|Amnel Massimo via our recent Skype interview|
I had the pleasure of meeting singer Amnel (pronounced Ahm-Nell) Massimo in Playa del Carmen, MX last year. What better place to get to know someone than a Mexican paradise? She was welcoming, warm and married to Perez Massimo, a deejay and good friend of my boyfriend. The first thing she said to me, standing poolside in our shared hotel’s atrium was: “I like your hair. What products do you use?” I liked her instantly. A woman who is friendly and likes to talk hair? That is a foundation for good friendships.
The story of Amnel begins in New York City, moves to the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and lands back in the NYC. I know her story. She told it to me over drinks while we watched the men in our lives take turns deejay-ing at a hotel lobby bar not far from our hotel. She was open and honest and curious. After telling me her tale, she asked me mine. I had a hard time following suit. Amnel provided the details of her life like she had done it many times previously. I, on the other hand, found it difficult to pull together a concise retelling of my story. Who I am and how I got here. That is Amnel though. As with anybody else, I prepared 10 questions for our interview. This usually results in at least an hour and a half of talk time and lots of frantically scribbled notes. Not with Amnel. Our interview took less than 45 minutes- a record for me. Her answers were always to the point and confident. Again, like she has been answering questions about who she is her entire life. I get the feeling she has been preparing for this moment, every moment, since forever.
Amnel has been singing since before she could talk. Independent, even then, she recalls rocking herself to sleep with song. She gets her talent honestly. Her dad was an “amazing singer”, her mom, a painter, did not have the singing ability, but there was singing talent on her side of the family as well.
It was in Junior High that Amnel’s professional singing career began. Friends of hers had a disco band, and needed a vocalist. By the time she was 16, the group was touring the island (something she loved to do), performing at weddings and hotel events. Amnel also fondly remembers singing with choir of the all-girls Catholic High School she attended. The “fuffy” school, owned by the country’s Cardinal, competed and won nationally four years in a row. Performing comes naturally. Again, preparedness is the key.
Recently, Amnel’s career has surged to the next level. It is only April and she has already performed at the girlNation Relaunch party at M Lounge in New York, the Winter Music Conference's Women Man the Decks party in Miami and Le Femme Affair- a spinoff of a Private Affair, which is an über exclusive event created by her husband, that the couple hosts in their Queens home. Later this month she will perform alongside Perez at I'll House You with Oscar P, at Bar 13, also in New York. Many artists in her position would love to have that schedule and the visibility that comes with it.
The collaborative effort between Amnel and Perez should be no surprise to those who know the couple. They are each other’s biggest fans. Amnel sites Perez as being her musical muse, teaching her about the industry and providing support. She scoffs at the idea of competition between the two, explaining that they are in “two different realms”.
Amnel’s inspiration for her music and sound comes from life itself. “God has a very big role in my life. I feel He has given me this gift to testify His glory.” She is spiritual, and an unflinching Christian. I asked if she finds it difficult creating a balance between her Christian life and the more secular music she performs. Amnel makes it clear, “it’s all in your heart- your intentions. You can clean your house and glorify God.” She does draw the line at overtly sexual music, choosing “integrity [and] dignity” instead.
Like most of us girls who grew up in the 80s and 90s, Amnel sites Whitney Houston as the singer who influenced her the most. In her opinion the singer from the past or present with the most unmatched voice is Amy Winehouse. The terms “effortless” and “beautiful” are used when describing Winehouse’s singing ability. “[Singing came so naturally] she looks bored in some performances. She was unique.” Her favorite singer right now is Sia, “she’s amazing”.
As a Dominican, Amnel finds the folk music of her country’s past to be intriguing and something she would like to explore further to weave into her own music. She spoke of how “particular sounds from your nature have spiritual weight” and wants to continue to draw creativity from her roots, her folk language.
In the next five to ten years, Amnel simply wants to be “successful”. I asked her to describe her idea of success. Her immediate answer is touring. With further contemplation, she explains her goal is to use music to inspire others. The music means more to her than the money she will make as an artist. “The money will be good no doubt about that. But I look forward to the people that will testify that they were healed [listening] to my songs. Only God can bring success like that!” She plans on using her “voice to break chains [and] boundaries”. Is this not what real music lovers want from artists? To provide a soundtrack for our lives that will lead to breakthroughs, small and large, whether personally or globally. We want to be uplifted, but still groove. Upon hearing Amnel sing, or even speak, you are drawn in by the sound- thick like molasses, and soft at the same time. You want to hear more. The good news is there always seems to be more to give.
Amnel has a testimony, and she willingly shares it with those who will listen. If you watch closely to her performance, the way she commands the stage, you will witness it- her story. The story she has been preparing and articulating, her entire life. She is on a path that keeps winding, constantly moving her further and deeper and up, almost as if it were already written. If you are looking for a new voice, a new sound you can relate to, follow that path. She won’t steer you wrong.
More about Amnel…
“Heart Beat” by the Drumattix is currently on constant rotation. “[It] never gets old”.
She credits Trip Hop, Soul, R&B from the past, Pop, 60s and 70s Spanish Pop and Electronic music in general as her musical influences.
She considers herself a Househead, “[it] really speaks to me.”
Click to hear Amnel's cover of Rihanna's "Stay"!
Click to hear Amnel's cover of Rihanna's "Stay"!