I’ve heard him introduce himself as Woodrowe. I’ve heard him introduce himself as Radio. The first time I met him, he didn’t introduce himself at all. He just sat down next to me and started rapping. Then he started beatboxing (mouth percussion, for those who may not be familiar). He was clearly a talented artist, but the layers of his story began to unfold in our following conversation.
The man who introduces himself as Radio was Woodrowe Farguheson, aka MC Radio Active, the beatboxer/emcee who has spent the last decade-plus touring the world, playing international festivals as part of musical group Michael Franti and Spearhead. He also does visual art under the name Tsumnu. He has a gold plaque and a Grammy in the mail. Well, he had a gold plaque.
During his recent move to Sacramento from Santa Rosa, his entire storage unit was burned to the ground in the Santa Rosa fires earlier this month, including irreplaceable tour posters and awards from around the world. We caught up to talk about his music, visual art career and what really matters in the wake of tragedy.
How are you doing after the fire?
Just being alive to do this is a blessing, so in a way I am doing better than most people. On the other hand, I am struggling. Struggling to understand why after disaster things go back to ignoring the needs of the people.
As the fires cease and the thought of losing everything becomes like … the smell of smoke, [what remains is] a faint scent of misery washed away by the rain and left with the refreshed remembrance of the truth that I did not lose everything …. I lost those things. The things that can be lost.
What have you noticed about the Sacramento art world since being here?
Let me just start with saying, what is any city’s art world but another collective of separation and oppression upon ideas and norms while ignoring the capitalistically invisible? As a part of hip hop culture, I say I am art and art cannot have barriers — like being contained in a city — because it will keep breaking down to categories and areas. North Sac Art. West Sac Art. Urban Art. (laughs) I will say there is art in Sac. True art.
As a newcomer, what are your impressions about the relationship between business and the arts in Sacramento?
At first, it looked as if the business is cool with the art. But certain art is not art. Some folks just want an image placed. A placed image is not always art.
What are you most excited about as a working artist coming to the city?
I am excited about changing the way people think about the difference between images and art. I’m excited about creating dialogue of the seemingly unspeakable and showing the gentle ability of a furious dragon to open eyes to the inequality and injustice hidden by excess and vanity. I am more than a people watcher. I am my people’s watcher. I’m excited to continue learning and sharing energy and inspiration and space and time with these people. The ones that have no restraint yet have consideration and empathy for human experience and expression.
What is the best way for people help residents affected by the Northern California fires?
Go to sonomacounty.recovers.org. This is the best way to help families in Sonoma County.
You’re selling art to help fundraise for yourself and others affected by the fire. Where and how can people participate in the art auction?
Which came first, the art or the music for you? If you only had to do one for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
Art is music for all senses. I am art. I am music. If I had to choose only one … it would be visual art.
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