Essence Fest Preview

00:00 June 25, 2013
By: Staff

Maya Azucena

Friday, July 5; 7:25-755 pm

McDonald's Super Lounge

It's quite a curious thing that a singer like Maya Azucena is able to maintain a low profi le. With her powerful voice, genuine talent, and lovely face, one would think she would have producers beating down her door. But, hey, the best music isn't always popular music. The Brooklyn, New york native has been around for a while now. She released her debut Maya Who?! independently in 2003, and followed it with American and European tours. The soulful vocalist has a low, rich voice that is much like melted chocolate and can send a chill down the listener's spine. She does not limit herself to just one style of music—Azucena has dabbled in reggae and gospel as well as R&B and soul. Besides her initial release, Azucena has six other albums to her credit. Her most notable album, Junkyard Jewel, featured a single ("Down Down") that was used in HBO's "The Wire". In addition, Azucena is an activist—among other accomplishments, she produced Hope Night, an event devoted to domestic abuse awareness. What's more to love about this woman? you'll have to see her live to fi nd out. If you don't see any shows for the rest of the year, be sure to catch this amazing act. — Kimberly Hopson

Les Nubians

Friday, July 5; 9:20-10:50 pm

McDonald's Super Lounge

French/Cameroonian crooners Les Nubians will be bringing their sexy, sultry blend of R&B and neosoul harmonies to the stage at the 2013 Essence Music Festival. The pair, made up of sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart, has been touring worldwide for more than fourteen years, simultaneously entrancing listeners with their soft voices and spreading their humanitarian message through song. For those who haven't heard, Les Nubians notably managed to score a Billboard radio hit with their French-language single "Makeda". The pair is best known for their Grammy-nominated debut album, Princesses Nubiennes, but has released three more albums since then. The sisters won Best New Artist in the 1999 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards and also received two NAACP Image Award nominations in 2000. Les Nubians seemingly disappeared from the music scene for a while after these honors. However, they were actually "refi ning their craft" for their most recent release, Nü Revolution, in 2011. The singers describe the album as more up-tempo, but their message of Pan-Africanism remains as clear as ever. Les Nubians' multicultural, jazzy melodies are truly a treat for audiences of all ages, backgrounds and musical tastes. Their performance will not be one you'd want to miss. — Kimberly Hopson


Saturday, July 6; 1-4 pm

Family Day Sound Stage

Although they have only been together since 2010, the New Orleans group Brass-a-Holics has already come to defi ne a whole different sound all their own. Taking New Orleans brass music and combining it with a full four-piece funk band that surrounds multiple vocals has earned Brass-a-Holics music the genre nickname "Go-Go Brass Funk". Conceived by trombonist Winston Turner, the group has concocted an inspiring and invigorating sound that takes its Crescent City roots to another level as the go-go beats of Washington, D.C. combine with the funk core, as well as the brass section, to engulf the audience in a wave of fl avors. The guitar brings a hefty dose of rock n' roll to the mix as the crunchy keyboards provide the bedding for the horns to roar from all while the rhythm section turns it loose. They mash up a blend of creative covers throughout their original selections that simply make you feel good and start a-steppin'. Now, as the group has freshly recorded their fi rst full-length studio album, I AM A BRASS-A- HOLIC, and is coming off its fi rst-ever performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the momentum carries on to their next big debut. Produced by legendary New Orleans jazz musician Irvin Mayfi eld, the long-awaited album has been turning heads since its pre-release during the Jazz Fest weeks. Pioneers in the development of New Orleans music as a whole, watch for the Brass-a-Holics as they continue to climb the ladder in redefi ning the boundaries of funky soul music. — Chris DiBenedetto

Janelle Monae

Sunday, July 7; 9:10-10:05 pm

Main Stage

Our favorite tuxedoed songstress is back, and just in time for Essence Festival! Monae is still coasting on the success of her noteworthy 2010 release The ArchAndroid, but all signs say that she will fi nally appease her fans and release new material this year. Monae saw massive success last year after doing a minute part on f.u.n.'s hit single We Are young. The Kansas City native just dropped "Q.U.E.E.N.," a collaboration with neo-soul goddess Erykah Badu, in April. The single, with its disguised message and funky beats, caused a bit of a stir online. This year may bring even more success for Monae—she performed at this year's Coachella and is on the verge of releasing the anticipated new album The Electric Lady. Though she hasn't announced an offi cial drop date, it's not unusual for Monae to leave her audience guessing—she recently told Billboard interviewers that she expects a fall release. The pint-sized powerhouse said that her audiences can expect her newest release to be more mature and revealing than her last. Fans who are familiar with her live experience can expect to "come alive" during her excellent, interactive performances—there may even be some crowd-surfi ng to look forward to. — Kimberly Hopson


Sunday, July 7; 10:30 pm - 12:30 am

Main Stage

Probably the most anticipated performer of them all, Beyonce, is coming to light up the main stage at Essence Fest. No introduction is needed for this R&B and hip-hop veteran. She has been headstrong in the music game since 1990 and refuses to let up. She has recently celebrated her fi fth wedding anniversary and given birth to her fi rst child, but motherhood hasn't pulled the brakes on this superstar's train. Soon after the birth of her baby, Beyonce performed for four nights at Revel Atlantic City's Ovation Hall. She, along with several others, produced the "Demand a Plan" video in efforts to persuade the government to write better gun control laws. Earlier this year, Beyonce left fans breathless at President Obama's second inauguration as she sang the National Anthem; a month after that, she rocked the stage at this year's Super Bowl halftime show. The Grammy-winning artist is currently in the middle of a tour that will run until November. Beyoncé's fi fth studio album is also scheduled to come out this year. With so many exciting things happening for this artist, we can only expect for this excitement to shine through during her performance at Essence Fest this year. — Kaitlyn Johnson

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