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Cultura Festival 2024: Interview with Founder Matt Monday of SWIM

Video Credits: Audio Engineer: Matt Zutell | Camera 1/Edit: Dave Curry | Camera 2: Jimmy Ariel Rojas

As Cultura Festival draws near, taking place this Saturday, April 13th at The Royal American, the excitement in Charleston’s music scene is palpable. This event has emerged as a cornerstone for the city’s underground music community, tracing its origins back to the founding of SWIM and the visionary behind it, Matt Monday.

I was blessed to have a sit down with Matt on the IceBox by Extra Chill, to talk about the intricacies of the heart and mind behind the Cultura Fest. We spoke on everything from the inception of SWIM and Cultura to the influences behind the growth and evolution of the festival and the goals for the future. The full interview is available on YouTube, but here is a brief summary of SWIM and the return of Cultura.

The festival’s roots can be traced back to the culmination of aspirations stemming from the Summer Shindig of 2018, an event that was also held at The Royal American.

Founding Cultura Festival

When speaking on the idea that sparked the bulb for a local black music festival, Matt states, “we had the most impactful set, as far as the hip hop kind of- bringing a different energy than what they normally had at Royal at the time. And they were ending Summer Shindig in 2018. I went and sat and had a conversation with John….about giving us an opportunity to do a festival that was primarily hip hop and r&b.” This set the stage for what became Cultura, a festival dedicated to celebrating local hip hop and R&B talents while reshaping Charleston’s black influence on the overall musical landscape.

Cultura of 2019 set the stage for creating a spotlight for local, young, black, talent to shine on a larger scale platform and be an example of the black culture that foundationally exists in Charleston. When speaking on how Cultura has become a microcosm of black influence in Charleston live entertainment, he poses a grand point. 

“… none of them are marketing to us culturally, like directly to us culturally. It’s like you can come in enjoy, you can come partake, and participate. But it ain’t necessarily for you. you know? so I think ‘what is one going to hurt?’- like, we can’t have one situation, where we can come and just be normal and be ourselves and play the music we want to play, eat the food we want to eat, interact and socialize and cultivate in a way that is specific to us culturally?”

 A pungent summarization of the motivation behind the FEEL of what is Cultura. 

The Future of Cultura Festival

While contemplating Cultura’s future, the question arises: will the festival remain rooted at Royal American or venture into uncharted territories? Matt envisions Charleston as the beating heart of Cultura, while also harboring ambitions to expand its influence beyond the city limits, emphasizing the importance of scalability in the festival’s trajectory.

The addition of acclaimed headliners like Curren$y and this year’s, Duke Duece, signifies a journey towards a multifaceted musical experience, bridging local acts with renowned artists to curate a diverse talent lineup that resonates with ALL audiences. 

Looking towards the future, Matt envisions a Cultura that embraces a myriad of genres beyond hip hop and R&B, including black pop and country music. This strategic diversification underscores Cultura’s commitment to broadening its platform and amplifying diverse voices within the community, setting the stage for a vibrant and inclusive musical experience.

“ we scale, I definitely want to introduce unorthodox genres that aren’t necessarily correlated with black musicians to add to the platform as well. There’s a lot of stuff that I wasn’t even aware of, that I found, just going through my iTunes or my friends putting me on to different artists that are doing things that I’ve never heard before. That, I think, should be exposed to the community as well. So yeah, that’s definitely something I’m definitely interested in.”

Cultura Festival 2024: April 13th at The Royal American

Cultura gears up for it’s 3rd edition, featuring artists such as: Asiahn, Mossberg Montana, Kuntry, Nick Grant, and more. The festival stands as a testament to SWIM and Matt Monday’s visionary approach—a celebration of diversity, talent, and inclusivity.

Since its 2023 return, Cultura solidifies its position as a cultural cornerstone in Charleston, uniting music enthusiasts and artists on the grounds of Royal American. The future holds boundless possibilities for Cultura, promising a continued journey of musical exploration, black excellence, unity, and artistic revelation for years to come.