On Nep Sidhu and the
Possibilities of the Omniverse

by Negarra A. Kudumu

What is the power of your machine?

-Sun Ra

Detroit is just under a four hour drive from Nep Sidhu’s hometown of Toronto. There is a musical continuum that resides along that geographical pathway that Sidhu has engaged for over twenty years as a function of his love for music and specifically the collaborative engagement that is inherent to the genre known as techno. On the occasion of his first solo exhibition in the United States, the multidisciplinary, Toronto-based artist chose the city of Detroit to continue his 10 plus year investigations into the architecture of divine formlessness and sonic potentialities as manifested through sound, poetry, textile, sculpture, and glyph. Paradox of Harmonics could have only happened in Detroit, a city that has consistently birthed and sustained internationally renowned musicians and entertainers.

Detroit is most well known for being the birthplace of Motown's first African-American music label, which was located in Detroit between 1959 and 1972. Detroit remained fertile ground for Black music and by the 1980s, with the emergence of the genre known as techno, groups such as The Belleville Three and Cybotron, and DJs like The Wizard (Jeff Mills), Mike Huckaby and his brother Craig Huckaby, and later Theo Parrish, and Waajeed, just to name a few, solidified and further leveraged the profile of the city nationally and internationally as a site for prolific and innovative music making.

It brings together various founts of knowledge—ancient and contemporary

In this exhibition, Sidhu functions in multiple roles of which artist is but one. There is the architect who manipulates sundry materials to fashion vessels which simultaneously both house and represent various iterations of the divine. Three of these vessels comprise the Omniverse 7000 and Disappearance Potential, that together form a triptych sound system built to hold, care for, and emit various melodies and harmonies that permeate the exhibition space, restoring time to its cyclical origins, and permeate the spatial and corporeal realities in its midst. The construction of this sound system is a collusion of roles including that of audio engineer, metal fabricator, ‘selecta’, and collaborator. It brings together various founts of knowledge—ancient and contemporary—with the goal of elevating sound to such a climax that those experiencing it enter a state of profound ecstasy.

Selecta/selector is a term that emerged out of Jamaican reggae sound system culture, originally purported to have referred to the individual who selected the records that the DJ would then play. In recent years, however, it has become synonymous with a person who both selects and plays the records. I find this to still be an incomplete understanding, and for the sake of this article, the term should be understood as a person who has an intensely profound knowledge of music that is often shared with other selectas and a music loving community that co-signs that knowledge through the reciprocity of dance. Selectas often refuse the title of DJ, or any title at all and may simply say, “I just play records.”