The old-school funk is free …

Sometimes a new idea is so important it changes history: Imagine what direction painting might have taken without Picasso, or what contemporary music might sound like, were it not for the influence of funk?

In the beginning (sometime during 1959), an epic musical extravaganza was created. The Parliaments were a doo-wop/soul band that showcased the genius vocal harmonies of its five original members: Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Grady Thomas, Calvin Simon, Ray Davis (a previous member of The Temptations) and George Clinton. The group gained mainstream recognition in 1967 with its first charting single, “(I Wanna) Testify.”

Eventually, the singers merged forces with the karmically complementary band Funkadelic — and the now-legendary Parliament-Funkadelic was unleashed upon the world.

Many of the original members of this famous funk fusion currently are involved in their own solo projects; however, with the notable exception of Clinton, the other four founding Parliaments are still making music together in a band known as “The Original P.”

Politics aside, The Original P remains the foundation of the whole “Parliafunkia thang,” as this entirely family-run organization has come to be called (the band includes offspring of the original Parliaments, as well as original Funkadelic members). The group plays many of the classics — such as “Flash Light,” “Maggot Brain” and “Atomic Dog” — with a focus on intricate vocal arrangements that can involve 10-voice harmonies. In addition to its four lead vocalists, The Original P also numbers Emerald Davis, Sonja Holmes and Jackie Love on background vocals; Ben Powers Jr. on drums and vocals; Billy Mims on guitar and vocals; Derrick Davis on bass and vocals; Douglas Knight-Smith on keys, sax and guitar; Baatin Muhammad on keys, sax and guitar; and Peter Pisarczyk on keyboards.

In a recent interview, Fuzzy Haskins explained a little more about what The Original P is all about.

“This act gives us the chance to perform these songs the way they were meant to be heard, with solid arrangements and clear vocal harmonies,” he reveals. “We were involved in the creation of these songs and they are our children. They’re why we were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.”

Clip Payne, a current member of George Clinton and The P-Funk All Stars, allows: “The Original P sound good. They are older and more relaxed, while we rage against the machine.” He takes care to specify the band’s origins: “The original Parliament is who they are, not the original P-Funk. There’s a bit of confusion about that.”

He continues, “If you want a full spectrum of the whole Parliament-Funkadelic sound, you should check out [The Original P].”

Though Original P members have reached a definite musical maturity, their live shows are “more like a big party than a concert. It’s not unlikely for them to invite half of the audience on-stage to help sing a chorus,” reports Adam Strange, member of a local funk band. With respect to the immortalized philosophy behind the song “Give Up The Funk,” The Original P will play a free show as part of this year’s Goombay Festival, on a stage set up in the middle of Market Street (and, thus, it might be a little tricky to “tear the roof off the sucka”).

As they once moved history, The Original P continue to move fans. Avid listener Sista Funk testifies: “When The Original P play, heaven gets a little closer to earth because God comes down to listen to what is happening on stage!”

The Original P will play the 18th annual Goombay Festival Saturday, Aug. 26, beginning at 8 p.m.

“Goombay” is a West African term meaning rhythm or drum, first used to describe a celebration that took place in Bermuda in the days of slavery. For one day every year, the slaves were “freed,” and they danced in the streets wearing headdresses, masks and colorful costumes.

Music in the street — always free — remains the central theme of the Asheville event, which showcases the essence of African-Caribbean culture in the form of traditional foods, arts and crafts, and hot, high-energy live shows. Goombay 2000 will run Friday, Aug. 25, through Sunday, Aug. 27, in and around “The Block,” located south of Pack Square and encompassing Eagle and South Market streets.

The festival’s opening ceremony (held Friday night at City/County Plaza, beginning at 6 p.m.) will be opened by six-member Jamaican reggae group Kaya and capped with a performance by North Carolina-born saxophonist/composer Stanley Baird, who plays a unique fusion of jazz and traditional Caribbean rhythms.

Saturday’s festivities will be ushered in by a 100-drummer parade, beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Pack Square and ending in front of the historic YMI Cultural Center on Market Street. The festival also includes an 11 a.m. outdoor worship service on Sunday morning and numerous children’s activities.

For more info about Goombay 2000, call the YMI Cultural Center at 252-4614.

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