i’ve spent a lot of time thinking. mostly because I was often too afraid to speak. silence struck me only a decade into life when i was uprooted from toulouse and transplanted into dublin. for 7 months, i did not utter a word until i had not only perfected the english language, but erased any trace of my french accent. two years later, i was sent to dakar to spend some time with my father whom i hadn’t seen much of. i couldn’t speak wolof, ergo in the eyes of the locals i couldn’t possibly be of senegalese origin. i was sure the toubab my classmates and family members were always disparaging in their rapidly moving tongues was me. i remained quiet. when i arrived in oakland the following year, it felt like home . . . in the beginning. a sense of belonging engulfed me when i encountered “african-american” culture, i was one with them and although i towered over most kids, for the first in my life i had the chance of being transparent. of being invisible, so i hid.
there’s no such thing as silence in new york though, the beast of that city would have never let me survive in the comfort of my reserved nature. in the pursuit of education i mostly learned that my life in the margins had allowed me to observe the world through many lenses and that was an opportunity to tap into something rare: transparency. not the kind that resembles an invisibility cloak that masks cowardice, or shrouds responsibility but the kind where honesty and truth take precedence over coolness, ego, and fear. soon it became almost impossible for me to appreciate, much less take part in self-seeking art. whilst the music culture in the west was becoming increasingly self-revolving and escapist, i was yearning for more altruism, more presence, more transparency.
i began longing for my elders; nina, bob dylan, bob marley, lauryn hill, nas, and pink floyd to name a few. it was clear to me that their success wasn’t solely a factor of their exquisite musical ability but also of their socio-political relevance. artists had always been the freedom leaders of the world. although the trump era, its many preceding parallels and echoes may have surprised the majority, today’s reality is far from foreign to me. i manifested myself to london in spring 2015 to transcend the limits the world had imposed on (people like) me and in that process it was obvious that my silence had become a burden, a chain i desperately needed to break out of. my music had to reflect the times. so when ms.simone said “i’ll tell you what freedom is to me, no fear” it felt like the song i needed to sing. and so followed the words.
makes me wanna
Say what you won’t
do what you fear
and i beg you don’t pray for me
don’t blame me if i say
what you won’t
cause i believe it
when nina told me that, nina told me that i’m free