This year’s BAMS Fest has a theme song


Hip-hop champion Jazzmyn RED will perform at this year’s Boston Art & Music Soul Festival. (Photo by Tillett Studios)

Like so many of us, Catherine T. Morris spent the last year thinking about health and wellness. The founder and executive director of the Boston Art & Music Soul Festival (BAMS Fest), Morris and her team figured out one way to boost health: epic joy.

“The theme for us is epic joy this year,” Morris told the Herald. “The experience of the festival this year, I hope, even if it’s just for two seconds, allows you to be joyful.”

BAMS aims to champion local Black and brown artists and entrepreneurs on the front lines of racial equity, justice and economic empowerment. BAMS fest looks to create a space where those artists and entrepreneurs can celebrate with fans, network with each other, connect with nature and revel in a range of musical genres — the free festival takes place June 11 at Playstead Field in Franklin Park.

Over the last couple of years, BAMS has done a tremendous job hyping local artists who deserve to be hyped, including last year’s free, digital performance series Amplify the Soul with sets from Kaovanny, Miranda Rae, Brandie Blaze and more. This edition of the fest continues that tradition across a wealth of genres — a few on the June bill include future jazz giant Jonathan Suazo, hip-hop champion Jazzmyn RED and Americana (and electronica) artist Naomi Westwater. (The festival lineup was curated with major input from past BAMS performers.)

“Black arts and culture is not a monolith, it covers so much,” Morris said. “We had a thousand applications from artists to be part of the festival.”

That amazing number is actually down from years past. But it’s indicative to the huge number of artists that continue to work to reach fans after two years with very few outlets for live performance. To amplify lesser-known acts on bill, BAMS brought in a couple of headliners that reflect the organization’s commitment to community and art.

“(When booking the headliners) we took into account their influence, what they do for their community, their relationship to family, their relationship to Boston, their catalog of music and lyrics,” Morris said. “We settled on SWV as the closing headliner … and D Smoke, who is representing the future of hip-hop.”

SWV shows off the vital legacy of ’90s r&b; D Smoke spotlights the expansive reach of modern hip-hop – he is a bilingual teacher-turned-rapper who delivers bars in English and Spanish and has already racked up a 2020 Grammy.

But BAMS is more than a concert. There will be five dance classes of Afro-diasporic styles from leading local choreographers of color. Visual artists will reflect on the meaning of home and place through the live creation of murals. Chef and food trucks, vendors and a beer garden — run by people of color — will dot the park.

“This will show the tremendous diversity of an entire arts and culture ecosystem,” Morris said.

For more details, go to bamsfest.org.



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