The Essence Music festival, also known as the Party with a Purpose, is an annual festival that takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana during the July Fourth holiday weekend. The venue for the music festival is the Mercendez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans; it began in 1995 and has occurred annually since in New Orleans. It initially began as a one-time event to celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of Essence Magazine. In 2006, the festival was held in Houston, Texas due to the damage of Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans. The music festival features artists simultaneously performing on a main stage as well as four standing-room only super-lounge stages. In 2009, Beyonce headlined the music festival and drew out 72,000 attendees, which was the first time the Essence Music Fest was completely sold-out in its then Fifteen-year history. (Credit: Wiki)
Two Thousand and Twelve (2012) marks the year for which a Caribbean music artiste has been scheduled and performed at the annual Essence Music Festival. Nefatari Cooper began her entertainment career as a model, which is where she developed her poise and confidence. She has used her gifts to propel herself into other avenues within the entertainment industry, most notably the music business. Having sung background for Lindsay Lohan and Baby Spice (of the Spice Girls), Nefatari has gained much experience in achieving her success within the music industry. Nefatari performed during the New & Next concert during the music fest alongside other next generation music artists such as Diggy Simmons, Disney’s Cocoa Joans and Roshan Fegan, and the OMG Girlz. The crowd received Nefatari’s music very warmly as she was given an overwhelming response to her performance of her single “What U Think About Me”. Eager concert fans were excited to receive promotional CDs from Nefatari which included “Day U Mess Up”, “No Handbags”, in addition to her single “What U Think About Me”. (Credit: Urban Islandz and Nefatari’s Fan Page)
When asked, Nefatari refers to her sound as “dancehall/pop”. She credits her work with Lindsay Lohan and Baby Spice as avenues from which she gained influence for her sound. Nefatari proudly represents her Jamaican culture despite being a long-time resident of Baldwin, Long Island. She notes that reggae and dancehall music have been a major influence to her music. Although this is the first year there has been a Caribbean music artiste featured during the Essence Music Fest, artists who have been featured in the Eighteen-year tenure of the Fest include: Erykah Badu, Destiny’s Child, Patti LaBelle, the late Teena Marie, Angie Stone, Solange, LL Cool J and a slew of other artists. Just about anyone you could think of that has had a popular career producing and recording music that falls into the African-American music market, they have performed at this music fest. (Credit: Wiki)
It is great to see reggae and dancehall music receiving exposure at the Essence music festival this year, 2012. Such a great opportunity and honor for Nefatari to be that first artiste to bring the sound of Caribbean music to the annual music fest. Much like Nefatari’s family, many West Indians have immigrated to the United States for work, family and other reasons. For our culture to be appreciated by those who may not be too familiar with the sounds on such a large scale is very positive for the direction of the Caribbean music industry. From this feature, the door is now open to allow newer opportunities for Nefatari to perform again as well as at other events like the Essence music fest. Additionally, further opportunities may be extended to other artistes within the Caribbean music scene, which can then lead to a special night or concert room dedicated solely to music of reggae and dancehall influence. But that won’t happen just because we as Caribbean music supporters want it to; we need to support our artistes. (Credit: Nefatari’s Fan Page)
I will be checking back to see who is slated to perform at next year’s Essence music festival and see if any reggae or dancehall artistes are scheduled to perform; I pledge to be in attendance to that concert if this is so. Hopefully, other Caribbean music supporters will do the same and a presence can be felt at the event so that the producers and executives can see that this genre is one that is apart of the American music culture as much as it is apart of the Caribbean’s. Continue to support Caribbean music in anyway that you can, no matter how big or small your contribution may seem. Every little bit helps.