Persona

According to the Louisiana Office of Tourism, Louisiana hosts over 400 festivals a year. In 2021, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau – now New Orleans & Co. – said that more than 130 of the about 400 festivals were located in the Crescent City. New Orleans is known for its music, food, history and celebration culture, so it’s no wonder we hold events more than four months out of the year.

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One festival celebrating a big anniversary this year is BUKU Music + Art Project. BUKU is a two-day festival, founded in 2012 by Dante DiPasquale and Reeves Price, that celebrates music and art with a heavy presence of local entertainers. After 10 years of BUKU fest, I asked co-founder Reeves Price to let us know more about the festival, its commitment to the community and the return of festivals in New Orleans.

Q: How did BUKU get started? [Dante DiPasquale and I] had been producing and promoting smaller concerts for a few years but always loved festivals and had dreamed of having our own. Festivals offer so much more from a creative standpoint than a concert in a club or theater and we were anxious to have a larger and more flexible canvas to bring our vision to life.

Q: Why is it important for BUKU to highlight local talent? The local community is who supports our event and it’s important that we support it back. There are so many great local artists working hard, waiting to catch a break and we just want to do our best to help them. People that attend BUKU also want to discover new music and artists and showcasing the local talent is a great way to show them some new stuff that’s fresh. It’s a no-brainer.

Q: How has BUKU adapted, evolved and/or changed with the changing social climate and pandemic restrictions? Well, BUKU was one of the first events to get cancelled when the pandemic first started. We were already loading-in the production. Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time assessing everything we do but have spent a lot of time particularly on community engagement, inclusivity, and health and safety. On the community engagement front we launched the “Take Action Project,” which is a series that called upon the BUKU fans to engage with their community by “taking action” and in turn BUKU then did the same whether it be through donations or volunteering. Regarding inclusivity we took deep dives into our hiring and vendor procurement procedures and pledged to open those processes more. On health and safety, we spent a ton of time obviously learning about COVID-19 and how it spreads and how we can minimize that spread at our events, but we also looked at our emergency procedures and general safety protocols.

Q: What is Upbeat Academy and how is it helping the local community? Upbeat Academy is an after-school music education program for New Orleans middle and high-school students with a focus on hip-hop and electronic music production and performance. Upbeat is free to attend for all the student-artists and is a registered 501c(3) organization.  Every year at BUKU we invite out the student-artists to experience the festival, perform, meet artists and just soak it all in.

Q: Do you have a favorite fest moment or story from the 10 years? A favorite is tough… there’s been so many from watching Upbeat Student-Artist BluShakurx perform with Jay Electronica to drinking Hennessy out of the bottle during Louis the Child with my partners and best friends to close the 2019 BUKU (the last one that happened) to watching Zhu absolutely tear the roof off the Float Den. BUT if I have to pick one moment, I suppose I would pick speaking with Avicii before he took the stage and watching his sunset performance at the very first BUKU. His career was just beginning to explode, and it was just a magical moment in time that I will never forget.


LAGNIAPPE

Favorite local band: Lost Bayou Ramblers
Favorite place to listen to live music: Toulouse Theatre
Your one essential, can’t fest without it item: Sunglasses

True confession 

Before working in music, I coached the Tulane Sailing team and lead sailing expeditions in Baja Mexico.