For the past 140 years, June 19th has been recognized as African American Emancipation Day. The observance of Juneteenth —as it has come to be called— began in Galveston, Texas, but in the near century and a half since its inception, it had grown in scope and scale. Today, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
The celebration has grown to encompass (in some locales) as much as a month’s worth of festivities, gatherings, solemn reflection and rejoicing. It has also come to include all races, nationalities and religions — a sign of not only solidarity, but of the growing influence of African American arts and culture on the entire world.
One of the most obvious examples of such culture that has eclipsed the boundaries of the U.S.A. is urban pop music. Whether we’re speaking of rap, hip-hop, R & B or soul, these genres have moved around the globe, evolving as they go. Hip-hop in particular, has been assimilated into so many different cultures that nearly every society in the world now boasts its own unique strain of the art form.
This Saturday at 6:30 pm, the 8th Annual E93 Jamz Fest takes place. Timed to coincide roughly with Juneteenth, this event has evolved from a small gathering to one of the most eagerly anticipated urban music concerts of the entire year. After inclement weather forced 2005’s show to be cancelled —and rescheduled— at the last minute (causing a number of entertainers to drop out of the event), organizers have returned to a familiar site they have utilized in the past: Savannah State University’s Tiger Arena.
Cumulus Broadcasting, parent company of E93-FM has sponsored Jamz Fest since it began, and spokesperson Joe Driggers says they’re proud to be able to continue to host such an array of talent.
“We brought the African-American audience together to celebrate their heritage in music. You know, E93 has had the same format for 30 years, and they’re number one in the market. That affords the station a great opportunity to put on something like this to thank our listeners for their dedication over the years.”
According to Driggers, the impressive and diverse roster of artists —both established and rising— that have become the calling card of Jamz Fest are the result of a long selection process.
“The lineup is chosen by E93’s Operations Manager Sam Nelson and Music Director April ‘Baby Girl’ Dobbs. They see who’s really hot in our market based on requests. We do our very best to get the acts that the people really want to hear.”
This year, that list reads like a who’s who of modern-day hip-hop and R & B talent, including headliner Ginuwine (“Pony,” “Same Ol’ G”), Chingy (“Right Thurr”), Maceo (“Nextel Chirp”), Luke & Q, Brooke Valentine, Rasheeda, Bodagia, and perhaps the most unusual artist, Fonzworth Bentley.
“If you remember him, he used to work for Puff Daddy,” explains Driggers.
“He like, carried his cane and stuff.”
So, just carrying P. Diddy’s cane will earn you a record deal these days?
“Well, he was Puff Daddy’s personal assistant,” Driggers explains. “And now, he’s with Sony Urban Music through Epic Records. He’s more of a comedian of sorts, so he’ll be providing some humor for us.”
Driggers says that after 8 years, more and more big name artists are aware of the celebration, and are often eager to sign up. He says that Cumulus was able to book most of the artists on their “wish list.”
“Ginuwine and Chingy were our top picks, and we were lucky to get them.”
As if snagging big name acts wasn’t enough, once more, this year’s Fest will feature a 2-song opening set by a lucky local artist chosen from 20 contestants during showcases at the Southside’s Club Ice. Those winners will “duke it out” the night before the event to determine a winner.
Tickets to this event are $12 in advance ($15 day of show), and are available at a few local outlets, such as E93-FM’s studios, Lester’s Florists and the Savannah Mall Customer Service Desk, as well as online at www.e93fm.com.