On Saturday, April 20th, Charleston experienced the first-ever Cultura Festival at The Royal American. Curated by Charleston rapper Matt Monday, the event was the first major music event in Charleston to feature a lineup of all black artists. It was a huge deal for this city, and judging by the enthusiasm and excitement shown by both the crowd and the performers, there’s a very good chance we see another Cultura Fest in 2020.
The lineup for Cultura Fest 2019 included Matt Monday, Benny Starr, Contour, Niecy Blues, Shaniqua McCants, Anfernee, Jah Jr., Abstract That Rapper & Slim Soul, Nory, and DJ Scrib. The vibe at Royal that night was impeccable, which might have had something to do with the fact that it was 4/20, but was also due to the energy behind the event. Everybody was happy to be there, and it showed throughout the day and into the evening. You could feel that energy pulsing through the air, and it seemed the whole crowd, and all the performers, were tuned into it together.
The event was run on a strict time schedule, with 15 minutes between each act on one outdoor stage and DJ Scrib keeping the crowd engaged in the meantime. Having such a strict time schedule meant that each artist played a relatively short set, and several of them mentioned not wanting to waste time talking so they could get through all their songs.
Benny Starr was especially crunched for time, playing second to last (right before Matt Monday) and I’m sure he and Four20s would have stayed up there all night if they could have. I for one would pay good money to see him perform a set unrestricted by time with that band. Benny is on another level these days, and every time I have the chance to see him play and speak I leave the show feeling like I’ve learned something valuable about myself and my place in society.
Benny Starr is really onto something special, with his tying together of art and activism, and I would not be surprised if he becomes the next Charleston artist to reach a large audience well outside of the Lowcountry. His performance this past weekend at PBR’s Dirty Southeast Fest was further proof of that. The way that he’s able to grab the attention of a crowd is something that you don’t see very often, and the fact that his message is so powerful in addition to his attention-grabbing stage presence makes it a real treat to see him perform.
Overall, Cultura Festival was a beautiful and successful event that has hopefully paved the way for more events of its kind in the future. Alex Wiley was in the mix with her camera that evening to capture the magic. See her photos from the day below, and follow her on Instagram @coyotephotoandfilm.
All photos by Alex Wiley @coyotephotoandfilm