By STACEY PLAISANCENEW ORLEANS (AP) â¿¿ Hip-hop singer Big Freedia and an entourage of booty-shaking "bounce" dancers are using a Mardi Gras float for a stage when the Buku music festival returns to New Orleans this weekend. The two-day Buku Music + Art Project, a hip-hop and electronic dance music festival launched last year, is back for a second year, with about two dozen more acts and four stages instead of two. The festival is being held Friday and Saturday at Mardi Gras World, the huge studio and warehouse on the bank of the Mississippi River where Carnival floats are made. The lineup is diverse, with Scottish-born DJ Calvin Harris, Ohio rapper Kid Cudi, the British electronic music trio Nero, 1980s rap group Public Enemy and dozens of other acts. Among the locals in the lineup is New Orleans native Big Freedia. "We're coming to rock the party, and it's going to be beaucoup fun," said Freedia, the openly gay performer whose real name is Freddie Ross. "I'm in my zone on my home turf in New Orleans, and it's going to be crazy." The self-proclaimed "queen diva" and his dancers deliver a hypersexual show packed with booty-shaking moves to upbeat dance music known locally as "bounce" music. The genre is a fusion of hip-hop and quick, repetitive dance beats with heavy bass. It usually includes call-and-response vocals â¿¿ a nod to early rap and Mardi Gras Indian roots music. "The Mardi Gras Indians, they did the call and response first," Freedia said. "They were around way before the rappers, and that's why bounce is such a big part of our culture here. This is our roots." Freedia, who takes the stage on Saturday, is one of the few bounce artists with international exposure, having toured Europe, Australia and other countries as well as most of the U.S. He has a documentary and full-length album in the works.
Earlier this week, he shot the video for his latest single, "Explode.""A lot of things are happening," Freedia said, adding that Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee failures in 2005 brought attention to the city's music scene and the bounce genre. "I had put in my time working in club after club after club for years, and when Katrina hit, it was time for me to see the world," he said. Buku opens Friday with Primus 3D, Zedd, Aeroplane, Flying Lotus, DJ Soul Sister, Kid Cudi and more than a dozen other acts. Joshua Steele, the British DJ who goes by the stage name Flux Pavilion, said he'll be playing jams from his new album, "Blow the Roof," when he takes the stage Friday. "I play what makes me happy, what gets me up and jumping around," he said. Flux Pavilion, whose hits include 2011's "Bass Cannon," delivers high-energy shows that "mix it up a lot, to keep it interesting," Steele said. "As an artist, you can do whatever you want with bass music, and that's the beauty of it," he said. "It's whatever the producer wants it to be. It can be samba, hip-hop, heavy metal, anything really. You can go anywhere with it." The Internet has increased accessibility to electronic music, diminishing the genre's "underground" image, Steele said. "It's a free platform, an open database, where you can just go find it for yourself," he said. Dante DiPasquale of Winter Circle Productions, the New Orleans-based company producing Buku, said although the festival is bigger than last year, it is intentionally being kept small in comparison to other music festivals. There are only 10,000 tickets available for each day, he said. Mardi Gras World adds to the "only in New Orleans" experience, he said. "This festival is really paying tribute to New Orleans, to what people in New Orleans and in the South are listening to," he said. "The rooted music, the jazz music, it's important, but the up-and-coming DJs, bounce artists and indie bands are driving the music today."
The festival's inaugural year featured about 30 acts on two stages. This year there will be more than 50 acts on four stages â¿¿ one set up among the Carnival floats and props at Mardi Gras World, another in a nearby ballroom and two outside on the banks of the Mississippi River.