Soul Junction Music Festival is molding the new Historic West End with good vibes

 By Matt Cosper

September 12, 2017

Soul Junction started with a conversation. About a year and a half ago, Robert Krumbine at Charlotte Center City Partners and CCCP’s Director of Historic West End, Alysia Osborne reached out to local raconteur, poet, theatre producer, and master of ceremonies Quentin Talley and asked him to curate a new music festival. This little cabal put its collective heads together and envisioned a family-friendly celebration of the culture and people of Charlotte’s Historic West End. At the center of the West End’s culture is music: jazz, blues, hip-hop, rock and soul. The idea had appeal: The Knight Foundation and Johnson C. Smith University came on board and added their two cents, and so the seeds were sown and Soul Junction evolved from there.

Quentin Talley Photo: Kurt Shackelford

Talley, a Winthrop alum, is wide open, whip smart and possess both a depth of insight and an easy laugh. I talked with him recently while he was on a break from rehearsing his company OnQ production’s next show A Brown Tale, directed by the legendary Lou Bellamy. Talley gave me insight into the origins of Soul Junction, the role it plays in the West End community and what, as project curator, he’s looking forward to most about this year’s festival.

The thing that continued to jump to the forefront of our conversation was community. Talley bemoaned the fact that in a community as busy as the West End, opportunities to come together, take a minute and celebrate are sorely needed. Soul Junction, on the campus of Johnson C. Smith, serves just that purpose, acting as a magnet drawing together the elements that make the West End great: People, Food and Music. And not just any old music, but music born and bred in the community. Charlotte has produced a wealth of musical talent. A great example is the sublime trumpeter (and Northwest School of the Arts Alum) Ashlin Parker. Parker, who is a Grammy Award winner and is in the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, also played the festival last year. On the association Talley mentioned: “I don’t know that people realize the amount of talent that are either from here and/or still live here. People gig all the time and so it’s nice to have everybody in one central location. And so last year was a little like a family reunion. Folks brought their families, you know you had kids playing while their parents were jamming out to the music, food trucks, the whole nine yards.”

Grammy award-winning trumpeter and Charlotte native, Ashlin Parker.

The bar is set high after last year’s success. Talley is hopeful that this year’s festival will match that community-centered, family reunion vibe. As a curator he’s also thrilled to be able to showcase talented locals alongside national acts that also have a Charlotte connection. He’s most excited to catch a set by Georgia Ann Muldrow, who has cut tracks with everyone from Mos Def to Erykah Badu, and who has built a cult following over the last 15 years. Talley added: “And little did I know, when I reached out to her, that she also has family here. Pretty much her whole mom’s side of the family grew up here, in I think she said either First Ward or Third Ward.”

With a strong slate of artists including Derrick Hodge, Joanna Teters, Arsena Shroeder, Miss Muldrow, G Yamazawa, and Shelby J performing with food from Zaroob Halal, Libretto’s Pizza and Cuzzo’s Cuisine (among others), Soul Junction’s sophomore year promises to be a good time.

Soul Junction events are free and will run from 5-10 p.m. on Friday, September 15 and from 3-10 p.m. on Saturday, September 16 on the Campus of Johnson C. Smith University.

Check out the full music schedule at SoulJunctionCLT.com and be sure to register for the event for free, here.

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