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Issue 1084

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Review

FunkJazz Kafe: Diary of a Decade

Diary of a Decade - The Story Of Movement

 

6.1

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UK release date 13.08.2011

US release date 13.07.2011

Seventeen years ago, Jason Orr never knew that he would create a movement quite like this â one full of cheers, euphoric applause and trips down memory lane to go along with this Wed., Jul. 13, 2011 night.

His vision â a critically acclaimed music and arts festival, FunkJazz Kafe, that would give voice to the other side of Atlanta (and to the world) that mainstream culture, major corporations and gaudy tastemakers had yet to understand and catch up to â was the basis for an incredible documentary, FunkJazz Kafe: Diary of a Decade. The film premiered in conjunction with Atlantaâs National Black Arts Festival at the Rialto Center for the Arts, and boyâ¦what a turnout did Orr create! Not to mention, the film was an incredible piece of musical history combined with cutting edge cinema.

Craig Love, the filmâs associate producer, told me a week prior, âAtlanta deserves to have this story be told. It would be very easy to forget that.â True enough. Averaging anywhere from three to four thousand in attendance via word of mouth (no commercial advertising), FunkJazz Kafe became one of the most memorable (and often imitated) cultural festivals of this generation â highlighting live performers, visual artists, culinary artists, health and wellness specialists, healers and a plethora of creative individuals. Even Jill Scott says on camera that FunkJazz Kafe is âa nice surprise.â Arrested Developmentâs Speech proclaims, âWe have yet to know what soul is.â Guess what? Both responses only lead to the imagination for whatâs possible in music, the arts, culture and the community at large.

When I walked into the Rialto to experience what Orr said in his interview with me was âthe birth of a new industry,â I clearly wasnât prepared for what I was destined to experience. For one, the theater was jam packed (literally to capacity)! Shoot, I just posted up on the floor as Scott â sporting a full Afro and blue jeans â performed âA Long Walkâ in one of her earliest performances. The quick montages of â60s, â70s and â80s black music performers and luminaries just blew me away. There was a great story layered in between: the testimonials from the music publications about FunkJazz Kafe, the clips of the articles, the Atlanta landscape from I-85 South to the skyscrapers throughout downtown. Diary of a Decade could easy rival any investigative piece on 60 Minutes.

I was in a nouveau cinematic Metropolis for music and a higher consciousness. Diary of a Decade: The Story of a Movement is also about as well-thought out and organized as a Harvard or Columbia University masterâs thesis (or even dissertation for that matter). Call it what you will -- a conversation, a visually stunning panel discussion or a lesson in ethnomusicology, but. Iâll tell you one thing; Orr damn âsho studied the hell outta those album sleeves (just as I did as a curious, funk music lovinâ, crate digginâ teenager from Upstate South Carolina). An incredible retrospective musical timeline, Orr â an astute cultural interpreter and historian himself -- dabbles into the history of black music and its influence on American culture and the world â seguing nicely into the influences of James Brown (considered as âthe Bible of musicâ in one bit of commentary), George Clinton, Roy Ayers, Sly Stone and hip hop culture all becoming these cultural mavericks unlike any other. With transAtlantic artists such as Fela Kuti, Omar, Loose Ends (an unsung musical outfit Iâve yet to see in any documentary) and Brand New Heavies, black music is fertile world music. Issues surrounding white supremacy, commercialism, co-opting, the Sept. 11 attacks, agenda setting from corporations and record companies, technological determinism with the Internet and problems with categorization (alternative hip hop, urban alternative and neo-soul) are also critiqued and discussed.

The best part of the film â seeing the structure of Orrâs vision come to life. Love is dead on it: Orr really gave of himself to make other people happy and dedicated himself to not finding the easiest routes to do anything. Heâs a progressive visionary who has clearly earned the respect and love from his peers because of his concern for others (be it the performers or FunkJazz Kafeâs audience members). FunkJazz Kafe even had its own house band, The Chronicle. How impressive to see the physical sketches of the logo â the piano with the title etched within the image â and the blueprints of the stage? Yes, Orr is a social theorist, genius and modern day organizer whose purpose was to give people something unique and memorable (itâs no wonder people still walk up to him and tell him how their families came from those festivals). Kudos to Dionne Farris for saying, âThereâs a magic in Atlanta thatâs not like any other place.â

Diary of a Decade is quite entertaining On screen were the sociopolitical commentaries and musical explications of Dr. Cornel West, Erykah Badu, Kevin Powell, Dick Gregory, Caron Wheeler, Dead Prezâs Sticman, Anthony David, Dallas Austin, Andre 3000, Common, MC Lyte, Talib Kweli, Chuck D., Joi Gilliam, Dionne Farris, Organized Noizeâs Ray Murray, Jamie Foxx, Lilâ John Roberts, Roy Ayers, Jamal Ahmad, NâDea Davenport, Doug E. Fresh, Cee-Lo Green, Omar, Vinnie Bernard, Professor Griff, Arrested Developmentâs Speech and of course Orr himself. Orr knew how to somehow incredibly manipulate gritty (and often improvised) performances of Goodie MOB (who Orr says was the inspiration behind the film initially), OutKast, Eric Roberson, Donnie, Loose Ends (who Orr tracked down in London to get on-stage in Atlanta after taking a 13-year hiatus from performing), Dionne Farris, Joi, Meâshell Nâdegeocello (way to go with âStep Into the Projectsâ and âDead Nigga Blvd. Pt. Iâ), Raphael Saadiq, Biz Markie (of course âNobody Beats the Bizâ), Public Enemy, Bilal and Janelle Monae (whose impressive performance of âLettinâ Goâ brings the house down) into a brilliant culmination of the FunkJazz Kafe experience. Even if youâve never been to one festival, itâs a great way to play catch upâ¦at least I felt like I was there the entire time and never missed one festival.

The moral to the story: soul is not genre specific, and Orr proves it without a doubt. Iâll almost bet that Diary of a Decade (an ironic title in nature) wouldnât be out of place on the programming roster of PBS or BBC. Itâs definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing that can never be imitated, duplicated or revised even if attempted.

Click for more deets on Diary of a Decade and the FunkJazz Kafe
Words Christopher Daniel

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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