A meeting of souls took place this crisp November 15 – 18 in the home of Motown, of all appropriate places, where we were left will a faint glimmer of hope for the future of popular music… a long, chilly weekend filled with warm performances and parties to remind us in these worrysome times in pop culture – an era of gangsta rap, intoxicated divas, and excessive bling – that there is indeed still reason to believe in true musicianship and artistry with a conscious message. This meeting was the 2nd Annual Urban Organic Festival, which this year also included the 1st Annual SoulTracks Music Awards. And it all went down in Detroit.

When Fusicology was asked to get involved as a media sponsor for the UOF 2007, we knew we supported it simply due to the amazing roster of performing talent (all of whom have appeared in the feature event listings on Fusicology.com) and other partners. Over 2 dozen classic and rising sould artists performed over the course of 4 days filled with concerts, dance parties, awards shows, music industry panels, film sessions, and networking events. Yet, we still say, this was more like a summit – or an experience – than a festival. Soul artists, producers, musicians, promoters, managers, publicists, filmmakers, and just plain hard-core fans descended on the D and braved the chilly weather for one reason: to blend with “their people” from all over North & South America.

Thursday began with check-in at the gorgeously rennovated Hotel St. Regis on a historical block of downtown’s New Center, and a hang at the new neighborhood watering hole, Northern Lights Lounge, just up the street & around the block, as the UOF kicked-off with “The Heavy Rhyme Experience” featuring local old-skool hip-hop group, 5 ELA, with guest appearances from MCs Baatin (of Slum Village) and Finale. DJs Sicari & Jose Barritos kept heads bouncin. All we know after that one is that we are pretty darn psyched about 5 ELA’s secret forthcoming collabo project with Slum Village’s T3, Finale, numnerous other guest stars, and backed by beats from Black Milk. Ssshhhhh…

Friday was just about our only day to just take in the city with a little site-seeing… such as the infamous Motown Museum, also just up the street from our hotel on W. Grand Blvd – now dubbed “Berry Gordy Blvd.” Early evening brought the semi-formal 1st Annual SoulTracks Readers Choice Music Awards at the city’s convention center. Cobo Center, on the Detroit River. SoulTracks.com allowed subscribers to nominae and vote for their favorite soul atists and projects of the year via this Ann Arbor, MI – based cyber hub for biographies, discographies, and release info for both classic and emerging true soul artists. Nominated artists from cities all over North & South America flew in to participate in this new soul-centric awards ceremony. The evening glistened with performances and cheer, only to be followed by an intimate VIP afterparty at the Jazz Cafe of the historial Detroit Music Hall in Harmonie Park where we crowded in and kicked-off our heels ’til 2am to the sounds of an all-star jam featuring Angela Johnson, Gordon Chambers, Frank McComb, Eric Roberson, Maya Azucena, Russell Taylor, Yahzarah, Monica Blaire, Kloud 9, Malik Alston, and more…

OK, so we won’t hold back – the winners of this year’s 7 SoulTracks Awards are:

Artist of the Year: KENDRA ROSS

Group / Duo of the Year: KLOUD NINE

Song of the Year: ANTHONY DAVID ft. INDIA ARIE – “Words” (Atlanta)

Male Vocalist of the Year: PHIL PERRY

Female Vocalist of the Year: MAYSA (Incognito)

Album of the Year: RAHSAAN PATTERSON – “Wines & Spirits”

2007 Lifetime Achievement Award: RUSSELL THOMPKINS JR. (Philly)

*For the complete list of nominees, please visit: http://www.soultracks.com

Saturday had us up early, despite our very late night out with the stars, for a classic Detroit breakfast at Eastern Market’s Russell Street Deli, just before jamming over, coffee in hand, to the UOF industry workshop on “How To Make It As An Independent” (Artist, that is) in this mean thing we call the music industry. 7 Panelists, including Fusicology’s own Jocelyne Ninneman, Jodine Dorce, Frances Jaye, and our publicist, Fiona Bloom, took the helm with representatives from companies such as Sony/BMG and Sirius Cable Radio to discuss what the most important things are for strivng soul artists to do and expect when trying to make (for real) “out here.” Chronic evolution of image and persona, staying true to oneself, consciousness of goals, business mentality, and contracts, contracts, contracts… were some of the key points in the talks.

A brief networking / coffee break, and then we were still for a few hours to view some recent documentaries on Philly Soul – yesterday & today, Detroit’s Motown-Techno sound creation, and finally, the state of popular music today and where we may, or may not be, headed in the ears of future generations… quite the deep afternoon.

Dinner break, then back to the MOCAD gallery on Woodward Ave. where we had to literally fight for standing-room only space to get up close & personal with Suai, Cel, Jon Bibbs, Melissa Young, Monica Blaire, Anthony David, Amp Fiddler, and the Guest of Honor…. the legendary master of the vibes, Roy Ayers! The opportunity to experience Ayers play in such an intimate setting, and for him to jam with some of our contemporary favorites like Amp Fiddler just took the cake. Amp peddled his own CDs from his shoulder bag from the stage to prove a point – that there ain’t no shame in this game. Then, he prepared to impromptu jam with Roy & the Bamm band on “Sunshine.”

The clock chimed midnight and we zoomed on over to the notorious underground dance culure spot, the JoHanson-Charles Gallery in Eastern Market, for the official Roy Ayers afterparty featuring DJs Sean Sax (Soul On Ice – Tornoto), Waajeed (PPP / Bling47), and Kai Alce (MI / MJQ – Atlanta), hosted by yours truly, Fusicology. A packed warehouse gallery got lifted to the classic soul, funk, and house of these phenominal jocks until the wee hours of the morning…

Sunday found some of us up by noon-ish to roll on down to the UOF netowrking brunch at Lola’s in Harmonie Park. Bottomless mimosas and eggs benedict to smooth nu-jazz and lounge house kept our tired dogs peppy while we linked with so many of our friends and colleagues from across the country. Disco-naptime in the late afternoon and early evening, then back down the street and around the block to Northern Lights Lounge for one last soulful set before we skip town.

Sunday’s closing jam proved that somettimes the most impromptu sets are the best. We witnessed the likes of Amp Fiddler, Alison “Diva Blue” Crockett, Jon Bibbs, Monica Blaire, Sundiata OM, Angelique Nicole, Duminie Deporres, and the ladies of funk-fusion group, Lola Valley, mesh and meld until the humble stage became a beacon light in hip, urban music. As if that wasn’t enough, next Jeremy Ellis aka AYRO took the captain’s wheel for his farewell party (on his way to LA this month) with his geeky MPC & keys elctro-get-up set-up and proceeded to get the whole house jumpin’ to his infamous one-man electro-love-funk set… aka More Dance in Your Pants 😉 Then, just when we thought we couldn’t take anymore, Mr. Beatdown himself, DJ Mike “Agent X” Clark got behind the decks to grind us into the tiny dancefloor with a brief, yet solid, James Brown – infused funky deep house set. And that was a wrap.

Until next year… when we expect most of these folks will be busy fitting their outfits for the Grammys or something, keep supporting that quality, conscious music we know & love! (‘Cause Kanye wasn’t the first to do it!)

–> Check out our photo wrap-up here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fusicology/sets/72157603263767607/

*Props to our mad-hard-workin’ Toronto crew, Simon, Jessica, and Kendall, for all their team spirit this weekend!

*Props to our Atlanta & Dallas reps, Jodine & Frances, for playing Hostesses with the Mostesses at several events!

*Thank you to Tafari Steveson-Howard for sharing some of his photos.

Written by Jocelyne Ninneman for Fusicology.


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