Buku lineup heavy with electronics, while Big Freedia gives dance lessons
Three years old and growing, the Buku Music + Art Project, New Orleans’ newest major music festival, returns to Mardi Gras World Friday and Saturday.
Buku bills itself as “progressive-music festival meets underground dance party.” Set amidst the former Market Street Power Plant, Mississippi River, Public Belt Railroad and a Mardi Gras float manufacturing warehouse, Buku offers a uniquely urban setting for a music festival.
Buku’s lineup is heavy with electronic dance music artists, including the internationally famous French producer and DJ, David Guetta. But there’s also room for hip-hop and bounce acts, including New Orleans’ Big Freedia, and adventurous rock bands, most significantly Oklahoma’s the Flaming Lips (see accompanying story).
Buku features five music stages, 71 acts on indoor and outdoor stages, local food vendors and custom-made art installations.
Unlike the much larger New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and fall’s Voodoo Music and Arts Experience, Buku’s Mardi Gras World locale in the Warehouse District is within walking distance of French Quarter and Canal Street area hotels. The walk shouldn’t bother the event’s mostly young patrons a bit. There’s also public transportation and limited parking at the Convention Center.
This year’s Buku lineup also includes rapper Nas, performing in the 20th anniversary year of his debut album, “Illmatic”; hip-hop group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony; new hip-act star Schoolboy Q; Texas indie-rock band Explosions in the Sky and, returning to New Orleans following their Voodoo appearance last year, world-music dance act Beats Antique; and the highlighted acts below.
Ellie Goulding: She needs your love
The major artists this year at the Power Plant Stage, the festival’s main stage, include Friday headliner Ellie Goulding. A resident of central London who grew up in a Herefordshire village, Goulding’s songs weave a passionate hybrid of pop, dance and folk music.
Even before the U.K. release of Goulding’s debut album, “Lights,” she made the top of the BBC’s “Sound of 2010” poll. “Lights,” featuring the hit single “Starry Eyed,” topped the British charts. The album’s subsequent re-release with seven new songs (renamed “Bright Lights”) featured a hit remake of classic Elton John’s classic ballad, “Your Song.”
In the U.S., the “Lights” title song became a Top 40 radio hit, selling three million copies. Goulding followed “Lights” success with 2012’s “Halcyon,” expanding upon her already imaginative sonic palette.
David Guetta: He makes the world dance
Performing Saturday on the Power Plant Stage, Paris native David Guetta is a global dance-music star. Following his 2001 single, “Just a Little More Love” (featuring American gospel singer Chris Willis), Guetta released an illegal remix of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” After Bowie gave the French DJ his blessing for a legitimate release of the song, Guetta got a huge hit with it.
An EDM staple at the Spanish island resort Ibiza’s summer dance events, Guetta sold a million copies of his album “One Love” (featuring guests Kelly Rowland, Akon and Chris Willis). He contributed to the Black Eyed Peas’ hit, “I Gotta Feeling” and, in 2011, released his “Nothing But the Beat” album (featuring Lil Wayne, Flo Rida, Usher and Chris Brown).
Big Freedia: Doing the twerk
New Orleans’ own Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia, will make two Buku appearances. Friday, she will perform at the Float Den Stage and, at the VIP-only S.S. Buku Stage, conduct “Big Freedia’s Twerk Lesson.”
In the 20 years before Miley Cyrus twerked in her 2013 music video, “We Can’t Stop,” and twerked again during an infamous MTV Music Video Awards performance, New Orleans bounce artists Big Freedia, Katey Red and others were performing bounce, a subgenre of hip-hop, for local audiences.
Underground no more, Big Freedia, born Freddie Ross, is officially mainstream. She’s toured the U.S. with her dancers, the Divas, and appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Last Call with Carson Daly” and HBO’s “Treme.” A debut album is in the works as well as a twerk-dance instructional DVD.