Maha Music Festival Fighting ‘Brain Drain’
August 18th, 2017
Omaha, NE—This Saturday at Aksarben Village, the annual non-profit Maha Music Festival will open again for one full day of music performances from some of the top acts in Omaha and the nation—The Faint, Belle and Sebastian, The New Pornographers and Sleigh Bells to name a few. Hip Hop group Run the Jewels will headline following the release of third album.
Lauren Martin, Executive Director of Maha explained that while the event was initially planned to strengthen Omaha’s community, it has succeeded in making Omaha a hot spot for musicians.
“Our first event was in 2009, but it was started by a group of people who recognized that brain drain in Omaha is kind of a constant conversation, unfortunately, where we’re looking at retaining talent,” Martin said. “Especially being here at the campus, we have a lot of incredible young talent coming in, and what are the ways that we can encourage them to stay in our community and not only stay, but actually get invested and be part of it. Also at the time, the music scene has always been great we’ve had a reputable scene with Saddle Creek records and 311 came out of Omaha, but the artist touring through weren’t to the level that they are now.”
At the time of Maha’s founding, Omaha’s music scene wasn’t quite what it is today, and many of the most popular venues hadn’t even opened yet.
Martin began working with Maha as a volunteer and she’s witnessed the progress in both the festival and Omaha.
“I actually went to school in Lincoln and then lived in St Louis and in 2009 I came back and remember thinking, how long until I can leave Omaha again. Because after coming from a city that has a professional sports team and bigger concert venues for example, I really wanted to go be part of that somewhere else, and what I found specifically through Maha was that I could be part of doing that here, and I might not have the opportunity somewhere else so Maha was actually a big part of why I stayed in Omaha.”
The amount of musicians and performances featured in one small space on a single day present some unique opportunities at Maha.
“Something I’ve always personally loved about Maha before I was even heavily involved was that it was this big experience in a really intimate setting. We don’t have screens because, you know, it’s thousands of people in the park for sure, but it’s still accessible. A lot of times the artists will perform and then they’ll come hang out in the crowd and watch other artists perform during the day.”
Expect music all day on Saturday, 12pm to 12am, on two stages in Aksarben Village. In addition to the music, Maha collaborates with about 20 other non-profits to engage with the community. Guests can see performances from OK Party Comedy and Louder than a Bomb, slam poetry from local high school students.
Keeping community in mind, Maha also acknowledges social issues and causes, particularly mental health among youth.
“Our demographic is young, they’re highly influential and sadly, mental illness is something that affects them in a major way, unfortunately, and so what we’ve identified as we can be a platform to bridge people to resources and services and education. We do have a lot of mental health service providers in our community village we have partnered with the Kim Foundation to promote their ’13 Minutes’ campaign, and I think the hope with that is just that, should someone maybe find themselves dealing with mental illness, either themselves or with a friend or family member down the road, they might remember that one time they were and be able to get the help they need or access the resources that they might need and also we just recognize that music is an outlet for many of us in so many different ways.”
The Maha Music Festival is this Saturday, August 17 from 12pm to 12am at Aksarben Village. For more information or tickets, visit mahamusicfestival.org.
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