Art + Soul returns with music, food and skating

You can flip the jambalaya, twirl (or trip) on a skating rink, dance to the legendary Faye Carol, and shake what your mom gave you at Oakland’s Art + Soul festival next Saturday — and for free, no less.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the event, recognized as one of the best music festivals in the region, which returns after a two-year hiatus caused by COVID-19. Held in the heart of Oakland at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, the return of this quintessentially Oakland event is symbolic of the burgeoning recovery from the pandemic.

Organizers are “beyond thrilled” to be back in downtown Oakland, according to Samee Roberts, executive producer of Art + Soul. “The community signaled they couldn’t wait for the event,” Roberts said — not surprising given the festival has drawn as many as 30,000 people in the past.

This year’s event is just one day long, encompassing five city blocks around 14th and Broadway and taking place from noon to 6 p.m. Unlike previous festivals, admission is free.


“It’s free to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. We always wanted it to be free, but it didn’t work out,” Roberts said. “It’s still not really in pencil, but we’re doing it anyway.”

Faye Carol will premiere her musical sequel, “Blues, Baroque and Bars: From the Streets to the Symphony,” at Art + Soul, accompanied by musicians including former Parliament-Funkadelic drummer Dennis Chambers and Oakland-based MC Ryan Nicole , bringing the bars.

“The work is a tribute. It traces the history of black people in America through music. It’s about how blues music inspired other musical genres to develop – everything from roots to hip- poof,” Roberts said.

Classically trained Oakland-born pianist Kev Choice, rapper/singer/songwriter Jonah Melvon and three-time Grammy-nominated Alphabet Rockers are some of the other musicians on the long list of performers. .

Plus, people who attend the event can have fun (or embarrass themselves) at an ice rink, consume all kinds of interesting edibles, and shop for art, jewelry, clothing, and other items in the artisan kiosks of the festival.

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Copyright © 2022 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, redistribution, or other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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