“Never Compromise Your Morals or Your Heart”



Age: 23
Occupation: Singer and Guitarist from the band SolStar
Hometown: Washington, DC


When did your love for music begin?

Florida Avenue Grill in DC was really live in the 70s. It still is really popular but not to the extent it was back then. There was a lot of live music and there isn’t much there anymore. Anyway, my mother used to sing at Florida Avenue Grill and a lot of other hot spots in DC. She also sings opera and has studied music theory. Fred Foss (jazz aficionado in DC) told me not many people can sing classical and jazz but my mother can and has a beautiful voice doing both. I love it. Growing up in Mama Rose’s house I heard a lot of jazz and tons of classical music. She sings in the Aria Club of Greater Washington and sings for several churches. She taught me piano at a young age. Later, I took up flute and played in the DC Youth Orchestra, and finally in high school I picked up guitar. So when I talk about my love for music it certainly starts with her and encompasses all of those musical experiences I had growing up. I have three older sisters and a brother who are musically inclined as well so I have those influences too. One of my sister’s brought home this world beat CD when I was 8 or 9 and it was the first time I’d heard bossa nova. I think that’s my favorite genre. I’d like to incorporate more of that style in our music.


When did you learn to play the guitar?

When I was 15…sophomore in high school, I saw the classical guitar lying underneath the piano. I begged my mother for lessons. I took lessons for about 1 or 2 months—enough to learn names of strings and basic chords. I started coming to lessons with songs and chords my teacher hadn’t shown me yet-he was shocked. I had always written poetry and lyrics but once I found out about chords—I really dove into songwriting. However, I wish I had stuck with his guitar lessons.


Zayani3Can you tell me about your band?

I met Mosi (violin), Prince (Bass), and Osim (Djembe) at a show at Spelman that I was helping host for student council. They were already a group and had recently chosen the name SolStar. The show we were putting together was called “A love Story” and they were the featured band. They did a beautiful job. Afterward we exchanged contact and linked up to practice. That first night of rehearsal was magic. We started performing around ATL. Our first show together was at the Five Spot. Later on we met Miso (performing artist) who began as our manager but later found a better fit in the group participating in the show doing dance, painting, and crowd interaction. We are a pretty unique band with a mission to spread love and raise the frequency. Our goal at our shows is to invite you into an experience.


What goes into starting and maintaining a band?

I remember posting on craigslist about starting a band–looking for dj, keys, drums, just whatever! Made a few contacts but nothingZayani2 came of it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look for long. SolStar showed up and showed out at Spelman, and we were able to connect afterward. It was easy with them because it seems that we just came together naturally. There are mutual interests and there’s respect in the group so it’s easier to work together. Maintaining a band is like any other relationship where honesty, respect, compassion, and other virtues are important. It can be hard but it’s very rewarding.


Who are some of your favorite artists?

My favorite musicians/artists right now are Thundercat, Janelle Monae, and Robert Glasper, Mosi, Kendrick, Chance the Rapper and Solstar. –My most recent albums I’ve purchased and listen to are from Eric Wright, Elle Varner, India Shawn, Marian Mereba, Brik Liam …  Of all time — Lauryn Hill, Sly and the Family Stone, MJ, John Mayer, Hendrix, John Scofield, Debussy, Pac and Nas.


Advice for other girls trying to get into music?

My advice for girls getting into music is respect yourself and your craft. Don’t compromise your morals and your heart to further you in your career. Accept constructive criticism and don’t forget to have fun.


Zayani5Where do you want to be in the future?

Musically, I see myself a more skilled musician, doing large shows with SolStar globally, and completing awesome albums!
From Zayani:

Hi readers! I hope you get a chance to check out our band’s music! You can find us at solstarmusic.com, solstarmusic on the gram, twitter, and like us on Facebook!

You can tweet me @zayanirose. I’m on insta @zuniverse_xo.

