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Friday, April 19, 2024

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BLACK MUSIC MONTH: Peeking behind a promoter’s curtain

Forty-four years after then-President Jimmy Carter declared June Black Music Month, we pull back the curtain to share some of the behind-the-scenes inner workings that contribute to the ongoing success of Memphis singers, musicians, writers and more.

After kicking off The New Tri-State Defender’s Black History Month salute last week by spotlighting the upcoming Women of Soul concert, we shift the focus to Black music promotion, or employment of Black artists.

While there are myriad entry points for just such a focus, we turn to Cynthia Daniels, chief event strategist for Cynthia Daniels & Co (CDCO), who believes in the strength, transformative power, and greatness of Black music.  

Since the Soulful Food Truck Festival in 2017, CDCO has hosted festivals, galas and other events that exclusively employ African-American artists to create soulful musical backdrops for sophisticated audiences and celebrate Black culture.

Devin Crutcher is among the artists Cynthia Daniels has showcased. (Courtesy photo)

“We’ve featured Jerome Chism, Keia Johnson, Courtney Little, J Buck, Shunta Mosby, Bird Williams, Doll McCoy, Carmen Hicks, Devin Crutcher, Stefanie Bolton, Gerald Richardson, Jonte’ Mayon and more,” Daniels recalled.

Mayon looks forward to Daniels’ next call. 

“When clients call again, you know they’re happy,” she said, “and it’s a confidence booster. When Cynthia calls you back, you know did it right.”

Jonte’ Mayon said she is grateful to be part of the Memphis music scene with “so many legends who’ve come before me.” (Courtesy photo)

A New Orleans-native, Mayon moved to Memphis after fronting the BB King All Stars Band on a cruise ship and meeting her husband the second time out.

“We thought we’d keep playing on the ship, but then the pandemic hit and now we’re here, and I’m so grateful to be working steadily in Memphis,” said Mayon.

“When I moved here, I thought my career was on the downswing, but Memphis has embraced me, and I love it – I just couldn’t leave.”

Since the age of 4, Mayon has graced stages – from churches to clubs, World Fairs and more – and couldn’t see it any other way.

“I have no idea what I’d do without music; it’s always taken care of me. And being part of the Memphis music scene, with so many legends who’ve come before me, I’m so grateful to follow their path,” said Mayon.

Daniels said, “Memphis has some of the most talented and soulful singers; it’s in our DNA. And when I think about what makes a great experience, Memphis music is a must. …

“Everyone enjoys the artists I select, and I feel like my platform has opened up corporate opportunities for some of these artists.”

Mike Mosby, a native Memphian, a drummer and Daniels’ festival musical director concurred. 

“Cynthia includes me in the decision-making process for the artists and trusts me to add my own creativity to make her vision come to life,” said Mosby.

“A lot of opportunities have come since I’ve worked with her. And as she grows and gets even bigger and better, so do others around her.” 

Cynthia Daniels with Mike Mosby, Daniels’ festival musical director. (Courtesy photo)

When Mosby hires bands for CDCO events, he looks for consummate professionals and those who can bring BIG energy. 

“We have a lot of talent here but I’m looking for people to learn and know the music then add their sauce on it,” said Mosby. 

Having that secret sauce is paramount for artists, Mayon said.

Mayon continued, “I was lucky enough to recently do background vocals for Jennifer Hudson. It’s work but once you learn the music, the moves and add your own flavor, it’s such a beautiful experience as an artist. I am blessed to connect with people in a way that I can only describe as spiritual.”

Always mindful of generating a “massive, magical, amazing, musical moment,” Mosby said, “I read the crowd and make sure I have the right pieces in place… to bring the massive, magical, amazing, musical moment,” said Mosby.

Daniels believes the success of her events hinge on employing people who are the best at what they do. Mayon and Mosby fit her bill.

CDCO’s two upcoming festivals at Fourth Bluff Park are free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.:

  • June 17th: Juneteenth Shop Black Festival, featuring Jerome Chism, Angie P. Holmes and Courtney Little;
  • June 18th: Memphis Vegan Festival, featuring J Buck and Keia Johnson.

Daniels plans to expand CDCO to Huntsville, Alabama, and Dallas and to take Memphis artists with her. 

(For more information about when and where you can experience your favorite Memphis artists, check out CDCOFestivals.com.)


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