Diverse Voices Shine at Atlanta’s ONE Musicfest

Diverse Voices Shine at Atlanta’s ONE Musicfest

By Ama McKinley

Atlanta is still at the forefront of hip-hop. It’s still the best place to make music.”

That’s what rapper and producer Too $hort said at Atlanta’s ONE Musicfest last weekend, and we’re inclined to agree.

The September weather on the morning of September 9 was perfect—the kind that should be accompanied by a lemonade, beer or both.

Lines to enter ONE Musicfest—one of the largest American music festivals dedicated to Black music and culture—started forming at the Lakewood Amphitheater gate more than an hour before they were scheduled to open. As the anticipation for the eighth annual festival built, the atmosphere so promising that no one could be blamed for forgetting that Hurricane Irma was scheduled to hit land the next day, one state away.

Some 20,000 cross-generational spectators descended on southwest Atlanta in celebration of all things Black culture. Food trucks representing cuisine from every country and every palate paid culinary tributes. Hair was styled in various arrangements, celebrating the African diaspora with Southern flare. There were colorful hijabs, crop tops in African prints and face paint that summoned the memory of Fela Kuti’s queens.

Faces and styles of ONE Musicfest 2017. Volume 2. #onemusicfest #beautiful #fashion #OMF2017 #style

A post shared by ONE Musicfest (@onemusicfest) on

The Hyundai Art Village featured Atlanta-based visual artists and City of Ink, a Black-owned, Atlanta-based tattoo and piercing shop. Anywhere along the grounds, you could close your eyes and still hear, smell and taste diversity.

And of course, the music. The early years of the festival saw much smaller attendance, but after eight consecutive years of perfecting the musical formula and homegrown Atlanta spirit, the only way to accommodate the growing popularity was to create two stages. The main stage, surrounded by its famous lawns, was slated to host artists Ro James, Jidenna, Migos, and Jill Scott, while the secondary stage hosted Tank and the Bangas, Too $hort, Kaytranada, Damian Marley and Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def).

One festival attendee, Ace, described the musical atmosphere as full of “memories and throwbacks that music inspires, and a diverse, Afro-centric voice.”

Hip-hop artist and producer Jidenna paid homage to his Nigerian roots with an ode to his father. Many people of African descent in the audience found home in his story, and Jidenna’s father, the Chief, became our own.

The village of vendors spilled up to the lip of the festival stage, all situated around the Xfinity Guesthouse in the middle of the backlot grounds.

The open-admission Guesthouse served as an oasis in the middle of the vendor landscape, situated under a huge white tent, and dotted underneath with with matching white couches; the area offered a worthy break from the sun, dust and shuffling of people.

As an added bonus, guests could enjoy dedicated WiFi hotspots and three televisions streaming college football all day long. It wasn’t uncommon for spectators to bring their food, have a seat, and be welcomed by the arrival of an artists or performer straight from the stage.

Jidenna relaxes in the VIP lounge.

Jidenna relaxes in the VIP lounge. (Photo by Ama McKinley)

On top of that, a VIP lounge housed artists, celebrities, media and VIP guests throughout Saturday, including features ranging from a cigar rolling demonstration to a virtual reality station that offered a musical experience from all of the festival’s artists.

At the end of the day, though, it was Atlanta—not any particular performer or headliner—that was the festival’s shining star.

“[ONE Musicfest] is significant for Atlanta because it’s homegrown,” said Will, one festival attendee. “The DJs are from Atlanta. It’s Atlanta influenced and focus, and there are always local artists. The festival respects the leadership and brings great music to the city.”

It’s clear that the festival will only grow from here. We can’t wait to see what the ninth iteration looks like next year.