Quantum Elders Afrofuturism Healing Ritual

Hesterian Musicism’s Quantum Elder Afrofuturism Healing Ritual.

Hesterian Musicism is the creative process through which Karlton Hester, composer, flautist and saxophonist, brings together musicians, visual artists and poets in collaborative synergy to create a sonically riveting and visually compelling immersive mulitdisciplinary arts experience. With participating musicians, poets, and artists drawing on past traditions to create stepping-stones to future creations, Hesterian Musicism provides an aesthetic environments in which new art forms can emerge through imaginative effort. Its philosophical basis involves an intrinsic freedom of expression, focused and disciplined spontaneity, and a structural basis that explores the creative components of diverse sources from the whole earth. Performances have taken in New York, California, South America, and Asia.

This event is part of Surge: Explorations in Afrofuturism, a multidimensional and transcultural month-long festival on Afrofuturism spearheaded by composer/performer Karlton Hester, choreographer Gerald Casel, and artist Aaron Samuel Mulenga. Afrofuturism is a global artistic and social movement, intent on imagining a world where African-descended peoples and cultures can live and flourish. For Surge, an extended program of music and dance performances, film screenings, and discussions will bring together artists and thinkers to creatively engage Afrofuturist strategies for liberation and the restructuring of society free of racism. 

Surge is made possible by generous support from the Nion McEvoy Family Trust, the National Endowment from the Arts, UCHRI, UCSC Academic Senate, Rowland and Pat Rebele, Porter College, the Ali Akbar Khan Classical Indian Music Endowment, the UCSC Music Department, the Center of South Asian Studies, and annual donors to the Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

Live Performance


About the Performers

Dr. Kartlon E. Hester

(composer/flutist/saxophonist), began his career as a composer and recording artist in Los Angeles where he worked as a studio musician and music educator. He received his Ph.D. in composition from the City University of New York Graduate Center and is currently Director of “Jazz” Studies (and member of the Digital Arts and New Media faculty) at the University of California in Santa Cruz. As performer on both flute and saxophone, he is founding music director of the Fillmore Jazz Preservation Big Band (in San Francisco), director of Hesterian Musicism, and served as the Herbert Gussman Director of Jazz Studies at Cornell University from 1991-2001. Hester specializes in premeditated, spontaneous and electro-acoustic composition. His compositions span a wide range; from numerous solo cycles for various woodwinds to chamber configurations, music videos and electro-acoustic symphonic works written in an eclectic array of styles.

Steph Layton

Steph Layton (Animation & Motion Graphics) is a highly accomplished individual who has earned her Master’s in Fine Art, specializing in Digital Art and New Media, from UCSC. As an educator at UCSC, she now shares her knowledge and expertise with students in the same program. Steph has a proven track record of successful collaborations with artists, musicians, and performers, including the Quantum Elder Afrofuturism Healing Ritual as part of UCSC’s Surge event. Steph is actively engaged in the Santa Cruz arts community, where she contributes her unique perspective and insight. Her artistic passion lies in the realm of digital media and visual storytelling, where she brings her exceptional skills and boundless creativity to life.

Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson has been a trumpet player for over 40 years and spends his days (any many evenings) as the general manager of WRTI, Philadelphia’s classical music and jazz public radio station.  He believes music is a powerful model for social change and that we all have an obligation to support music education as a means of teaching collaboration, listening, respect, concentration, and appreciation for the power of what working together can achieve. He serves on the board of Interdisciplinary Artists Aggregation and the leadership team for Jazz Philadelphia, a new project to create a sustainable jazz ecosystem. 


Eki’Shola is vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and board-certified internal medicine and lifestyle medicine physician,whose music has been called  “half-time electronic soul for the mind” – Featured in PBS, NPR Tiny Desk Contest, KQED and Best of the Bay Editors’ Pick, Eki’Shola’s music transcends genre, as she seamlessly draws from jazz, electronica, and soul music to create a sonic landscape all her own. Her debut album, Final Beginning, was released in 2016. Her most recent release,  Essential, 2020, features instrumentals, spoken word, and lyrics that share hope, inspired by periods of contemplation among movements of climate change, coronavirus pandemic, and Black Lives Matter advocacy.

Jing Zhou

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Mandjou Kone

Mandjou Kone is a griot/storyteller, kora, dancer, and choreographer who was born and raised in West Africa in the countries of Mali and Burkina Faso. She was born into the Koné family, a well-known Griot Family. The Griots people of West Africa are world renown for their unique ability to record events carefully and accurately, passing history from one generation to the other. As a young girl Mandjou assisted her Griot father in keeping his band alive by singing, dancing and playing instruments like the Djembe, Bala, Dundun, Kora and Tama. She also danced and performed with the National Ballet of Burkina Faso. With her brother’s group ‘Surutukunu’ Mandjou toured Europe extensively as lead singer. Mandjou is a very popular dance educator and has been teaching and performing over the past eleven years throughout the US. In March 2003 in Santa Cruz, CA she was honored with the ‘Calabash Award’ for her excellence in the ethnic arts.

David Smith

David Smith is a performer, composer and educator. Mr. Smith has earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music. He has developed a unique fifths tuning with five strings for his primary instruments, the Double Bass and Electric Bass. Through technique and a penchant for elegant solutions, Mr. Smith aims to pattern music that moves our experience towards freedom.

Siwen Zhao

Siwen Zhao is a well-known Chinese dancer, actress and singer. She holds a B.A degree from Minzu University of China, majoring in dance performance. She caught attention through her solo dance in the closing ceremony of Athens Olympiad in 2004 and her solo dance “dream” in National Centre for the Performing Arts in 2005. She gained her fame through Expo 2010 Shanghai China and other commercial occasions. From 2008-2015, she starred in the movie remake of “White Snake” with Jack Li, then successfully entered the Chinese television field. From 2015 until now, she teaches at Mei Dao Art Education Center as a dance instructor with focuses on Chinese folk dances.

Yunxiang Gao

Yunxiang Gao is a composer, pianist, and pipa player from China. She graduated from Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Composition. In 2005, her multimedia piece “Yin” won second prize in the MUSICACOUSTICA festival, and in 2009, her pipa concerto “Qin Yong” was awarded third prize in Beijing International Music Festival and Academy. In 2012, she performed a pipa concerto for the“Pan-Asia” Festival at Stanford University. Her symphonic works “Picture of Borderland” and “Beijing Opera – Sheng, Dan, Jing, Chou” were performed by the UC Irvine orchestra and conducted by Professor Christopher Dobrian. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts with an emphasis in World Music Composition at the University of California at Santa Cruz.