- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Grammy Award winners Chaka Khan and Jennifer Hudson are joining the 2011 lineup for the Essence Music Festival, which will be held over the Fourth of July holiday weekend in New Orleans, festival organizers said Tuesday.

Hudson will make her debut performance at the festival, which will also feature a New Edition reunion and a host of other artists who will help celebrate all that is Rhythm and Blues.

“We are celebrating the roots of R&B this Fourth of July weekend,” said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc. “From the powerhouse performances on the main stage to the more intimate jam sessions in the Superlounges, the Essence Music Festival offers blues, funk, classics and neo-soul that our audience craves to renew their spirit and connect to their joy.”

Also scheduled to take the stages inside the Louisiana Superdome this July 1-3 are Kem, Marsha Ambrosius, Hal Linton, Eric Benet, Doug E. Fresh, Naughty By Nature, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Brian Courtney Wilson, Mavis Staples, Miguel and Trin-i-tee 5:7.

Earlier, Ebanks announced a group of headliners for the festival, including Mary J. Blige, Trey Songz, Jill Scott, Kanye West, Charlie Wilson, Boyz II Men, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, and Macy Gray.

Now in its 17th year, the festival was born in 1995 to mark the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine and has since grown into a major national venue celebrating black culture and music. The festival also hosts a free marketplace inside the city’s convention center as part of the overall Essence Empowerment Experience, which brings together some of the country’s foremost leaders to discuss issues affecting minority communities.

In addition to the national talent the festival draws to New Orleans each year, the event also spotlights a number of local stars. This year, the talent includes Irma Thomas, Kourtney Heart, the Charmaine Neville Band and Rebirth Brass Band.

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