Self-taught and strong-willed, violinist, vocalist and producer Sudan Archives is rewriting the rulebook with her sound. Her genre-blending debut LP Athena – released in November last year – is a testament to the power of her myth-making. Pieced together from painful fragments of her life, her reimagining of the Greek goddess as a powerful black woman is a celebration of the tension and duality Parks learned to harmonise through the two EPs leading up to it.
“There is a place that I call home, but it’s not where I am welcome,” she sings serenely over strangely upbeat strings in “Confessions”. Parks has long been searching for a home for herself – a place beyond the manufactured pop star life her family initially planned for her. Leaving home for LA aged 19, Parks’ music is a map of her journey so far, sonically fusing everything from the Irish jigs that first inspired her to pick up an instrument, to the experimental music scene she’d sneak out to experience growing up in Cincinnati.
Merged through the vector of pop, hip-hop, R&B, psychedelics and a Francis Bebey-prompted relearning of her roots through traditional African string techniques – Sudan Archives shows how she soaks up influence to create a sound that resists easy definition. It’s as she sings in the unapologetically black anthem, “Nont For Sale”: “This is my light, don’t block the sun... This is my time, don’t waste it up.”
How did you start doing the work you do, and what inspires it?
Sudan Archives: I started playing violin in fourth grade and made my first two EPs on iPads and iPhones. Since then I’ve collected gear, and made my first album in a studio. Seeing diversity and unique ways of playing the violin and string instruments inspires me to break boundaries through my own style and productions.
When it comes to your work, what are you most proud of?
Sudan Archives: I’m most proud of my latest album Athena because it’s a soundtrack of my life. I found beauty in my hardship, and have a piece of work that I feel like everyone can relate to. Making beauty out of pain.
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Sudan Archives: In light of Covid-19, I’d like to produce and direct an abstract short film that highlights the beauty of “aloneness” and time spent away from others. Promoting self-isolation and the brilliance that can spawn from it. Once the film is shot, I will curate an all-female experimental orchestra to help score the film. The film would then premiere alongside a livestream of the orchestra performing the score.