Shine and the Moonbeams Makes Family Music Soulful
Family music’s first soul band Shine and the Moonbeams is performing five McGraw-Hill Carnegie Kids concerts in all five boroughs this season. Leading up to their second concert on April 14, 2013 at the Bronx Library Center, we spoke with lead singer Shawana Kemp about her origins as a songwriter and what she hopes to share with children and their families.
You have a long history of recording and performing with esteemed artists. What made you decide to start writing soul music for children?
I have a little boy who was listening to kiddie music on television and I felt the music left him out of the conversation both visually and sonically. I believe that African Americans have contributed so much to American music, and to not have those sounds represented and reflected in music as early as possible is not serving music or children. I also love kids and music, and it is an ideal mix for me personally and creatively—the sky is the limit. If it's pretty the song is a keeper.
A recent McGraw-Hill Carnegie Kids concert with Shine and the Moonbeams. Photos by Christopher Smith.
How did you get the nickname "Shine"?
My grandmother called me Shine. I was her first-born grandchild and we had a very close connection. She used to come to many of my shows when I performed in the wee hours of the New York night with my other bands. My entire family calls me Shine.
When did you first become involved with music, and how do you balance being a teacher at JHS 117 in the Bronx, a professional musician, and a mother?
I was tutored on the road with The Tap Dance Kid, which was my first professional job. I was 13 years old when I had an equity card. I have been singing all my life—or at least that is what I wanted to be doing since I can remember. Teaching is something that I think was a natural progression. I was a teaching artist for nine years and found myself wanting to stay with the students that I was working with. I wanted to contribute to their development on a steadier basis. I went back to school three years ago and am working to complete my master's degree in special education as we speak. I try to just keep it moving and get it done.
Your songs have very thoughtful lyrics. What do you hope children and their families will learn from listening to your music?
I hope that children will activate their imaginations and stay excited about the little things for as long as possible. I hope that families will remember to enjoy each other and to make memories. Life is an adventure and we are all on the ride together.
What are you most excited about as a roster artist in our Carnegie Kids series this season?
I am happy that Shine and the Moonbeams will be in different parts of New York City and that the shows are free for families—that is awesome! I am a New Yorker and working with Carnegie Hall is big. I have performed at Carnegie Hall once before with Eric Idle doing the music of Monty Python, which was amazing. My grandmother got to see that show. But I am now working with Carnegie Hall as Shine with music that I wrote and love. It's exciting.
Can families expect new music from you in the near future?
Oh yes, we have been working on our debut album for a long time, and it will be ready at the end of this month. Yippie! We will be working on some new tunes this summer after I graduate and take that nap that I have been putting off for the last several years. We are looking forward to having more families get to know Shine and the Moonbeams. See you at the shows. Peace.