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FunkJazz Kafé strikes back

After a six-year hiatus, the acclaimed arts and music festival returns



Ask Jason Orr when the FunkJazz Kafé is making a comeback, and he'll undoubtedly reply: "Come back? It never left!"

Rooted in the idea that Orr is the creator and — for all intents and purposes — the living personification of the 19-year-old music and arts festival, and that he has never permanently left Atlanta, his answer to the question rings true. That said, the actual FunkJazz event — you know, the one that used to go down on a quasi-quarterly basis at various venues (but most famously the Tabernacle) and featured visual art, food, fashion, dancing, some of the city's top DJs, live music by a rotating cast of on-the-rise and big-time soul/hip-hop artists, and more? — hasn't taken place in almost six years.

And, although a documentary about FunkJazz, produced/directed by Orr and titled Diary of a Decade, has been touring the nation for about two years — allowing viewers to relive the near-legendary event on screen — the absence of the festival has been noticeable. Which makes the event's, well, comeback on Sat., July 13, a really big deal. And according to Orr, it's right on time.

"With the movie(screened on July 12) making the rounds across the country and receiving acclaim from other places that have never seen or heard of FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival, I feel it's time to let new faces have this experience before we jump into planning 20th-year celebrations," Orr says.

This new iteration of FunkJazz, which is an official part of the 2013 National Black Arts Festival, will reportedly follow in the footsteps of previous installments in a lot of ways — the Tabernacle is, for example, once again the venue. And, as usual, an eclectic mix of specialty rooms will be located throughout the building for attendees to explore. There has been talk of a slow-drag room this year, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Another element of FunkJazz that remains unchanged is the air of secrecy regarding the artists who are slated to take the stage during the live performance portion of the night. Past performers included talents like Jill Scott, Janelle Monáe, Public Enemy, Omar, Goodie Mob, Erykah Badu, and more — all of whom audiences weren't aware of until showtime. So is there any chance that folks can get a hint to who they'll see this go round? "No," Orr says. "We are not a concert promotions entity. We are a cultural arts, music, and wellness festival. We are fortunate enough to introduce new artistic talents to you in abundance without selling out to our core audience. That has been one of the keys to the longevity of FunkJazz Kafé. Think about it!"

Of course, some longtime FunkJazzophiles are wondering if the latest edition can replicate the notoriously good vibes of previous shindigs. To that Orr says: "Trust me."

He adds, "A lady asked me on the street, 'Is this one going to be good?' And my reply was 'After 47 festivals and almost 20 years, have you been to a bad one?" Orr says. "It's really all about the energy and excitement that people come in with. We've never had a fight break out, and I've met over a thousand people who have said that they met their wife or husband at FunkJazz Kafé — so that says a lot to the love vibration in the building."

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