1994, 1996, Blue Lines, Caron Wheeler, Cee Lo, Centennial Olympics, De La Soul, Dionne Farris, Erykah, FunkJazz Kafé, Goodie Mob, House Of Blues, Joi, Key Yemaya Walker, Omar, OutKast, Society Of Soul, The Tabernacle
Atlanta – as I thought to write this, I realize that there are not many things that I miss, or wish to experience again. I do understand that in experience I find growth, but as I stumbled across the trailer for a documentary about the FunkJazz Kafé that premiered during this years’ National Black Arts Festival, in Atlanta, I can sincerely say that that is a time and experience that I can say I miss, and would love to experience again. I can also state that it is an era, that cannot be recreated. (Video follows)
It was the late 90’s, music still had a fresh appeal to it, you still had your Tribes, De La, Outkast, Common Sense coming into his own, Goodie Mob, Joi, Erykah, Society of Soul. These ideas and concepts if love were just that, ideas. And, the city was fresh from the 1996 Centennial Olympics games. I was back “home,” from Connecticut, starting something new after two years in a trouble institution.
I was young with aspirations of writing a book, with the only inspiration was that it would essentially be a “love” story to Hip-Hop, and Hip-Hop would serve as its backdrop (my how that changed) , and settled into the magnificent scene, that locally was highlighted through a festival called FunkJazz Kafé. Though, there was a period that their reached briefly extended outside of Atlanta, this inclusive festival, not only highlighted local or transplanted acts, but also granted a forum for independent film, art, expression…all advertised under a singular collective umbrella.
With FunkJazz, there were no artists advertised as scheduled to appear, as a fan you attended the seasonal event, and were surprised by your Badu’s, Common’s, Omar, and what have you.
The event was a non-stop evening and night of entertainment with a revolving stage of artists, and a house band that continuously played between the different “featured” artists.
I remember the evening, after I had been attending for some time, yet after I had written the crux of my manuscript. With a backpack and notebook, filled with the written poems that appeared in Blue Lines, in my grey terry Phat Farm sweats, I navigated the main hall, sat quietly screening an independent film, read my poetry (Devolution Of Friendship) for the first time ever, eyes closed, voice shaky as a jazz band backed my words, and simply settled into the Chupa Chups hip-hop room dancing the night away, not everyone made it passed the door to that tightly packed anteroom of the venue the Tabernacle (the House of Blues during the Olympics). But there I recovered from expressing myself verbally…publically…for the first time, before I returned to see Erykah Badu, backed by Joi Gilliam and others and Common, appear on the stage I had frequently watched Outkast, Goodie Mob, or De La Soul perform across.
I do marvel in how lucky I was to be a part of this scene, and this era in Atlanta. I guess it also shaped why I may not be as star struck, as many local, and visiting artists, transplants also used to walk through Atlanta as normal people, I wish that I could better explain it.
I hope that in some shape or form, the above recounting and video give some insight into a time that I feel privileged to have been a part of.
The manuscript Blue Lines is the fictional coming of age narrative of a young California woman Key Yemaya Walker, and her 2 year growing journey through school, love, and life period piece, written by Kenneth Suffern, Jr., taking place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.