Talking UMI: Our Music Festival & it’s world with Nandi Dlepu

It’s no secret that the UMI: Our Music Festival has fast become one the most popular experiences that caters to those yearn to enjoy the “alternative” & unique side that our music industry carries. I’m specifically thinking music here, but it obviously goes beyond that as attending a UMI showcase has been proven to result in an increase in appreciating these kind of spaces… A simpler description would define UMI as a community-driven fair which founder & organizer, Nandi Dlepu, birthed out through her venture to dream. Dubbed the mother of the other popular experience called #FeelGoodSeries, UMI has evidently become an important expressive offering for a lot of us… This is why when we were given a chance to ask, Nandi Dlepu some Q’s,  we took it with both hands. So, we threw her some questions, and you can read what she had to say below…

I’ve got to start off by clapping my hands for you and bowing down to the worlds you’ve created with #FeelGoodSeries & it’s mother UMI. Can you talk to us about when and how the ideas sparked to create these experiences?

Prior to starting my own platforms, I was part of a collective called The Other Girls and for 4 years we hosted Joburg’s much loved brunch-cum-day party. I always wanted to include a live performance element to our event but alas… When we parted ways, I immediately got to work and hosted my first live performance party featuring Stogie T and Langa Mavuso and watching them perform I felt, this is it. I want to do more of this. The inspiration behind even wanting to have live performance is simply because I love music and think we have hordes of talented artists who don’t have many platforms to express their artistry. At the time, and I still think to a great degree still today, line ups usually consist of fav’s, artists who have already blown up and I wanted to make a difference in the emerging talent side.

And how much work and sacrifice did it take to get these events going because I can’t even imagine the amount of effort that is required to fulfil a dream… And then to maintain it too…

It’s been and still is a LOT of work but it’s good and rewarding work for the most part. When you hear back what doors being on our stage has opened up for some of our features, I’m like YES! It has and still comes with its share of sacrifices, but I believe you’ve got to give in order to get so I’m fine with that. Moreover, I know what I’m trying to build and where this road will take me so I’m at peace with my sacrifices.

As you’ve alluded to above, what I love the most about #FeelGoodSeries & UMI is that fact that they advocate for not only emerging artists but those that us mainstream many would label as “alternative”. Was that always the intention and if so, what have been some of the most memorable performances you’ve witnessed since starting out? 

Our focus on the emerging is 100% intentional and it’s perfectly encapsulated with our slogan, TOMMOROWS MUSIC TODAY. I’ve noticed the alternative slant to our curation, and I think that’s linked to my personal taste, even though as a curator I try to challenge myself, the source is the source and for me that’s hip hop and all its imaginable and conceived manifestations/interpretations.

I don’ have a single stand out performance but I do have a standout event and that’s our first UMI. I remember thinking this is really special. The quality of the performances themselves, the quality of music was expected, but how each artist showed up was incredible. Festival performances!

UMI is obviously the bigger showcase amongst the two I’ve mentioned above and with the next one coming up this Saturday, how were the preparations for this one like and why host it with that specific line-up since you didn’t host one last year right?

Preparations have their ups and downs but there’s a consistent twinge of excitement throughout the process and as we draw nearer. Nervousness too of course. A third of the line-up was intact community curated. We ran a call to action asking our followers to let us know who they would like to see again as well as what new features they’d like us to consider. The other two thirds we curate also a combination of favourites and new faces.

What does Nandi Dlepu do when she feels stressed out during the event planning process?

She Netflixes hard… I try losing myself in a series to give my mind a break. In general, though I try to maintain my daily morning habits (reading and exercising) and get a good night’s sleep, I’m in bed around 9pm on average.

And again, with UMI coming up in a few days, how would you describe the experience that’s to come so people don’t miss out?

It’s going to be a beautiful and joyful experience…

Finally, any words of advice you could give to the kid reading this interview that is working towards doing what you do?

Creatively to always dig deep and make sure your events are not “just because” but that your ideas are strategically informed and visually complemented. Consider what sets you apart, grow and nurture the sh*t out of that because that’s your USP. It is the foundation of your inherent value and the value of your business/services.


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