With a current over saturation on the music festival market during any given festival season, it’s almost impossible to decide which one is worth traveling for. I’ve noticed over the last few years that each festival generally houses the same lineup—plus or minus a few—each year, and that one lineup at the beginning of a season will generally be a dead giveaway of what to expect for the remainder of the summer. Case in point, one time I saw Ellie Goulding four times in a three-month span because she played every festival I went to. If that’s going to be the case every year, what’s my incentive to travel for music festivals? None. Luckily, there’s a few festivals that stand out and have more to offer than three days of spectatorship for their patrons. At the top of my list of festivals that stand out is The Buku Music + Arts Project, which starts today in the heart of New Orleans at Mardi Gras World.
Aside from simply being in New Orleans, a city filled with rich history, The Buku Project offers a killer taste of NOLA culture in the incredibly well-curated lineup, showcase of local artists, mardi gras theme and selection of local foods available within the festival grounds. Few festivals are worth traveling to if you have to spend three days missing the opportunity to get a taste of a new culture, but Buku’s ability to honor the strong local culture is one that makes it worth returning to nearly every year. Here are 10 acts on the bill for The Buku Music + Art Project that made it stand out in 2017:
As a longtime fan of electronic music, Deadmau5 was one of the original artists that got me into the genre. Having never had the opportunity to see him live until now, his set at Buku is one that I won’t be missing. Further, his influence on careers of some of my current favorite artists such as Rezz has reinforced my appreciation for Deadmau5. 2017 also marks a step in the artists career as a live act, as his upcoming tour promises a larger production complete with robotics and state of the art LED panels called the Cube 2.1, which you can watch the construction of here in a video set to “Let Go,” one of the tracks off of his latest album, W:/2016ALBUM/, that released last December on his label, Mau5trap.
Since the release of his debut studio album, Rodeo, in 2016, Travis Scott has been a household names among hip hop fans around the world. Following the success of tracks like “Antidote,” Scott’s success has been comparable to the likes of A$AP Rocky and Young Thug, whose sleeper hits have become integral parts of american music culture and helped bridge the gap between high fashion and hip hop as a luxury brand that go hand in hand with one another. The release of Scott’s second studio album, Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard top 200 has pushed him into the foreground of American Hip Hop and helped to further establish his place in the music world.
When Young Thug shook the world last fall with the release of the cover photo for Jeffery, the think pieces and explications of his challenge to black masculinity came rolling in. My interest in this artist piqued in his intention to start conversation on such a topic by wearing a dress in his album cover, but the album itself is where my appreciation for the rapper was ultimately gained. Similar to Travis Scott, Young Thug became somewhat of a sleeper hit in popular culture with this release, while his gender fluid attire placed him into the world of fashion when it caught the attention of VFILES in the Fall of 2016. While Young Thug isn’t the first artist to challenge masculinity and gender identity (*cough* Prince *cough*), his influence on merging hip-hop and gender fluidity in fashion are important paradigms to the current discourse.
My fascination with this Norwegian producer began back in 2014 when I caught Cashmere Cat playing midday in Buku Festival’s Back Alley stage. I had heard some grapevine talk that this was an artist to keep on my radar, and his set at Buku was enough to keep me pressing play on his debut EP, Mirror Maru on Soundcloud for the following month. Later that year, talk of a collaboration with Ariana Grande confused and excited me, as I realized the artists lighthearted and sparkling beats would compliment Grande’s brand and voice well. Since then, Cashmere Cat has been a background producer on many of todays biggest pop hits, having contributed on albums such as The Life of Pablo by Kanye West by producing the music for “Wolves,” and Britney Spears‘ Glory. More recently, Cashmere Cat has been preparing for the release of his debut studio album, Wild Love, and you can check out his latest collaboration with SOPHIE (another act on the Buku bill) and Camilla Cabello here.
Among the many ploys of the ‘masked producer’ in 2017, one that seems to stand out as more of an artistic endeavor than a marketing tactic is Malaa, the supposed anonymous collaboration of DJ Snake and Tchami. Upon googling “Who is Malaa?” a question that the artists management seems to want their audience to ask, the only answer that comes up are a few speculative blog posts on the projects true identity and a few links to mixes created by the enigma themselves. While the identity of the producer remains in question, their music speaks enough volume to generate a fanbase based on the quality of the music rather than the way the music is marketed toward its audience.
Sonically similar to Malaa in terms of genre, Rezz is one of my favorite new artists to breakthrough the festival circuit in the last year. It’s seldom that I hear new music that makes me want to dig deeper into the message that the artist intended to send, but Rezz has consistently interested me with each new release since I discovered her early last year. The Canadian artists dark, synth heavy tracks are reminiscent of metal guitar riffs and bring a sort of passion to the crowd in her live shows that can’t be comparable to anyone I’ve seen in recent months.
I first discovered Oshi when Ghasper dropped the young artists remix of Kali Uchis‘ “Ridin’ Round” in a set. The bubbly synth and trap sounds paired brilliantly with the original song to create an unapologetically cute remix that was immediately put on repeat. The Buku Projects attention to detail in curating a lineup like this was what really made it stand out this year. Even the smaller acts on the bill seem to fit a consistent intention to create a cohesive mix of sound within the festival that keeps a consistent energy throughout the event, which is hard with a festival that isn’t specific to one genre.
A Dirtybird classic paired with one of the labels hottest up-and-coming artists. Any fan of house and techno knows either of these artists well, so the chance to see them play B2B in an intimate setting such as the back alley stage at The Buku Project is a treat. The Buku Projects back alley stage is one of their smaller stages, but as the stage sits next to the waters of the Mississippi River underneath a bridge, the industrial feeling of being in a back alley creates a setting that’s perfect for a Dirtybird show.
Since the release of their first single, “Lemonade,” back in 2014, SOPHIE’s rise to fame came quickly when the artist experimented with branding during the 2015 SXSW festival under a side project, QT. The project, which released only one song, “Hey QT,” was presented as a launch for a fictional energy drink of the projects same name. With the release of their first studio EP, Product in 2015 on Numbers, SOPHIE quickly became a talked about artist known for their signature metallic, harsh electro-pop sound that incorporates nostalgic 8-bit sounds with heavy synth and accompanied by 4-d graphic design models for visuals. What makes a SOPHIE appearance at The Buku Project so anticipated is that it represents the queer community in ways the festival never did before. Additionally, the artist rarely tours. With the exception of a few festival appearances here and there, a US show is a rare occurrence for an artist with such a large but niche fan base.
Incorporating a live set up similar to the likes of Robert DeLong with more of a hip-hop influence, Lido’s live shows are both entertaining to watch and hear. As the producer for popular singles such as Chance The Rapper‘s “Angels” and “Tokyo Narita” featuring sultry sad girl, Halsey, Lido’s musical talents are not something to sleep on.
The Buku Project is an annual music festival in the heart of New Orleans at Mardi Gras World that takes place every March. For more information visit their website here. –Julia Sachs