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Shanté Paradigm Smalls

 Shanté Paradigm Smalls, a performer and performance studies scholar who works at the intersection of blackness, popular culture, and critical theory, is also an Assistant Professor of Black Literature and Culture at St. John’s University. Find out more about their music and scholarship at shanteparadigm.com

"In the Name of the Future BuddhaOn The Death and Life of Sananda Maitreya"
In 1995, after five studio albums, a Grammy, a British Award, and a greatest hits album, Sananda Maitreya killed Terrence Trent D’Arby—his former legal and performance self. Unlike other famous re-naming projects, such as Prince’s years as the unpronounceable gendered symbol, Maitreta’s personal and professional freedom from corporate record company CBS/Columbia propelled him out of the international global hyper-mainstream and into the worlds of Internet and live performances. His reincarnation as Sananda (Hindu: “with bliss”) Maitreya (Sanskrit: the future Buddha) mixes both material emancipation and reincarnation with Hindu-Buddhist philosophy in order to manifest a persona that manages to be creatively and productively free from the traditional music business fetters. Thinking alongside theories of afro-futurism, afro-pessimism, tantric Buddhist philosophy, and theories of dislocation, this paper considers what it does for an artist to “die” to the hyper-mainstream in order to “reincarnate” as a future/different self. How might Sananda Maitreya’s example help us rethink Black musicality and its discontents from the 1990s to the present?