S5EP2: 'Amplify the Soul' ft. Catherine T. Morris & Steve Chandy
Hi °F-TV family!
How are you?! I hope you're having a peaceful summer so far!
It's been a rainy month of July here in Boston and despite the weather being up & down, there's one thing I always look forward to experiencing this summer and that is the Boston Art & Music Festival (BamsFest) latest production, 'AMPLIFY THE SOUL' digital concert series.
Before Covid19, you can find me jamming at a concert! I LOVE going to see LIVE performances and after every show I was blessed to experience, I would tell the world all about it (check out my personal IG page @foreverjeune77 for lengthy testimonies lol). No matter where the venue was at or even if the show was on a workday, I would be there (sometimes in the front row) vibing and dancing to some of my favorite musical artists. I have to admit, I really miss that right now. Concerts aren't going to be the same for a long time due to COVID19 restrictions but what I admire is that there are organizations like BamsFest who are adapting to our new normal and STILL creating platforms for artists in Boston & New England to thrive! Their latest production 'AMPLIFY THE SOUL' is a summer-long digital concert series focused on restoring Black joy, making connections, and building community for music lovers, culture seekers, and everyday people. It features 11 local musical artists who literally light up the stage with their massive talent! I've been tuning in since it launched on June 11th and I have to honestly say that my soul feels amplified! Every Friday, there's a new artist with a unique musical story to tell and I am left feeling inspired, at peace and hungry for more!
This month I was blessed to have two extraordinary guests on our virtual platform, Founder & Executive Director of BamsFest, Catherine T. Morris and Singer/Songwriter & featured performing artist of 'AMPLIFY THE SOUL', Steve Chandy. Read more below to find out the inspiration behind creating the 'AMPLIFY THE SOUL' digital music series and why YOU should tune in this summer!
Watch the full episodes with our extraordinary guests here.
Illustrated by Farah Jeune of @studiojeuneart
I've been inspired by Catherine T. Morris since I had the opportunity to meet and connect with her a few years ago. Her mind is brilliant, her energy is divine and her love for community is deeply felt. Ask anyone who has been apart of her productions and/or has worked with her closely and they'll happily say that among her many strong attributes, her drive and determination is truly admirable!
Since a teenager, Catherine has been producing events that highlight the greatness of her peers. The Boston native grew up during a time where talent shows and competitions were the events to be at! She reminisced on how the music of that time influenced so many BIPOC to express themselves freely on stage. "That's the nostalgia of Boston I absolutely hang on to." When she was just 13 years old, she produced her first talent show at the Boston Boys & Girls Club and since then has grown into a well respected social entrepreneur and events producer who creates excellence on and off stage.
So what inspired her to create BamsFest ? Well, while studying at her alma matter, Temple University (in Philadelphia), she first started off majoring in mass communication but then was intrigued by the department of hospitality & management. "I went into that major because at the time, event production, event management, was the first time I saw a university offer that as part of the curriculum." During that time, Catherine got involved in multiple events at her university. She interned at a few places, volunteered and helped co-produce some local shows and shadowed some great role models in the field. "Being in Philly and watching the community, watching the variety of artists, watching city & state government invest in holistically supporting all types of arts, from all different neighborhoods, I was absolutely inspired."
She soon got an internship with the city of Philly for their 'Welcome America Festival' and she had the great opportunity to work alongside with two amazing women, Ivory Alison & Valerie Lagauskas,"both women had 30 years of experience in all kinds of LIVE events and I'm just like, show me your ways!" Catherine got to work on the concert finale with big headliners such as Patti LaBelle, John Legend & Hall & Oats! When she came back home, she wanted to create that here in Boston! While studying for her Masters degree at Simmons University in 2014, Catherine wrote her business plan for the Boston Art & Musical Festival (BamsFest) and the rest is history!
