Void filler: Wacky feeds sophisticated cravings

Ten months ago, Waki Wynn decided to do a favor for a musical friend. The favor– to give the friend some exposure– led them to plan a music/comedy show.

But when more than 500 people showed up at the Charlottesville Performing Arts Center, Wynn, 31, and his business associate, Corey Carter, also 31, realized that something was missing from Charlottesville's entertainment scene: shows for mature African American audiences.

The duo decided to fill the void, and Wacky Entertainment– a play on the life-long mispronunciation of Waki's name (it has a long "a" as in "water")– was born.

Wynn was originally just going to have his friend, R&B vocalist James Muhammad, perform at a small show, to which he'd invite "friends and family." But once the two realized that they could pull off something larger, they opted for a "big name." The headliner would do a comedy show, and Muhammad would open.

Stand-up comedian Ricky Smiley– host of the popular nightly BET comedy showcase "ComicView"– fit the bill, and last June they produced the show.

"After that, everyone wanted to know what we were going to do next, and that's when we realized there was a void here to be filled," Winn says.

"Though there are certain events here and there directed toward broader audiences, for people whose tastes range from contemporary smooth jazz to R&B, Charlottesville is severely lacking. A lot of the older people who have been in the community for years have been saying, 'This is exactly what we've been needing,'" he adds.

Since September, Waki Entertainment has been booking, producing, and hosting monthly concerts at the new Monticello Event and Concert Center downtown on Monticello Avenue. They've been practically sold out every time (the venue holds about 350), Wynn reports proudly.

Recent performers include Earl Carter and Jackiem Joyner, as well as several musicians on the Three Keys Music label. Jazz pianist Marcus Johnson headlined a January 25 Computers4Kids benefit concert.

"One of the things we wanted to do was see how much the community would really support us," Wynn says, so although fliers were put up for the first show in the series, all publicity since has "basically been word of mouth."

For now, Wynn and Carter are keeping their day jobs– Wynn at AIMR (the Association for Investment Management Research), and Carter as an underwriter for State Farm Insurance.

Wacky Entertainment plans to continue their Charlottesville Jazz Showcase begun in 2002, with local acts such as David Diceson, Bob Ballwin, the group Phase II, and Macille Parker (who played with James Brown).

"Fifty or sixty years ago and before," Carter says, "people had the wherewithal to provide this type of entertainment here in the community– why not in 2003?"