scream in the big Payback. Both James Brown and Jimi Hendrix had a noticeable “American Indian” side (even Stevie Ray Vaughn was on this), is this inconsequential or can one argue that African American music gets some of its power from pre-Columbian culture?

Muata25: I’m sure that part of the power of black music in the America’s is the mongrel nature of all us Black people here. Given our genetic make-up it’s no wonder we make some crazy out there shit. Must be some battle goin’ on at our molecular level.

rasx: Can you define funk?

Muata25: Funk is life. It’s about the dance of existence, the sweet smell of fecundity and decay. It’s the smell of hot sex. Funk is sex, dance and the cosmic awareness of the rhythms that permeate and propel the multi-verses.

rasx: It sounds like you have the music of the world at your disposal. Your spiritual/intellectual pursuits in music have led you through many musical styles. Your professional session work in the studio exposed you first hand to diverse forms. Yet you end up coming back to the funk and the drum. Can you recall any specific events that led you to this conclusion? Do you have a story going from beginning, middle to end?

Blast Murray & Afrofraktal
Blast Murray & Afrofraktal, The 1997 original release.

Muata25: Involvement in traditional African religion demonstrated the power of the drum. To witness the Orisha manifesting due to the energy vortexes created by drum patterns, chants and dance configurations is amazing. My first exposure was as a cynical, skeptical observer. However, when one of the people who was possessed by the archetype named Obatala put their hand on my head and literally displaced my psyche which led me to pass out did I realize I was in the presence of something that defied all my presuppositions and beliefs heretofore (I was an atheist black nationalist revolutionary with Marxist leanings). I have a background in science and math and formed my own opinion about the ‘gods’ being inter-dimensional entities that manifest on our plane of reality channeled here through psychic and quantum pathways created by the libidinal energies released in the rituals. Culture became tool and not a commodity. I was free from the Western concept of the commodification of libidinal energies of which culture is one manifestation. The supreme power of the drum was illustrated and I saw why we were denied access to the drum during slavery. Dance is divine and very sexual in nature, hence the Euro-Christian aversion to this life affirming activity. The funk is all about celebration of life and community. All of my session work in Europe came about because of my mastery of rhythmic guitar playing. The funk fed me. In the islands I would play reggae and calypso. Again, fed by dance music created by black people. In my free jazz days I could created improvisations based on polytonal and polychordal formulations. I could solo on the classic “Giant Steps” using pan-harmonic, modal patterns, heady intellectual stuff. But I had forgotten how to funk. I mean, delving into deeply esoteric abstractions is cool, but it ain’t sex. I had to learn how to put sex back into my music.

My beginning in music was through my being chosen to explain a second grade class science project on sound. In my teens I was attracted to the power of the blues. In my twenties I practiced 16 hours a day or three years chasing the Trane and trying to attain virtuosity. In my thirties I rediscovered the power of the funk and the divinity of the drum. Now my music is totally electronic and rhythm oriented. You could say I started with science, went through rigorous intellectual training, and returned to a primal state. Of course, beneath the mask of simplicity in my music there are some pretty complex mathematical concepts I use in harmony and I create drum and musical sequences by graphically drawing them in (I compose my funk, no physicality involved, like Beethoven as an Austrian friend of mine said). But after all is said and done, if it don’t groove it’s aesthetically worthless.

Basically with computer technology I have been able to access and realize a plethora of musical ideas and moods. The stuff I’m doing would have been impossible for me to realize 10 years ago due to the cost of creating music in the analogue realm.

rasx: What aspects of electronic music are appealing to you? Is it the sound of synthesis? Is it the electric guitar? Is it computer-controlled rhythms? Is it the real independence to create on your own desktop studio time instead of bricks-and-mortar studio time?

Muata25: Excellent question. At this stage in my musical development it is definitely the sound synthesis, computer controlled rhythms and independence afforded by the desktop audio environment that appeal to me.

rasx: I’m listening to “Insurrection” at and I can definitely feel your love for hyper-efficient Blacktronic rhythms and bright washes of electric guitar! Are you working on new cuts similar to this right about now or are you moving in a different direction?

Muata25: I’m moving in a non-linear fashion at the moment. I have created several opuses that have different flavors. One is minimalist drum and keyboards thang with sparse female vocals overlaid. Another is dark ambient mutated guitar trip. Another is noise blended with lush digital delayed keyboard configurations. I have a project which is noise, digitally delayed funk drums and keyboard flourishes based on serial compositional techniques. Finally I have an opus which is samples cut and pasted. Basically with computer technology I have been able to access and realize a plethora of musical ideas and moods. The stuff I’m doing would have been impossible for me to realize 10 years ago due to the cost of creating music in the analogue realm. What they share with “Insurrection” is the electronic nature of the compositional process.