Today marks the launch of the inaugural Oye Fest, a festival that will not only be filled diverse eclectic Latinx beats but panel discussions, art on exhibit, and donations to fight for inclusivity. Oye Fest is a promotional company and music festival created by Monica Campana, Margarita Rios, and Randall Ruiz: three Latinxs entrenched in a love of music, activism, and tolerance.
The lineup features acts like Cuco, Ivy Queen, and the Marias. But the festival will be more like a summit on Latinx solidarity and diversity with a festival for a backdrop.
To add to the message of activism, Oye Fest will also be donating five dollars of every ticket purchase to United We Dream.
Campana and Rios spoke about how Oye Fest came to be, and what the festival’s message truly is.
Antonio Villasenor-Baca: I saw that “Oye” was listed as a promotional company, so was it made originally as a promoting company or as a festival?
Margarita Rios: Yeah, Oye Fest was initially made to be a commercial company with the idea of doing a festival once a year in Atlanta. But it was from the beginning made to be a commercial company that books Latinx artists in Atlanta and the metro-Atlanta area. We’d like to expand outside the perimeter in the future as well.
AVB: And how did the idea come about for it, focusing on the Latinx community?
MR: Monica and I have known each other for a while and I’ve known Randall [Ruiz] for a while as well. He kind of connected the three of us because we all had the same vision in mind. We had all been talking about doing something along these lines.
Monica Campana: Randall is a very prolific DJ here and he’s very connected with the Latinx music people here. He’s been DJ’ing here for a very long time, throwing Latin parties. Margarita is very knowledgeable and connected. She understands this world quite a bit. And I have been in the nonprofit world for ten years now, not music related but art related. The three of us are Latinx. Margarita and Randall were born here. Their parents are immigrants. I immigrated here when I was six years old.
MR: I wasn’t born here.
MC: That’s right, I should know this!
MR: I was born in Mexico but Randall and I [are pretty familiar with the Latinx scene]. We grew up in the club scene. Randall from the tender age of 16 was DJ’ing at all these clubs that were up north. So that’s kind of our background with the scene in general.
AVB: Aside from promoting the music, are there any other goals with Oye Fest, especially considering today’s very politicized climate?
MC: Yes! I think that the three of us have had this desire to elevate the communities; the Latinx community, the immigrant community. For us it’s a way to take up space and promote the diversity and the incredible music and artists that we have in our community. And in a way, normalize what has been “othered” for so long, especially now because of our political climate, I think we all see the necessity of continuing to create spaces for celebration and elevation of our communities. So we’re doing it through music, through art, through activism. The festival also has a different component; like five dollars of each ticket is being donated to United We Dream. For us when we think of activism, there’s many ways to do it but also to just celebrate is a form of activism. To just say “we’re here,” loud.
MR:To just add to that, it’s really just about exposing the community in Atlanta to the many different genres that come with being a Latinx artist and how it’s not just what you think of when you think of Latinx music. It’s not just cumbias. It’s not just salsa. It’s a bunch of different genres within that. And also within that, highlighting Latinx artists within Atlanta, as well and putting them in the limelight and letting them shine and have a voice. The Latinx community in Atlanta has a voice within the music scene and we want to have different artists here. We want to have the opportunity to see them in these venues, specifically within the metro-Atlanta scene.
AVB: What’s it been like planning a music festival of this magnitude for the first time?
MR: It’s been a crazy ride, definitely. But we’re honored to be able to represent the Latinx community. We’re just super excited for the festival. It’s been great; difficult but great.
MC: We’re getting a lot of support. I think other events that we have done have built up momentum for the festival. I feel that we are constantly surprising ourselves. We know that there is a large community here and we are all ready to participate and to be a part of this event, especially in metro-Atlanta. The support is not just coming from the audience and the people coming to the event but also coming to us with interest in partnership or sponsorship. We’ve been putting this together since last October. It’s a new company and a very new festival. It’s been very stressful, as Margarita said, but it’s been really great seeing the support we’re getting as well.
MR: Yeah, it’s nice to see how much the community wants this as well.
AVB: How did you go about picking artists? Was it based on availability, or was it more of a round table, pitching ideas?
MR: It was mostly a roundtable, pitching ideas, sort of situation. But we really paid attention to what the Atlanta scene wanted to hear through social media and other sources. We just reached out and asked a bunch of questions and we listened. We did a lot of research into what genres were doing really well here in Atlanta. We kind of just picked what we thought would do well. We also really wanted to highlight communities that don’t get highlighted. So we wanted to make sure that we added Afro-Latinx artists, that we added queer Latinx artists. We just wanted to be all inclusive and make sure that it showed throughout our lineup.
MC: We were very conscious of the artists we booked so, being inclusive and highlighting the diversity of genres. We needed to be sure that we included as many voices as possible in the festival.
By Antonio Villasenor-Baca