Benjamin Barson

Facilitator and organizer with Afro Yaqui Music Collective, a postcolonial big band committed to a decolonized music and theater practice, to sounding a world where many worlds fit.

Benjamin Barson is a baritone saxophonist, award-winning composer, educator, and political activist. Barson’s compositions explore the historical Afro-diasporic, American Indigenous and Asian American roots of the jazz idiom. Barson and his partner Gizelxanath Rodriguez have conducted extensive research and political work on behalf of Mexico’s Indigenous Yaqui, Mayan and Zapatista communities. Barson and Rodriguez give voice to this research and advocacy through performance art; they are the founders of an 18-member postcolonial big band, named the “Afro Yaqui Music Collective,” which celebrates the alliance of Indigenous and African resistance in the Americas. Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, has stated that the Afro Yaqui Music Collective “returned this thing called ‘jazz’ back to its real roots—to the earth, to the sky, to the women who produced and protected a people’s culture. Ben Barson, Gizelxanath Rodriguez, and the crew have committed to making liberation music. Don’t miss them--an experience could change your life.” 

actors onstage
Anticolonial Creative Collaboration and the Development of Mirror Butterfly
Essay

Anticolonial Creative Collaboration and the Development of Mirror Butterfly

15 August 2019

Ben Barson and Gizelxanath Rodriguez, part of the Afro Yaqui Music Collective, talk about artivism—what it means, what it can look like—in relation to building a jazz opera with various communities around the world.