For booking, email info@solstarmusic.com

For Karyn Washington, and For Myself

Karyn washington

This past week on facebook, my timeline was flooded with news about the death of Karyn Washington, the blogger behind For Brown Girls. As I clicked on the different links reading about how this one soul touched so many, my heart sunk as I learned about her depression after the death of her mother and how she ended her life at 22, a milestone that I’ll be reaching in 2 months. Letting her story really sink in, what saddened me was that such a beautiful person was lost so early…and I wondered how many other women could relate to her story. How many of us beautiful, brown girls have lost something so dear, or felt so low that we’ve contemplated the worst? And as much as it scares me to admit it, I am one of those girls.

Growing up, I always struggled with self-confidence. A black girl going to a predominantly white private school, I battled with so many different complexes: I wasn’t “white” enough for my white friends and wasn’t “black” enough for my black ones, All the boys I was interested in never liked me back, I wasn’t filthy rich but my family was by no means poor. I wasn’t a straight A student, but I didn’t need extra help either. I was ugly, average and invisible as far as I could tell; not special in any discernable way. My presence didn’t seem to make a difference. I had mentally degraded myself to the point where I had no concept of self love or value. Sophomore year of high school was my lowest point, I was playing at normality while on the inside screaming to be noticed. While battling anxiety and depression, I denied those feelings, scolding myself because I had no reason to feel the way I did. I had two parents and a stable, middle class upbringing, I had friends, I had privilege…what the hell was I crying about? So on top of my depression was self-hate for feeling depressed. I felt like I was losing my mind.

I had convinced myself that this would be the easiest way. I had planned what I was going to do…had even started planning when would be “a good time.” But one night sitting on the couch with my mom, paying more attention to the swirl of thoughts in my head rather than the movie we were supposed to be watching, on an impulse I whispered “I need help.” Of course caught off guard, my mom turned to me and asked what I had said. It took me a few minutes to gather up the courage to say it aloud again. But I looked her in the eye and told her I had thought about killing myself. Some might say it was bravery or strength, reaching out to her. But in that moment, I would call it desperation more than anything.

I was exhausted. Not all mental illness is visible, especially when you’re trying your hardest to suppress it. I had friends, I went to school everyday, I was “functioning.” But it was a front. Everyday was a battle to keep this facade together. No one was supposed to know about my depression because I wasn’t so supposed to feel that way. I didn’t have the right. But the best thing I did was finally own it. Acknowledge it but not surrender to it. My mom immediately found a therapist for me to go to. And she encouraged me to start a journal. And I started talking to the people closest to me about it. And the more I wrote and spoke, the more reflective I became. About my feelings, my triggers and my insecurities; I had to realize the things about myself that I should accept and embrace and take control of the things that I could change.

And the first thing that I had to accept, was that there was no overnight fix. It was constant work, through the rest of high school and into college, I still battled with bouts of depression. And 6 years later as I’m finishing my last year of college, I can’t say that the battle is done. There are still days or even weeks at a time where my mood sinks and I feel like I’m reverting back to the “old me.” But the key difference between the Me then and the Me now, is that those feelings don’t scare me anymore. They’ll come, but then they’ll go. Depression does not have to be permanent. And today I can say that I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been: physically, mentally and spiritually because I reached out and asked for help.

In January, the theme for the blog was Emotional Health and in my piece “The Myth of the Strong Black Woman,” I wrote about how many black women are socialized to equate emotionality with weakness. Feelings of anxiety and depression are not problems that black people are supposed to face. But we do. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you have or who you’re supposed to be, you are perfectly validated in your feelings, both the positive and negative ones. I know this month is dedicated to Black Musicians, but I wanted to make a post dedicated to Karyn Washington. Herself and her loved ones are all in my thoughts and prayers and I can only hope to reach as many people as she did. After reading her story and sharing my own, I hope that anyone who sees either of them realizes that they are not wrong, they are not crazy, and they are not alone. That reaching out can be the best thing you could ever do for yourself and that there is a future that can be very, very bright.

Going Against the Status Quo

ChenaChena 1

Age: 20
Occupation: Intern at Outerloop Management
Hometown: Beltsville, MD

Describe your love of music:

I’m very reserved, I think so much and deeply about things and I’m an indoor cat, not an outdoor one. Music has always been how I express how i feel and has been

there for me when no one else has.

