Positive vibrations. Happy people. Cross-generational connections.
Those are just a few of the descriptions that characterize Oba Amitabha's nightlife and music events. He has officially been an organizer on the Charlotte party scene since 2008, but Amitabha's latest business venture, Funk-shun, is quickly transforming from alternative nightlife events into a full-fledged lifestyle movement.
Creative Loafing got a chance to sit down with this King of Infinite Light to learn more about his plans for shifting Charlotte's nightlife and local music culture.
Creative Loafing: How did you get the name Oba Amitabha?
Oba Amitabha: My name is David Parker, but I go by Oba Amitabha. Oba is from the Yoruba dialect in West Africa. It means King. I got it when I spent some time in D.C. I had an interesting conversation with someone on the Metro Bus about my interpretation of things that were happening in D.C. That person said, "I am going to call you Oba" and it just stuck. Amitabha means Buddha of Infinite Light. That came about because I am just trying to shine light in general and act as a source of light between interactions with people.
What lured you into becoming a source for bringing people together?
I was doing house parties. The house parties had a community feel. You knew if you came, there was not going to be any drama. If you did not come to dance, then why did you come? That has always been the tone. But the house parties were always getting shut down. When I was 18, one of my house parties was getting shut down again. It was a police officer who had come to shut it down for his third time in a row. He had written me several tickets for sound-ordinance violations. By the third time he said, "You should really think about just renting out a venue and throwing a party there."
When the police officer said that, a light just went off. I was like, "Hey we got something here." About a week after that interaction with the officer I started contacting venues.
Jody Sullivan, the current owner of the Roxbury, gave me my first shot to create a nightlife experience at a venue in Uptown. Jody gave me and my friends the chance to do our first event back in 2008 at the Breakfast Club. It was titled Excuse Me Miss 20 is the New 30. We had a great turn-out.
What is your biggest challenge working in the Charlotte nightlife market?
I think getting people within Charlotte's popular culture to step out of their comfort zone is the biggest challenge. I started going out around Charlotte a lot and it was not until I went to Dharma Nightclub in 2011 that I saw a really diverse crowd and the focus was solely on nothing but the music. Dharma showed me that it was possible to find a crowd in Charlotte that was really into just music and the fun.
Tell me about Funk-Shun.
Funk-Shun was inspired by Funkadelic, you know that jazzy meditation approach through dreaming. And then mix that with a little Kendrick Lamar and the mindset that we are out here just trying to function. We are trying to create an alternative space where people can connect, create and rejuvenate through music that is not watered down.
Funk-Shun has really been picking up a lot of momentum because of that community and connection aspect. We feature vendors and local artists, but what people are drawn to most is the positive. When you come, you know we are going to dance, we're going have fun, we're going to connect and meet people, and we are going to do stuff after.
The first Funk-Shun was a house show in Washington D.C. during the 2016 Broccoli City Festival, a go-green event that encourages sustainability. The line-up for the Broccoli City Festival was awesome, and we connected with some great influencers in that market that were about that stratosphere vision of community and creativity. People were out at our unofficial after-party Funk-Shun launch until about 5 a.m.
What's next on the Funk-Shun agenda?
We are working to make Funk-Shun a conduit to get Charlotte artists showcased in the spaces we are connecting to outside of Charlotte. Those connections we made in D.C. at the Broccoli City Festival now become conduit connections through Funk-Shun to the Charlotte artists we showcase at our nightlife events.But in addition to being a conduit, what has gone a long way with Funk-Shun is getting out of the nightclub and going on these mountain hikes and camping retreats with people. There is still music involved, but we are taking it to alternative settings like campsites, where we can do more human-to-human bonding activities with one another.
- Amitabha (left) both plugged in and blissed out on a nature walk with rapper Black Linen. (Photo by Mark Kemp)
When can folks catch the next Oba-created experience?
People can come out to Flight Music Hall, across from Spirit Square, for our day party summer series For the Culture. The kick-off for the series is Memorial Day Weekend., Sunday, May 28, from 6-8 p.m. The line-up will be (actor, lyricist, poet and singer) Mason Parker, (OnQ Theater's) Quentin Talley, (rapper) Black Linen, DJ SPK, (rapper and actor) Maf Maddix, (singer) Autumn Rainwater, and (producer/DJ/"finger-drummer") Justin Aswell.