On a recent trip to New York City, I met up with Why Not Show Love Band in their Jamaica Queens Studio to discuss the power and impact of the arts in NYC. The interview was scheduled to last a few hours, but by the time we finished, 6 hours had passed. They brought me into their world, made me feel like family, and I walked away with an expanded perspective on the power of music.
In addition to being a guitarist, emcee, songwriter, and producer, Y? is a teaching artist for B.E.A.T NYC, an educational organization that provides culturally relevant music and writing programs to under-served areas in New York City. B.E.A.T NYC, Y?, and the band share the mission of employing the arts to provide a human context that cultivates dispositions compulsory to a healthy society. These dispositions include self and social awareness, empathy, and creativity. Y? explains that the arts can elevate us to become better human beings,
A lot of people, I think they might look at art as purely fun, but I actually think for me, art refined me as a man, as a person and made me grow up.
Ony, the band’s DJ, Vocalist and Percussion Player feels that, in addition to music’s instrumental potential as an educational tool, music develops a person’s humanity and helps people to heal. He maintains that eliminating music from a person’s life is like trying to grow a plant in the dark; the humanity in us doesn’t grow. In describing the power of music, Ony states,
I’ve seen it impact lives, like how music can just make people cry, reminisce, happy, you know, think.
Hailing from one of the roughest parts of Queens, Drummer, Eli “EMajor” Shippe agrees and explains that the arts can save lives, and that without music he would either be dead or in jail. Though growing up amidst violence and despair, through music, Eli confronts his own demons and transmits a positive message to others,
For me, art has been an escape, it’s been a way out. It’s been a way for me to stay out of trouble. It’s been a way for me to create opportunities.
Music provides the capacity for Eli to reimagine himself, his environment, and then to spread hope and positivity.
Commenting on Music’s capacity to spread hope, Vocalist and public school teacher Dana Wholeness, explained that the arts are powerful form of community building, and sharing. She described a situation that embodied this point. One day, while singing in the subway, a destitute looking woman with no teeth wearing tattered clothing was so moved by Dana’s song that she approached offering five dollars. Understanding that the woman had limited finances, Dana explained to the woman that she could not take her money. The woman moved closer, placed the money in Dana’s hand, and insisted. Dana explained,
It was something that my song did to her. For me it comes out very personally, but it’s always in connection with somebody else. It’s a sharing thing.
Song Writer and Vocalist, Ayano Hirose, agreed that music gives people that sense of community and togetherness,
“This is music. Getting to know people and sharing”
It is clear that Why Not Show Love Band is tapping into the positive potential of music and is showing by example what music can be. They are not only a talented group of musicians, but wonderful people. I want to thank them for taking the time to talk with me about the positive side of the arts.