Many massive music festivals can get a bit tiring with a lineup that accommodates only what’s popular right now as opposed to celebrating the art of music, but the latter is where The Buku Project stood out during its first day on March 10. Lineups that don’t focus on art—or rather, the underground—don’t attract music fans, they attract party fans. While the function of massive’s that bring the party is necessary, its the festivals that celebrate art and art culture that are most memorable. Combined, the integration of mainstream and underground music fans can be a powerful tool—one that teaches acceptance and understanding that diversity is an important element of American culture. In a recent interview for Likido, DJ Clickbait mentioned that historically, dance music belongs to those who don’t feel comfortable among the mainstream. “The history of dance music, the history of the underground, the history of innovation, all come from marginalized communities. People of color, young people, queer people, poor people, anyone who has ever felt ‘less than.’ We’re here,” they said.
What The Buku Project did a great job of in 2017 was integrating these communities. The best example of this from the first day of the festival was during SOPHIE’s set at the back alley stage in the evening. The London-based artist took the stage in a high fashion look reminiscent of something you would see at an exclusive Bartschland party in New York City. Catering to the queer community is important at these events, made obvious by the excitement of the very mixed crowd that loved every second of it. Giving every member of the community a place to be themselves at an event like Buku signifies acceptance and a welcoming attitude, but it also gives perspective that the music world is about a lot more than the party.
If there’s one thing that the current political climate is giving us, no matter your opinions as a reader, it’s art. Times of oppression are often a catalyst for powerful art, and Travis Scott‘s performance at Buku on Friday is a testament to that. Giving power to marginalized communities, as well as a place for those a part of them to go and feel comfortable and accepted in their frustrations and fear is important in such a historically tense place like the south. An image of a bald eagle, a symbol of freedom, going up in flames flashes on the LED panels behind Scott as he performs covers of hugely popular hip-hop hits made by black artists in recent years sends a chilling and powerful thought through my head. We cannot exploit the art that comes from marginalized communities and call ourselves allies if we do not fight with them for equal freedoms and respect. I look around at the crowd of all types of people who scream the lyrics of these songs back to Scott onstage and still see a difference in those who recite Scott’s words with passion and those who do so mindlessly. Music is about more than a good beat or popularity—music is a voice, and Travis Scott used that voice to its full potential during his show at Buku, I just hope people were listening.
Curating a lineup that not only caters to what music fans already like, but shows them new music is what made Buku so diverse and special in 2017. With awesome sets from start to finish from artists like Lil Yachty, Troyboi, Nora En Pure, Jauz (who released a special track in anticipation for the festival that you can download here), and a closing set from Dirtybird icons Shiba San and Justin Jay, the first day of Buku was unforgettable for just about any type of music fan.
Day two of The Buku Music + Art Project in New Orleans will feature artists like Rezz, Cashmere Cat, Deadmau5, Run The Jewels and Tycho. For more information on the festival visit their website here. Travis Scott will be bringing his Birds Eye View tour to The Complex in Salt Lake on May 31, 2017. For tickets and information look here. –Julia Sachs