Organized by the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), the 15th annual Takin’ It the Streets Fest in Chicago is one of the few celebrations where music takes a definitive backseat to social politics.
Across the modest grounds of Marquette Park were areas where prayer was not only permitted, but highly encouraged – with adhans being announced regularly throughout the day – It was clear what mattered most, and it extended deep into the heart of the festival.
Of the headliners it was Malaysian-born singer-songwriter Yuna that held the largest appeal. She’s a mainstay at the Malaysia Music Industry Awards, (the Malaysian equivalent to the Grammys) and her arrival created a palpable buzz. Shouts of “Yuna we love you!” began well before she made her way on stage.
Her voice was sweet and gentle all the way through despite the mass crowd that had slowly accumulated. She didn’t try and overpower a song like “Lullabies,” instead staying in her lane and letting the quality of the writing do the work for her – just as good if not better than contemporaries like Au Revoir Simone or Regina Spektor: [LISTEN]
The banter with the crowd was unfortunately held to a minimum due in large part to poor planning on the festival’s behalf. Her performance was short, real short. Six songs in total which must have been a bit of a disappointment, especially for Yuna who had announced that she had flown all the way from Malaysia to be there.
Still her form didn’t waver at all, keeping intact a Sade level of grace at all times. What was most important – aside from the performance itself – was the way she embraced the crowd, radiating a genuine love and appreciation. She acknowledging them wholeheartedly, a fan base who shared the same dedication and faith as she did – a strong showing of the transcendent power of well written, quality pop music, giving her performance and a song like “Live Your Life” extra meaning: [LISTEN]