According to Bob Marley, one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. As an avid music lover, imagine being at a music festival where thousands of people are feeling as ecstatic as you. If you enjoy a good concert, you should know that music festivals are a whole other ball game. Take a look at Essence Music Festivals for example. They provide people with the chance to enjoy good music while interacting with fellow music lovers.

Essence Festival is one of the largest African American music festivals in the US. It’s usually a 3-day event that includes nights of musical performances, cultural celebrations, and empowerment seminars. Held every Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans, the festival features some of the most prominent names in the music industry. As a music lover seeking to have some fun over the rest of the year, read on to identify the top 10 Essence music festivals. 

Essence festival 1995

Initially, the Essence Festival was created as a one-time event aimed at celebrating Essence Magazine’s 25th anniversary. The spirited music community of New Orleans made it the venue of choice for the July 4th festivity. The performers that graced the stage included; Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie, Erykah Badu, and Destiny’s Child, among others. The show became such a hit that it was made an annual event

Essence Festival 2006

This was the year that the Essence Festival was held in a location other than New Orleans. Due to the results of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, the venue of the festival was moved to Houston, Texas. 

Essence Festival 2008

Since its formation, the Essence festival was produced by none other than its original production team. But in 2008, the owner of the festival and Essence magazine; Essence Communications, contracted Rehage Entertainment Inc to produce the festival that year.  

Essence Festival 2011

The theme of this Essence Festival was “The Roots of R&B. In 2011, Essence Music Festival presented a glamorous lineup to New Orleans, LA. The Superdome was amazed by performances from artists like Jill Scott, Mary J. Blige, New Edition, and Kanye West, among others. It’s in this festival that Beyonce’s father allegedly announced a Destiny’s Child reunion album being in the works and where Kanye honored his late mother by performing “Hey Mama.”

Essence Festival 2012

The Essence Festival of 2012 marked the festival’s 18th year. It kept its promise of bringing more prominent stars to the show. The theme was “The Power of our Voice.” While the festival celebrated icons like Doug. E Fresh and Chaka Kahn also had the first-ever Youth Empowerment Concert, called “New and Next” that featured young artists like Diggy Simmons.  

Essence Festival 2014

This was the year that Essence Fest marked its 20th anniversary. While stars like Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu performed, it’s safe to say that Prince took over the show. So much so that the Superdome was bathed in purple that night. He opened his show by saying his signature statement; “We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life,” and ended his show with “Purple Rain,” leaving the crowd gratified. 

Essence Festival 2016

This year, the festival was taken to New Orleans’s sister city, Durban, South Africa. The theme was “Passion, Power, and Inspiration” and it enabled a merge between American culture and African culture. Local DJ, Diva Cadach stated, “It’s such a great pleasure because we get to see all these international acts that we are not used to in Durban.” 

Essence Festival 2017

This was music icon Diana Ross’s first-ever Essence Fest performance and she did not disappoint. She performed hit after hit, taking her fans down memory lane. The festival also featured other stars like Doug E Fresh, Mary J Blige, and Chaka Kahn.

Essence Festival 2018

This Essence Festival was attended by more than half a million people, making this one of the largest turnouts in the event’s 24-year history. Some of the celebrities who performed include; Doug E. Fresh, Xscape, The Roots, and Janet Jackson, among others. 

Essence Festival 2019

This Essence Fest was certainly one for the books. Former First Lady Michelle Obama made her first headline appearance at the sold-out Superdome. At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, some of the 2020 Presidential candidates joined Power Stage segments. This was with the aim of engaging the influential audience of Black women in attendance. Essence Chief Executive Officer Michelle Ebanks said “The 25th-anniversary Essence Festival represented a truly transformative global homecoming celebration for Black women and the Black community.” This was also the year when the name of Essence Festival was changed to The Essence Festival of Culture. 


Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 2x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...

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