Anaïs shares her experiences with discrimination growing up in America
Who were your influences, were their any cultural differences to yours?
A – I grew up listening to a lot of India Arie, Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, a lot of really powerful black women that used their art and platform to empower us. In this case, I would say that as black female creatives our experiences in the world are probably close, however, our cultural backgrounds and histories are quite different.
What music inspires you and why?
A – I listen to a lot of African music; from Angola, Senegal, South Africa, and Nigeria. As well as French chanson and more modern soul / experimental music. I believe that embracing my cultures and my heritage helps me create bodies of work that stand on their own, are unique, and thoroughly reflect who I am.
Have you encountered any experiences of racism or discrimination growing up or in the music industry?
A – I experienced a lot of institutionalised racism growing up, especially when I was living in Oakland CA. It is impossible to ignore the disparity of resources and opportunity that truly sets people of colour at a heavy disadvantage. The racism was always felt whether it was vocal or subdued, and very often present in the workplace, especially when trying to get job opportunities or college opportunities.
For a long time, the discourse revolved around incorporating more people of colour into predominantly white spaces, however, whilst this still remains important, for me the priority is to create a space where people of colour can thrive. It’s not about adjusting ourselves and our culture to fit into the spaces where we are unwanted but about carving a space of our own and supporting black creatives, business, and communities so that they can blossom.
As a black artist, I find that there are a lot of limits put on how much we can achieve and a lack of understanding of the complexity of black artists. The same rhetoric tends to be used to describe very different artists and the same narrative continues to be encouraged. My goal is to expose a different “black” story and to help diversify the conversation around blackness so that younger generations can see us in a shade of light and in all of our richness and can feel empowered to break the negative patterns.
Have you witnessed any instances of racism and discrimination around you, how did that make you feel?
A – Living in Harlem and the Bronx for most of my college years, I have witnessed huge amounts of racism. It’s been very discouraging, especially when communities have been trapped in this cycle of hostility and disadvantage and have gotten accustomed to it. It requires a lot of unlearning and re-education. In hindsight, I wish I would have done more work within my community to help them engage in the fight against so much oppression and racism.
Do you incorporate resistance into your music?
A – Absolutely, a lot of my music is about resistance. Finding ways to strengthen me and break out of toxic/limiting beliefs. Resisting systems that are designed to keep us crippled and dependent. However, it is also about creating new pathways, allowing space to imagine an alternative to what is currently failing us.
How can we use music as a tool to break down barriers?/ How has music inspired you/helped you through a difficult time?
A – Music is the most powerful language in the world, I believe through song one can make a positive dent in the world. Writing my own music has helped me as a form of therapy but also listening to others’ music has often helped me through a difficult time.
Why do you think that so many people see music as an international language?
A – Timbres and chord progressions have a direct way to our emotive circuits by changing one note you can make people feel anxious, angry, confused, or want to cry. This is a magical tool that can aid people to get into the lyrical content.
What advice would you have given to the younger you that you would pass on, to the next generation now?
A – Be mindful of the energies you surround yourself with, we are like sponges and absorb all that is around us. Respect yourself and don’t let anyone tell you who are!
What would you say to someone struggling with their identity?
A – I would say it’s boring to be the same as everyone else. The most beautiful part of life is a unique aspect of everything.
Embrace your differences, they are your strengths! One of my favourite artists, Frida Kahlo, really understood that and used what could have been perceived as a disadvantage as her greatest wealth.
What message do you want to portray in your music?
A – I want to portray a world which encourages people to have more awareness and introspection. To question their beliefs and habits in order to feel and be more empowered.
Share what a world without racism looks to you.
A – It’s a world where one isn’t debilitated due to their ethnicity, gender, age, economic background or sexual orientation, etc and has a fair chance to thrive. A world where we embrace the myriad of cultures that surround us and celebrate our differences and cherish our similarities.