Since then, BamsFest has produced two successful grand outdoor festivals, cultivated programs, performances and spaces aimed at celebrating and edu-taining (educates and entertains) audiences and has provided over $100k of income to BIPOC artists in Boston! And their greatness doesn't stop there! The volunteer-led organization also supports and helps generate profit for local BIPOC entrepreneurs and is always advocating to city & state government officials for more equitable and inclusive opportunities for BIPOC creatives so they can help diminish the barriers in current art spaces. "What it came down to was figuring out how to translate all of the lived experiences as a Boston native, into accommodating events, that would make Bostonians, that would make Black Bostonians proud, that would make local artists proud and eventually, with the festival particularly, put it on the map as one of the 10 festivals to visit." And they are truly on their way!
In 2019, the Boston Art & Music Soul Festival (BamsFest) was named Best Music Festival in Boston Magazine! I can attest that their events truly bring my spirit joy. Having the blessing to attend both the 1st & 2nd annual outdoor Boston Art & Music Soul Festival (BamsFest), they both felt like an epic family reunion! The LIVE performances, dope graffiti pieces, community led dance floors and the sea of Colgate smiles from a rainbow of Bostonians in the crowd, is a memory I'll always adore. Plus, it's so cool to see artists you know and respect (some who have also been on our °F-TV stage) shine brightly without fear or limitations. BamsFest helps make that possible.
"It's really about sustaining, amplifying and preserving our culture." ~ Catherine T. Morris
Catherine also talked about the importance of creating opportunities here in our hometown so that artists, creatives and entrepreneurs don't always feel like they have to travel out of their way to find one or that Boston doesn't have appreciation for their BIPOC artists. This is why, during this ongoing pandemic, BamsFest was still determined to support our creatives.
Introducing, AMPLIFY THE SOUL.
'AMPLIFY THE SOUL' is a summer-long digital concert series focused on restoring Black joy, making connections, and building community for music lovers, culture seekers, and everyday people. The digital concert features 11 local artists and every Friday, the audience is introduced to a talented soul with a unique musical story to tell. I've been tuning in since it first launched and what I absolutely love is that every performance is different; from the music genre, to the set design, the viewer always feels like they are attending a different show. Catherine shared with us that it was very intentional that each set and each of the artists felt comfortable & celebrated on the Big Night Live stage."It's not just what you see in front of the camera, it's also who's behind it." The BamsFest team worked closely with the LoopMedia Lab & That Child Entertainment to make the production look amazing AND they filmed all 11 performances in just 3 days! This entire production featured and sponsored BIPOC artists both on stage and behind the camera. "We wanted to make sure that even in times of a pandemic, we still honored, still pushed forward, about breaking barriers even in a digital space."
I also admire that each performance features an interview with the featured artist. There's not one concert I've attended that allowed me to hear directly from the artist about the process behind creating their music, so this is a major plus to me and Catherine agreed. "Often times we as consumers take for granted about the performance but we never truly understand the content of the character of the artist." 'AMPLIFY THE SOUL' truly centers joy in every performance! Tune in every Friday @ 8pm on BamsFest YouTube channel (here) now through August 13th.
Please support BamsFest by visiting their website here and following them on social media @bamsfest.
Watch the FULL interview with queen Catherine on our YouTube channel to hear more about other programs BamsFest offers and how you can support this incredible organization!
We also had the blessing this month to chat with one of the featured 'AMPLIFY THE SOUL' performing artists, Singer/Songwriter Steve Chandy.
Steve Chandy was destined to be a musical artist! The self-taught musician and Singer/Songwriter always had a love for music; its practically in his DNA.
