Like many of us, Catherine T. Morris has spent the past year thinking about health and wellness. Founder and Executive Director of the Boston Art & Music Soul Festival (BAMS Fest), Morris and her team have found a way to improve health: epic joy.
“The theme for us is epic joy this year,” Morris told the Herald. “The festival experience this year, I hope, even if only 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 Festival seeks to create a space where these 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 past two years, BAMS has done a wonderful job of nurturing local artists who deserve to be heard, 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 festival continues that tradition across a host of genres – a few on the bill for June include future jazz giant Jonathan Suazo, hip-hop champion Jazzmyn RED and American (and electronic) artist Naomi Westwater. (The festival lineup was curated with major input from former BAMS artists.)
“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.”
This incredible number is actually down from years past. But it’s indicative of the sheer number of artists still working to reach fans after two years with very few live performance outlets. To amplify lesser-known acts on the bill, BAMS has introduced a few headliners that reflect the organization’s commitment to community and the arts.
“(When booking the headliners), we considered their influence, what they do for their community, their relationship with family, their relationship with Boston, their catalog of music and lyrics,” Morris said. “We chose SWV as the final headliner…and D Smoke, who represents the future of hip-hop.”
SWV shows the vital legacy of 90s R&B; D Smoke shines a light on the vast reach of modern hip-hop – he’s a bilingual teacher-turned-rapper who delivers bars in English and Spanish and has already won a 2020 Grammy.
But BAMS is more than a concert. There will be five dance classes in Afro-diasporic styles taught by leading local choreographers of color. Visual artists will reflect on the meaning of home and place through the live creation of murals. Chefs and food trucks, vendors and an outdoor cafe — manned by people of color — will dot the park.
“It will show the tremendous diversity of an entire artistic and cultural ecosystem,” Morris said.
For more details, visit bamsfest.org.