Imagine a time before computers before cell phones, how did musicians/singers/rappers record there stuff? Yes there were professional music studios that cost an arm and a leg in the 80’s and early 90’s. Joe Capers, a blind musician, producer and engineer and friends built the first completely accessible studio in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Oakland Hills, that opened in August 1989 and recorded artists like Tony, Toni, Tone, young MC Hammer, Digital Underground, Too Short, Dawn Robinson of EnVouge and many more that went on, as we now know to be legends in the Hip-Hop & Soul arena locally and nationally.
Joe Capers’s, J-Jam studio was not only where some of the hottest Oakland Soul and early Hip-Hop artists came to record but quiet as kept, the studio was where a lot of Oakland youth at that time got off the streets and Joe taught them to produce and engineer, making his studio affordable in a time before home recordings studios became what they are today.
Joe Capers passed away on November 27th/2002 and for almost five plus years starting in 2010 Naru Kwina of Oakland who knew the late Joe Capers and used to go to Joe’s studio, J-Jam in the Oakland Hills been working on a film about Joe’s life. Soon Naru, I and film crew will be going back to Joe’s house in the Oakland Hills to see who lives there now and to see if the studio is still there in the basement.
J-Jam studio and Joe Capers are Oakland Black, disabled and music history that needs to be taught to this generation and future generations to come. This is why Naru and I convinced former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to officially make August Joe Capers’ month and since that official proclamation in 2013 we continue to build on this month by completing the film and to bring people in Oakland together every August that will continue to grow into a concert featuring some of the artists who recorded at J-Jam with local up coming artists who are disabled along side non-disabled artists.
As we sit here in 2016 with our computers with all kinds of music software that turns our homes into a studio just like that, but just remember who paved the way and made it accessible by hand. Continue the celebrate the man, his music, his creation and what he left for this and next generation of Oaklanders this Augest in your own way, knowing that Naru, I and crew are at work finishing the Joe Capers’ film.
Black man with dark glass with a red, white & blue jogging suit on opening up a small box in front of him.
By Leroy F. Moore Jr.