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Portlanders Create Soul'd Out Music Festival

From Mos Def to Rusko, Ellis Marsalis to Rafael Saadiq, Lauryn Hill to Afro-Cuban All Stars and much more, this year’s Soul’d Out Festival features an impressive array of artists from across the musical spectrum. 

For the second year in a row, Nick Harris and Haytham Adbulhadi, both with backgrounds in music management and promotion, have joined forces to produce this festival which runs through April 17 and offers opportunities to see musicians perform in more than 10 of Portland’s most prestigious venues.

So how did Harris and Abdulhadi dream up Soul’d Out and make it a reality?

For Harris, it all started when the southern Illinois native was attending Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. At that time, alternative music was making its unprecedented advance toward the mainstream. Bands like Nirvana, Everclear and Soundgarden were just beginning to find resonance with the lonesome, angsty and sunshine-deprived youth of the Pacific Northwest.

Go See It

Soul’d Out Festival

  • Through April 17
  • Visit website for performance schedule

“It was the indie-rock, grunge capital of the world. That music was all there was. Occasionally we’d get different kinds of music, but it was rare. They were great bands and great musicians, don’t get me wrong, but variety was scarce.”

Harris, whose musical tastes span the gamut of genres from soul music to jazz to dance hall to reggae, was always looking for a way to bring performers of all styles together. While producing a Portland jazz and reggae show that suffered from low turnout and shallow ticket sales, Harris met Abdulhadi.

Abdulhadi, who was working with the venue for the show, recalled a rocky start to their business relationship.

“He asked me for a reduction because the show didn’t do well — he asked me to take less money,” says Abdulhadi. The two seemed to have resolved their issues around the bottom line and have since worked together in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans.

Born to Palestinian parents, Abdulhadi grew up in Washington, D.C., a city with cultural and ethnic diversity reflective of a wide range of musical tastes and preferences. Together, Harris and Abdulhadi cover a variety of musical styles. Abdulhadi remembers that starting Soul’d Out grew from an idea to cater to as many people and cultures as possible.

“We wanted to have an event for everyone in the same house, young and old — something multigenerational.”

“The two of us together, we touch on a lot of different stuff. It’s kind of like when you have a Venn diagram — whatever I don’t cover, he does, so we work well together.”

You can see the results of their “Venn diagram” in action during this year’s Soul’d Out Music Festival in locations across Portland through April 17.

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