Electronic composer Yuni Wa released his latest, “Dark Matter Theory,” on streaming platforms Friday, June 12. The concept was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and its growing momentum, “but with a bit of a twist,” he said in a press release. “Dark matter is a phenomenon that is unseen and not well understood in the natural observable universe. Though fully invisible, physicists know it exists because galaxies would fly apart if it wasn’t there to hold them together. This song is a personal homage to black strength and how far-reaching black concept art can extend.” We caught up with Yuni earlier this week about the single, and about his take on tackling systemic racism.
You’ve said the new single is about societal change and black strength, but also about the phrase “dark matter” in its scientific terms. Can you elaborate on the connection between those ideas?
When I made this song, I was focused on making a representation of what I felt in my heart and what I grew up on. I want people to listen to the track and know that I’m African American and know that the sounds I’m using are the roots of my culture’s essence. Dark matter is an unseen phenomenon that holds the universe together and black people have held the world together for thousands of years with little to show for it in the government-sanctioned history that we are taught in school. Dark matter is harder to observe in the natural universe and so is the history of black people. But if you search hard enough for both of them, you can find them.
We know that the Black Lives Matter movement that’s happening now has some parallels to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and that’s a period of time that I know that your family members — your grandparents, specifically — experienced. Can you talk a little bit about what you know of their connection to the civil rights movement, and what they’ve shared with you about it?
My grandfather was a preacher that would travel a lot. He and my grandmother traveled to the 16th Street Baptist church before it was bombed to attend a service and to meet Martin Luther King Jr. My grandma told me she felt sick the day she was there and she stayed in the car outside. Then a group of black women from the church came outside to get her and take her in because it wasn’t safe to stay there. The civil rights era came with a lot of threats of bombs, mobs and shootings.
My grandmother is the strongest woman I know. My grandfather passed away in 1998 when I was a few months old.
How has growing up with that family knowledge informed your music?
It made me take my music even more seriously. It’s like knowing the pain and hardship my family had to endure makes me push myself as hard as I can go because music is how I express myself.
When I make music that expresses my feelings, I’m doing it for more than just myself. I’m doing it for every black person that has a dream they want to pursue but can’t live to see it all the way through because of the circumstances that surround them. Circumstances that result in thousands of extra obstacles to jump or sadly, their early death.
What’s most important to you at this moment in 2020, in terms of societal change?
To raise the awareness the black community deserves and understanding of how our lives are like. Educate to avoid poor representations of what external people think our lives are like. People need to listen to us and remove this structure of ignorance that has existed over America for so long. They need to see that structurally, most things are set up for us to fail and it’s OK to acknowledge that. It doesn’t make us weak, acknowledging it, and we can’t just get up and get over this overnight. This isn’t something under our complete control and people need to see that it’s much harder for us due to our lack of opportunities.
This country was founded on the physical exploitation of black people and the mental conditioning of black people. We are rag dolls to the authoritarian capitalist police state because that’s how this country was set up, it’s not a choice we made.
How do you view your role as a musician in times of upheaval?
My role as a musician is to spark minds, connect people and bring art to the people on the front lines. They need that comfort that comes with music. I want to reaffirm their values in each other but also themselves. I’m here to make sure the revolution of social change has a theme song that people can be proud of, but also reflects their feelings.