Born in Bahrain (an island nation in the Middle East) to Indian Missionary Pastors, Steve describes his childhood as an environment where "church was alive." Steve shared with us how LIVE and epic their overnight prayer meetings would be with loud drums banging, shaking tambourines and clapping in unison as they worshipped and celebrated. "As a kid, I always felt like I could sing very loud and open in spaces and I was just surrounded by music." When his family later moved to India, his parents got a visa to go to America, unfortunately, Steve's visa approval was delayed so he ended up staying at a boarding school in India, at just 10 years old, with his older brother, for 3 years. It was a tough challenge being away from his parents but even tougher surviving the later harsh realities he would encounter at that boarding school, including sexual abuse & suicidal ideation. It was during that time, when Steve fell in love with music.
One day as he recalls, he was on the rough top of his school building, alone and having a meltdown. The moment seemed so dark yet there was a blessing waiting for him. "I started sobbing and I could hear a melody in the sobs. And I was like 'oh that's a good melody.' And then I put lyrics to that melody and then I thought 'oh that's really cool' and then I started writing songs up on that roof." Steve kept a red notebook by his side and he filled it up with songs he wrote at just 11 years old! Since then, music has remained his source of comfort, a tool for healing and an avenue for expression.
"Music and spirituality were interconnected from a very young age." ~ Steve Chandy
Steve sung for the first time in front of an audience at a talent show in India. "Forget butterflies, there were dragons in my belly," Steve jokingly shared with us as he recapped on the epic memory. It also was the first time where he was brave enough to express his emotions on a stage where people could relate with what he was saying. When Steve eventually got his visa approved and moved to the states, he was 13 years old and it was a little bit of an overwhelming transition but he soon fell in love with the city of Philadelphia. He credits Philly as the place that encouraged him to grow in his artistry and where he discovered his love for Black soul music. "That's where my music was kinda like shaped." He explains how growing up, he would sing, belting out his lyrics but in Philly is where he learned how to redirect and train his voice and "put that energy into a song form that people can resonate with."
In Philly, Steve continued to grace the stage all around the city and soon around the nation, auditioning for grand stages like American Idol, The Voice & the historic, Apollo Theatre! "When I was auditioning for The Apollo, I was like, I'm not gonna get in, and then they were like, you're our type!" Any artist who has been brave and lucky enough to grace the historic Apollo Theatre stage will tell you its nerve racking! It's known for its bold audience that will literally boo you off the stage BUT if you got heart and most importantly, talent, you'll survive AND it'll be memorable. The night Steve performed on The Apollo stage, he not only got love from the audience but also was newly engaged! His wife proposed to him! Talk about two blessings in one night! Since then, Steve has continued to write, sing and produce music. His latest single, 'Resilient Child' definitely resinates with his journey as a brave little boy who used music as a tool to change his world and inspire others that they too can be resilient against life's unexpected challenges. Plus, its a catchy and feel good song so you'll feel empowered nonetheless!
S5EP2| Steve Chandy on how it felt to be apart of @bamsfest 's 'AMPLIFY THE SOUL' digital music series
When we asked Steve how it felt to be on stage again after over a year surviving an ongoing pandemic, he says, "It was so surreal!" Steve was overjoyed to be apart of BamsFest's AMPLIFY THE SOUL digital music series! Being on stage again made him so grateful! BamsFest is all about building community and he was happy that he could collaborate with a respected organization that not only cared for his talent and his safety but also his longevity in the Boston music scene. "You can tell that the people who run BamsFest are resilient because they looked at something and said, 'Let's find a way." He says he admires how BamsFest created a safe space for artists to fully express themselves, performing about topics related to mental health, love and a variety of emotions and other social issues. Every performance is spectacular! "The level of detail that's put into every single one of these concerts is wild!" As I mentioned before, each performance is unique and you'll also notice that each artist has expressed soul music through a variety of genres (reggae, gospel, hip hop, r&b, soft rock & more). What's an added bonus is that these dynamic performances will live on forever in the digital space. Experience the genius of these artists now and tune in every Friday @ 8pm on BamsFest YouTube channel (here) now through August 13th.
Watch Steve Chandy's dynamic performance on @bamsfest 's 'AMPLIFY THE SOUL' digital music series