Artist: Nicholas Payton

Album: Afro-Caribbean Mixtape

Release Date: 2017-02-10

where to buy

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about the album



When I think about Africa, I think about how its aesthetics have permeated world culture. That is not to suggest that African culture is monolithic. To the contrary, this one land mass is a wellspring of various ethnicities. Long before Europeans began to colonize the continent, Africans had their own climate of conflicts, but their shared respect for locale, lineage, and language is something that has continued to live on to this day.
In African thought, it is understood that our time here on Earth is merely transitory. We never 'die'. We are energy. We change forms. It's science. This world is a reflection of the place our ancestors reside and their world is a reflection of ours. We are interdependent beings that rely on one another for survival. And it is through sound/vibration/music that we communicate.
The genius of Black creativity {...}


Create to survive in a hostile society.
-Max Roach

While 'Black' is a race it's also a synonym for African. We aren't born a race - we are raced. But despite any structural attempts by the dominating class to suppress our spirits, there is a light that still shines within. Even that term 'human' is suspect and an attempt to race people. It relegates us to this body, this life, this society. It also creates a dualistic split between intellect and intuition. We are both body and soul. It is through the breath that we bridge together those states of existence.

'We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience'. - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


History is often taught from the perspective that Black people's relationship with America began with slavery. We are often called 'slaves', but we were enslaved. There is documentation that there were Africans in the Americas who sailed ships long before Columbus. My family has a curious history in how we got to America in that I'm a descendant of the Garifuna tribe - also known as the Black Carib. The story, as told to me by my great aunts one day at the kitchen table, is that the Africans had formed a mutiny aboard a ship headed for the New World. It caused them to be shipwrecked on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. Their captors were overtaken, and they escaped enslavement. That’s right, they were never 'slaves'. As a result, their African traditions remained intact. In 1792, they went to Honduras, which is where my maternal great-grandfather, Francisco Herrera was from. The Garifuna are a musical people and I saw that most directly in my mother, Maria Payton, who was an operatic singer through college and, at age 70, still plays piano regularly in church. Her father, my grandfather, Harold Herrera also played piano.

'Jazz doesn't mean anything'. - Duke Ellington

It was through listening to my elders speak I was hipped to a part of my history I might not otherwise had known. It confirmed some things about who I am. I have never felt oppressed and I'm nobody's slave. I am not a victim. I have always known I am Black and been proud of it. It is not only on my Garifuna side that I am musical, but my paternal side, as well. One of my direct ancestors is Henry Payton, who formed Henry Payton's accordiana Band in 1899, before anyone was thinking about jazz. Some sources say that Buddy Bolden played in his band. Can't confirm this, but they were most certainly associates. My father Walter Payton, who played bass and sousaphone, had the greatest impact on my development as an artist.

'Playing an instrument is a form of worship and I've been worshipping all my life'. - Dizzy Gillespie

Diaspora -- How African culture continues to thrive globally against efforts to undermine it. The enslaved Africans were not allowed to speak their native tongues, so they created a new language in The Blues. The Blues was born of the work song, Negro Spirituals, in the Mississippi Delta, and rituals in Congo Square - the most renowned place in America that the enslaved practiced their traditions.

'It's an art form because it is black music...because it started in New Orleans. - Art Blakey


I titled this album Afro-Caribbean Mixtape as a way of acknowledging the strong will of African peoples. To explore how these songs and rhythms came from Africa, got funneled through the Caribbean in places like Haiti, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, and traveled to the northernmost part of the Caribbean - New Orleans. From New Orleans it traveled to places like St. Louis or to Chicago when King Oliver brought his protege Louis Armstrong from New Orleans who changed the game forever.


The significance of Armstrong to world culture cannot be overstated. He single-handedly revolutionized music. He distilled centuries of African codes, rhythms, and melodies. He changed the feel of music globally - where we sense the pulse. Much like what happened with his musical offspring Michael Jackson and the advent of the music video, his voice as an artist coincided with a new medium, the phonograph record. For the first time in history, the whole of society could be impacted simultaneously by the same sounds. MJ was indeed the King of Pop, but Pops was the original King of Pop.


I'd say I’ve been conceptualizing this album and its title for about the past five years. I've been collecting these themes for at least that amount of time and beyond. I'm always thinking of these melodies that have existed since the beginning of time. We all know these songs, and when we hear them, they resonate from a place deep within us, like an old familiar friend. I’m constantly looking to weed out the extraneous stuff and get to that cellular idea, the primal impetus. And I wonder what was the first instrument, song or drum?


I grew up in the era where cassette tapes were our mode of portable audio and recordable media. You couldn't yet burn a CD. If you wanted to create a playlist, you might sit by the stereo for hours just to record your favorite song. You developed an expert hand in exactly where to pause a track if you wanted to beat match or make a transition between songs seamless. Mixtapes were our playlists, and the kats with the best collection of jams and greatest recall for how to sequence them on cassette had the best mixtape.

I created this album in the same way I might create for a girl I was interested in. I selected the best moments I could find in my mental databank. As I’ve said before, I stopped writing music over ten years ago. I have moments of inspiration where I hear a motif, phrase, riff, set of chords changes, lyrics, a bass line, or a groove, and I record it into my voice memo. When it comes time for me to compose or make an album, I go into my catalog of ideas and put them together to create compositions. I chose the spoken word samples in the same way, from interviews and speeches that I’m familiar with. I chopped these samples and gave them to my DJ to insert in strategic places throughout the project.

about the artist

I play Postmodern New Orleans music.
Louis Armstrong and Danny Barker play Traditional New Orleans Music.
Ellis Marsalis and James Black play Modern New Orleans music.
Kidd Jordan and Clyde Kerr play Avant-garde New Orleans music.
Donald Harrison plays Neoclassical New Orleans music.
I play Postmodern New Orleans music.
I am a part of a lineage.
I am a part of a blood line.
- Nicholas Payton 'ON WHY JAZZ ISN'T COOL ANYMORE', November 27, 2011