Grant fuels next project for Dot's DJ WhySham

DJ WhySham aka Shamara Rhodes spun some tunes at a Spark FM online show last summer. Robin Lubbock/WBUR photo

Dorchester’s own “community DJ” was on the receiving end of a recent wave of artist grants distributed by Cambridge venue Club Passim. Shamara Rhodes, better known as DJ WhySham, was named as a recipient of a grant through its 2020 Iguana Music Fund, which doled out more than $40,000 to 24 Boston area musicians.

WhySham says the funds will be put towards “A Social Justice Trap Story,” a pre-recorded live virtual concert to be hosted later this spring based on her 2020 album, “Finally.”

“Right now, I’m building a story out of it,” WhySham told the Reporter. “The project is less than 30 minutes, so I think I’m going to plan to break up some of the songs and use some transitions throughout the story.”

According to WhySham, the event will be about “acknowledging non-binary women” in the music scene and “dedicated to people who have lost their lives to police brutality.” She added: “Ideally I want to hire a professional videographer and film it in a small tiny desk type space, and have it be more raw, more impactful, more emotional.”

WhySham has coined the phrase “social justice trap” for when she is talking about her music, words, she says, that express the “pain and sorrow” that marginalized groups have experienced. 

“We hear music talking about people getting killed or taking drugs...OK, cool, where’s the follow up? I’ve dealt with people who have overdosed, who have lost their lives, and there’s no real outlet, so the movement is that outlet. But, also, what is the solution? Sometimes the best way to deal with it is to collaborate and come together as artists. Some people just need a mentor, and that’s what the movement’s about.”

The grant follows a big year for WhySham, during which she released a project while pivoting her career to virtual platforms after Covid took away performance opportunities for DJs across the country. Over the summer, she DJ-ed virtual events for local organizations like BAMS Fest, and provided music for several outdoor protests.

“Covid taught me to slow down in certain ways. I was able to reach out to more people who I wouldn’t have reached out to before, and I got to tap into the folks on my feeds and draw them into the work I was doing,” explained WhySham. “A lot of DJs have been doing quarantine events, and it’s been amazing to see how they were coming together virtually online.”

WhySham said to expect a live band, dancers to “bring the words to life,” and other visual artists contributing to her production, which will be livestreamed on YouTube, Instagram, and other video social media platforms on Fri., April 23, at 8 p.m.