After two tough years of struggling through the pandemic, area musicians Diana Barlow and Chanda Lin decided it was time to focus on recovery.
This weekend, the two singers/rappers are teaming up to host what they call the Breakout Show, a series of shows with a common goal of uplifting people and helping them tackle the challenges in their lives. Both Barlow, of Niagara Falls, and Lynn, of Jamestown, say they have experienced health and mental struggles, and understand how difficult it can be to feel isolated over the past two years.
“People got locked up,” Lynn said earlier this month during an interview in Barlow’s studio at the Niagara Center for the Arts and Culture. “There is an enormous emotional and spiritual need for people to connect in person.”
“(COVID-19) has shut down a lot of us as creators,” Barlow added. “And not just the creators, but people in general. Everyone kind of got worried about this whole process.”
The 44-year-old Barlow has long been a staple of the Western New York music scene, both as a solo artist known as Wenzday Atemz and with her group called Reign. She said the pandemic hit her hard in the creative sense, leaving her depressed and struggling to write new music.
She said she would limit recording sessions in an effort to motivate herself to write. But even as those deadlines approached, Barlow said she was struggling to meet her goals.
“I kept having to cancel studio sessions,” she said. “I had nothing written.”
Meanwhile, Lynn, 28, says she’s found her voice during the pandemic, and the breakout show — scheduled for Saturday night at Hard Rock Cafe — will be her first-ever live performance.
Despite this, she will attend the audience when she comes to Niagara Falls for the show. Lynn has gained quite a following on social media over the past few years after deciding to open up about her struggles, such as overcoming drug addiction and staying sober for the past seven years.
Lynn said her work as a musician showed her the importance of bringing people together around shared understandings and experiences. She said she now wants to encourage others to do the same and hopes Saturday’s show will be a vehicle for that message.
“I feel a personal responsibility to be someone who creates a connection wherever one is needed,” she said. “I hope to inspire others to fulfill this need. If an event doesn’t exist, or there isn’t a group, do it. Make it.”
Barlow and Lynne first met online in 2017, when Barlow said she reached out to Lynn after seeing some poetry she had written. Barlow sent some music and encouraged Lynn to turn her poems into rap. After a short time, the two lost contact, but Lynn took Barlow’s advice seriously and began writing songs and posting them online for her growing audience.
Within a few years, Lynn had developed a huge following. Today, she has hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and other platforms.
In the spring of 2021, Barlow reconnected with Lynn again to ask if she’d do some poetry with spoken words for a new song she was working on.
It’s like ‘Yo, I’m playing music now,’ Barlow said excitedly, flicking her fingers, and I was like ‘Let’s go! “I was very happy to find out.”
The two already knew they had a common goal of inspiring people through music and decided it was time to start collaborating.
In addition to their personal struggles bringing them together, Barlow and Lynn say they also found common ground in their Christian faith. However, both women assert that their music is not aimed at a Christian audience and say their focus on the struggles of ordinary people will be relevant regardless of someone’s spirituality.
Although the isolation created by the pandemic was a major factor in bringing up the idea of Break Through Show, Barlow and Lynn say the local community has plenty of other things to recover from, including an ongoing drug crisis, mental health challenges and HNF.
But they say these fights aren’t just for the western New York community, but for everyone else. If all goes according to plan, Barlow and Lynn say they’ll eventually take The Breakthrough Show on tour, hoping to reach more people with a message of healing.
“The goal is to get all the hard rock,” Barlow said. “Now, we only have one locked up, we want to take this show on the road.”
The breakout show will feature solo performances from both Barlow and Lynn, who will conclude the show with a combined group. There will also be performances from Reign and rap special guest Kool Taj, who will open the show.
Performances will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Cafe, 333 Prospect Street, Niagara Falls. The show is free and open to all ages.