Funk Jazz Kafé Film Festival and Music Conference

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Funk Jazz Kafé Film Festival and Music Conference at the SouthWest Arts Center here in Atlanta. This event had everything for true music heads and indie film lovers all in one conference. The early part of the day included panels of discussion on how to market yourself as an independent artist, finding success with Crowd Funding and the important discussion on the direction of radio today.

Radio Today Panel

I found out about this festival at the last-minute so I dropped by to catch the “Radio Today: Terrestrial vs. Digital Radio” panel. This strong panel included Ken Rye, On-Air personality as Moderator, Wannique Shabazz, Operations Manager, WRFG 89.3 FM, Derek Harper, Program Director, WAMJ 107.5 FM, Terry Bello, On-Air Personality, WVEE 103.3 FM, Jamal Ahmad, On-Air Personality 91.9 FM and LaMont Carson, Founder & DJ, Basement Soul Radio Online. This panel couldn’t have had better representation of the Atlanta radio community. They discussed everything from what radio used to be and its legendary heroes (Frankie Crocker, Jack the Rapper), the current state of radio (the top 5 radio shows such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity dominating the airwaves) and where radio is headed (digital and internet radio stations). The overall consensus of the panel was that the only way that REAL music can be promoted on radio today was for us to either seek out internet and/or digital radio stations (Pandora, Spotify, etc.) for the music or produce our own quality radio internet stations. Content is so important to gain listenership. Also, not only just playing the music but providing the story behind the music. People today want to know who these artists are, not just their music. Wonderful discussion and I could have sat there all day listening to the ideas of the panel. My background is in radio, so this particular subject had me at hello, ha, ha.

Jason Orr, Funk Jazz Kafé, Founder & Film Director

After this panel was over, it was time to check out the screening of the award-winning documentary Funk Jazz Kafé: Diary of A Decade (The Story of A Movement). This movie is directed by the founder of Funk Jazz Kafé, Jason Orr. The film celebrates The Funk Jazz Kafé Music Festival movement in Atlanta that took place within a 10 year span in the 80’s through early 90’s. This music festival was an event which showcased the musical and artistic diversity of the city. Many soul artists from Atlanta and all over the world performed at this event every year. Artists would display their work during this event as well. People would attend these festivals on just the reputation alone for great music. They didn’t even know who would be headlining until the show started. That was the tradition of this festival. Many of the artists we know today have participated in the Funk Jazz Café movement and shared their accounts during the film. There are appearances from Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Anthony David, Joi Gillum, Goodie Mob, Eric Roberson, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bilal, Loose Ends, Talib Kweli, Dionne Farris, Cee Lo Green, Janelle Monae and the list goes on and on. This film is definitely a must see for everyone who loves music. I wish I was here in Atlanta at that time to enjoy what appeared to be an inspiring time in Atlanta’s musical legacy. Jason Orr is touring this film all over the country and the world, so it is not available on DVD or in movie theaters. You just have to check out his website to see when it comes into your city.

There were also two other documentaries during the Funk Jazz Kafé Film Festival and Music Conference: Contradiction and Coming Back for More (Finding Sly Stone). I didn’t get a chance to check out those films but I hear they were just as great as Diary of a Decade!

This was an awesome conference and I enjoyed meeting the people and taking in the atmosphere. There was a live performance from a local group called “Soulstar” while we waited for the films to start. They sounded wonderful and I’m sure we will hear more from them in the future.

Soulstar Performance

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