This year marks the 11th annual Austin Urban Music Festival. From its original inception in 2006, the festival came from an Austin quality of life initiative for African Americans. In fact, it was the city’s first Afro-centric music fest. And like many festivals in Austin, the UMF has changed over the years, redefining its music format and what it hopes to bring to audiences. Today, the festival prides itself on being a family-friendly entertainment option during the Texas Relays Weekend – one of the nation’s top field and track events that brings thousands of visitors to Austin during the same weekend.
Last year, in an interview with the Austin American-Statesmen, UMF founder Homer Hill said of the festival, “(Before UMF), there was no prolific music festival programmed from an afro-centric viewpoint, so that’s what we were trying to do to enhance the quality of life, and that’s what we are still attempting to do. It’s an opportunity to engage in a whole way in the community. It’s all about building a new message and letting it filter through the population.”
The festival features different stages that focus specifically on hip-hop, R&B, indie soul, gospel, and neo soul. It also highlights local and unsigned African-American artists that have yet to be heard nationally. In addition, Soul Tree Collective – a local non-profit organization that supports the musical endeavors of students – features a showcase for young musicians during the festival, giving them a place to perform, sometimes for the first time.
This year’s festival features a mix of established and upcoming artists. The headliner for the opening night is legendary R&B group Dru Hill, featuring Doug E. Fresh. The following night sees soul band Maze featuring Frankie Beverly as the big draw. A variety of other artists perform during the day.
This year’s Urban Music Festival is at Auditorium Shores on Friday-Saturday, April 1-2. More info and tickets is at urbanmusicfest.com.