Jason Orr, founder of Atlanta's highly revered FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival talks about how the festival got started, his most prized relationships as a result of the festival, and some exciting tidbits on what's in store for this year's event. 2013's program launches this Friday, July 12 with a screening of the music documentary FunkJazz Kafé: Diary Of A Decade (The Story Of A Movement) and the festival itself takes place on Saturday, July 13. Watch the trailer after the jump.
Giant Step: When you first conceived FunkJazz Kafé, what was your mission? What inspired you to start the festival in the first place?
Jason Orr: The mission when I first conceived FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival was to create an arts festival environment with new and innovative music as the soundtrack. I was inspired by the multiple talents around me here in Atlanta, particularly the artist I was managing, Vinnie Bernard, drummer extraordinaire, Lil John Roberts, visual artist Maurice Evans and the various creators in fashion, theater, dance, music etc. around the city. Everything was vibrant and bubbling but needed one place to come together.
GS: What's been your most memorable experience in the 19 years you've been holding FunkJazz Kafé?
JO: Out of all 46 festivals, I remember them all very well because they are like my children that have been growing up nicely. Sounds funny, but very true.
GS: A particularly odd or funny memory from FunkJazz Kafé over the years?
JO: A funny memory is when we were on tour in 1999 and we were going to Detroit and everything was going wrong... like the production truck couldn't get up the hills in the Smokey mountains because it weighed too much, the tour bus threw a rod, and we had a racist skin head engineer who hated us for no reason and was sabotaging the sound. It was a great test of will, patience, and magic. The festival came together in the end and was one of the best on that tour after all.
GS: Your most prized relationship you've gained from your experiences doing FunkJazz Kafé?
JO: The most "prized" relationship is probably with the many people who have come to FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival over the years and shared some real energy with me. You'd be surprise of the different types that have participated as artists or patrons over the years where great friendships/ partnerships have developed. But one that I'm humbled by is that of Chuck D and Professor Griff of Public Enemy for the extreme generosity and brotherhood they've shared with me...Oh, then there's also the relationships with Omar Lye-Fook MBE, Lil Louis, Dionne Farris, Carl McIntosh (Loose Ends) and Caron Wheeler (Soul II Soul)... they all are like siblings to me now and I really appreciate what we've shared.
GS: What makes soul music so special to you?
JO: Soul alone is just special. It's a signature expression. Personal, cultural and spiritual.
GS: How would you say the festival has evolved over its 19 years?
JO: FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival has evolved into a necessary vehicle that allows innovation in various artistic disciplines without having to comply with mainstream narrowness as seen in our documentary movie, FunkJazz Kafé: Diary Of A Decade (The Story Of a Movement).
GS: Any specific highlights this year that you are particularly excited about?
JO: Everything in the building is an exciting highlight for me! When you think about a place with six levels, multiple interactive suites, roaming performers, fashion exhibits, still models, body painting, stilt walkers, art sculptures, multiple DJs, a super dynamic house band where ANYTHING can happen and a MOVIE about FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival showing the day before to get people educated and inspired about it...man that's all fascinating to me!