When did you learn to play guitar?

I picked up the guitar at 14. I used to want to be a singer and felt that I’ll be more interesting if I played an instrument. So one morning I woke up and decided to learn guitar, so I went to the library and got books about it that same day. I always respected people who knew how to play an instrument well because they worked hard at it. To me, you aren’t very talented in music if you can’t understand it in the most organic way or you haven’t taken any time to make it for yourself…without the help of a computer, effects, etc.

Can you tell me about your internships in the music

Chena with Killswitch

Chena with Killswitch Engage


It’s important to get in touch with the right people if you are into music. I had a friend who interned at the Fillmore and she recommended I get in touch with the manager’s assistant. It’s fun, especially if you go to a lot of shows like I do. They can be a money pit. But if you are on the inside, your contributions are compensated with a free entry. Currently I’m at Outerloop Management, where we manage pretty successful metal/rock bands such as Periphery, Darkest Hour, Dying Fetus, Crown the Empire, WCAR. Both internships have to do with marketing 70% of the time and the rest is administrative stuff, making sure the bands have what they need to get on the road and keeping track of expenses. Requirements for jobs like that is to just be passionate about music and be willing to learn. Also a business background/knowledge is great.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

My favorite music is metal, fusion jazz, finger style acoustic and classic rock. Some of my favorite artists are Into

Chena with Chuck Billy

Chena with Chuck Billy

Eternity, Carach Angren, Guthrie Gowan, Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, Anathema, Carcass, Alter Bridge and Killswitch Engage. My favorite artist of all time would be Stevie Ray Vaughan because I credit him for teaching me how to play guitar just by listening and mimicking what he did. Currently, I can’t get enough of the incredible Andy James.

Advice for other girls wanting to get into music?

Don’t worry about trying to fit in, go out there and explore with an open mind about all types of music. Not the type society says black people are supposed to like. Especially for us ethnic girls, don’t let anyone tell you whats “ok” for you to do. Going against the status quo is powerful, and having your own opinions is empowering. It’s surprising to people that I’m a black girl who’s passionate about heavy music and shreds on guitar. I’ve made friends with very important people in the community because being different is interesting. So go pick up and instrument that’s for “the boys” and become really good at it.

Chena with Jeff Loomis

Chena with Jeff Loomis

Where do you want to be in the future?

Well I love playing guitar because it makes me happy, so whatever I am doing in life (even if its a normal person job) I still want to be playing in a band and be involved with the metal/fusion jazz community. In a perfect world, I would have gone to Berklee or Musicians Institute, but my parents are African…no way that could work out. But I still want to work towards my rock star dreams and hope I can do that full time some day.


Want to see more of Chena? Follow her on instagram @chena_roxx or email her at chena716@gmail.com


Black Musicians!

Hello FYM Project Readers!

Remember art appreciation month? Well, I really liked finding and showcasing the different talents, so I decided to dedicate a whole month to one form of artistic expression and this month is MUSIC!

music monthMany say music is a universal language, it connects people. Despite language, class, race or space; music brings people together and influences the masses. My favorite thing is that music is like an infinite treasure chest. There is always something new to discover or old to find. Some of my best moments were through music: Getting a standing ovation at my piano recital in the 3rd grade. Singing with my middle school choir. Driving in the summer time, with my new license, windows down and “It’s Love” by Jill Scott blaring through the speakers!

And for many of us, along with the songs we adore, we admire musicians as well. Whether its their style or their spirit, female musicians stand as role models for generations. Billie Holiday, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Tina Turner,  Anita Baker, Sade, Whitney Houston, En Vogue, Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, TLC, Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, India Airie, Janelle Monae, Emeli Sande, Esperanza Spalding and countless others

…all artists that have reached timelessness and have changed the way black women are perceived and how they perceived themselves. Music is an iconic part of our culture that shapes society. It enables everyone to create their own soundtrack for their life. No matter what, there is always a song to fit the mood. Therefore, this month is dedicated to celebrating and appreciating female musicians. For those who play, those who sing and those who just love to listen.