Friday, February 25, 2011

The Universal Zulu Nation

Around the mid 1970's, the gang situation in New York City was pretty out of hand. For some folks who'd had enough, alternatives were formed to counter the gangs influence. Kevin Donovan, after seeing Michael Caine movie about the Zulu uprising, decided to form the Universal Zulu Nation, an organization based on merits derived from art and achievments rather than violence and muscle. Taking ideas from '5 Percent Nation' and various belief systems, it served as one of the first 'straight edge' youth groups to pop up. This group coincided with the development of Hip Hop in the late 1970's and would eventually grow to encompass and promote the new culture with some of the early members as a who's who of Hip Hop pioneers.

Kevin would change his name to Afrika Bambaataa, and go on to be one the pioneers of the musical form by popularizing the 'break' element of DJing. One of the first live DJ records released was Bambaataa's classic 'Death Mix' which was recorded on crappy quality tape at a high school in New York. His early group. Soul Sonic Force would release Planet Rock, and basically found the 'electro break' style.

Bambaataa would go on to spread his musical movement around the globe, including a small club in Santa Cruz. in 1984, Bambaataa DJ'd this new break style for us, and my junior high school brain couldn't believe what I was seeing. We all wanted to be members of the Zulu Nation, and went as far as submitting applications to be part of it. A few friends of mine became bonified members and to this day still have their coveted 'Zulu Beads'.

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