TRAX ONLY and Dounia bring diversity and depth to BUKU festival


Photo by Terry Shields

LaBauve and Louque of TRAX ONLY bring the house down to melodic house on Friday, March 22.

Milena Martinovic, Reporter

body positivity,

For the seventh year in a row, BUKU festival has grown bigger than ever, adding another stage and selling out over the weekend of March 22 and 23 at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans. The festival, mainly attracting EDM and hip-hop spring breakers from around the country, had two alternative performers this year whose sets are worth revisiting.

TRAX ONLY is a local queer, 30-something DJ duo consisting of Brett LaBauve and Mark Louque. LaBauve hails from Port Sulphur, “a dirt road Cajun county town,” and he moved to New Orleans to study art after high school. His love for graphic design and visual arts is still strong, but his true passion is DJing.

When he first moved to the city, he established himself as a DJ around the mainstream Bourbon street gay clubs, even DJing sex parties. He quickly found himself craving a more nuanced, subtle electronic sound that Bourbon Street was unable to provide. He branched out and started his own parties in underground venues. “Gimme a Reason” is a monthly queer dance party that brings various national DJs to perform.

“I can’t afford their regular rate, but I’m lucky they come to town for a conference or a wedding and they just wanna play in New Orleans,” LaBauve said.

LaBauve goes above and beyond to make a comfortable, stylish atmosphere at the party venue by bringing large exotic plants, colorful lights and a fog machine. This brings a retro Miami feel to the visual aspect of the party, which mixes in with a variety of partygoers including local trans and queer artists, bohemians, members of the community and gay visitors looking for options beyond Bourbon Street.

TRAX ONLY’s BUKU performance is a large stepping stone for the DJs, not just in terms of their career — as they have played many significant venues and festivals — but because they are the only local queer DJs to perform at BUKU. LaBauve has been actively pushing for this on social media for a few years, and whether it’s because the programmers took notice or because TRAX ONLY became more of a name for themselves, proper representation was given this year.

Speaking of representation, another performer who stood out was 21-year-old R&B singer-songwriter Dounia. Dounia performed for an audience of no more than 30 people, but she completely stole the show with her stage presence and captivatingly strong voice. Dounia is a Moroccan raised in Queens, an ex-model and an Instagram personality, but now she is primarily focused on her music career.

Dounia is a huge advocate for body positivity and intersectionality, and she writes, performs, directs and edits her music videos. She is street, strong and independent, as well as sweet and feminine. In a sea of mostly young and skinny half-naked girls, Dounia’s audience was racially diverse, with regular- and plus-sized girls singing all her lyrics and seeming empowered instead of just high on too many drugs.

“You are the best fans I ever had,” she kept saying in between her songs. Rocking an oversized flannel shirt, jeans and luscious, curly red hair, she exhibited a relaxing yet dynamic presence. She sang about specific social media-bred desires like guys thinking they want “a low-key girl” while actually being attracted to bigger personalities with more followers (like herself).

This sense of inflated ego long used in hip-hop lyrics and personalities furnishes the Generation Z conception of female empowerment, providing a broader understanding of life in the age of social media and online dating.

At only 20 years old, Dounia balances the confidence with plenty of confusion, chaos and failure that reflect her emotional state at times. “When I talk talk talk I just f*ck f*ck f*ck it up,” she sang in “East Coast Hiding.”

Seeing such an organic, unique and inspiring up-and-coming artist on stage was an unexpected treat. But that’s the beauty of music festivals: there is always a pleasant discovery.