Born and raised in Kansas City, photographer, filmmaker and music-lover Diallo French is hoping to expose a broader audience to Kansas City’s enormous contribution to American music through his upcoming documentary, “Kansas City Dreamin.”
The name of the film is a play on the 1965 song, “California Dreamin,” by the Mamas and the Papas and French, who has always been a big dreamer, thought it’d make sense to put a twist on the title for his film.
“It comes from just being from a smaller city, from the Midwest, and having dreams of getting out when everything is against you. Coming from somewhere like Kansas City, you’re dreaming of things that maybe you don’t see around here very often,” French said.
It’s a concept many successful musicians and artists who got their start in Kansas City can relate to, including legendary jazz saxophonist and composer Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, who was born and raised in Kansas City, KS and later moved to New York City to further pursue his music career.
Parker, who will be featured in the film, was the leading figure in the creation of bebop, which is small-band jazz music that has roots in swing, has fast tempos, complex harmonies and relies more on improvisation than group arrangements.
“(Parker) changed the trajectory of popular music,” French said. “Even when you look at rock and roll and hip hop and R&B, you can see little ingredients of what he did back in the 40s and 50s.
“He’s one of the key figures in the development of American music and he’s a guy that was born right here in Kansas City, KS,” he said.
During his nearly 20 years of being a photographer, French has taken thousands of photos of musicians in Kansas City, including singer Janelle Monae, rapper Tech N9ne, jazz singer Oleta Adams and saxophonist Bobby Watson, who will all also be featured in the documentary.
The documentary will follow French’s journey as a music photographer, while telling the history of music in Kansas City and celebrating those who’ve made an impact. In the documentary, French interviews Tech N9ne, musician Lonnie McFadden, poet and historian Glenn North, singer Lisa Henry and more.
French has received support and funding for the project from documentarian Ken Burns through a national fellowship with the Better Angels Society, and recently met his Kickstarter funding goal of more than $20,000 to help with editing and licensing the film.
When the film is finished this fall, French is hoping to have a screening and make the film available on streaming service platforms.
To learn more about French, visit:https://www.javonnefilms.com/.