Music for Self-Care: Asia’s List

Last December, I was squished between the fallout of that damn election and the stress of planning for the holidays. I was unsure of where my activism was headed, burnt out from work and not handling life well in general. I know music heals. Music is the way we express our feelings, our happiness, our joys. Music is therapeutic. As such, I reached out to my Facebook friends and asked…

 If you had to build a playlist titled, “We gone make it, we gone be alright”, what three songs would you put on it?

I ended up with a full playlist that I loaded onto Spotify but I thought it would be best to recreate a creme de la creme and create a playlist on YouTube to share. Cuz the only thing better than music is video accompaniment. 

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron

You will not be able to stay home, Brotha. You will not be able to plug in, turn out and cop out…

There will be no slow motions or stilllifes
Of Roy Wilkins strolling through Watts
In a red, black and green liberation jumpsuit
That he has been saving for just the proper occasion.

The revolution will be live.

And so it will be. I love this piece. Its a call to action to rise, get out and be part of the revolution. You won’t be able to sit down and wait for change, watching it from your living room. And for that, I love it. I’m reminded that I need to fight, that I need to raise my voice, that I need to keep going. If the revolution is live, its here, right outside of my door.

As – Stevie Wonder

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky…
Until the ocean covers every mountain high…
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea…
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream

This song is about love.

It focuses on an undying love, one that is wider, taller, deeper than anything you can imagine. That is a love that we need to have for ourselves. I also believe that is a love we need to have for our people and our desire to be free of oppressive systems. 

I remember being a kid and being terrified of seeing a dolphin with wings but over time grew to appreciate the song as part of the magic of Stevie Wonder. 

Alright – Kendrick Lamar

Wouldn’t you know
We been hurt, been down before
Nigga, when our pride was low
Lookin’ at the world like, “Where do we go?”
Nigga, and we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho’
Nigga, I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow
But we gon’ be alright

The song opens with, “Alls my life I had to fight…” This line is immediately recognized by pretty much all Black people in the US as being pulled from The Color Purple. Sophia explains, exasperated and through clinched teeth that she’s been fighting her whole life, her father, her brothers, and that she refuses to fight her husband too. Those short 7 words convey so much pain, sadness and righteous anger. I think Kendrick used them as a strong opener and the rest of the song speaks in the same tone and somehow finds hope in God’s presence as helping him out of anything that ails or oppresses him. 

I don’t know much about Kendrick. He came on the scene after I had largely checked out of the rap game but several people suggested this song for the playlist!

Three Little Birds – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Woke up this morning
Smiled with the rising sun
Three little birds
Is on my doorstep sing
Don’t worry about a thing
Cuz every little thing is gonna be alright

The lyrics are short and repeated but sometimes that all you need for message you really need to take in. Over and over, “everything is gonna be alright.” I’m reminded, by three little messenger birds thst everything will be fine. I take a deep breath and another and often another…

Get Up, Stand Up – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Most people think,
Great God will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. Jah!

Another call to action, reminder that aint nobody gonna hand you anything, let alone the keys to freedom. I think of how often we have been told that suffer is humility, that God is pleased when we bear as much as we can and to keep our eye on the prize of Heaven. This song says, “Nah.”

You deserve to be free, to be happy, to fully live this life you’ve got right now. You can have faith in an afterlife but don’t let anyone or anything rob you of your present. 

Run the World (Girls) – Beyonce

Who run the world?!
GIRLS.
I work my nine to five, better cut my check!

You damn right! Beyonce took the world by storm with this album from her album in 2011. Drum beats and intricate dances make me want to get up and dance. But the lyrics are incredibly inspiring. There isn’t anything we can’t do. We can be hard or soft, weak or strong, we can be whatever we choose. We can command space. We can demand respect.

Fantasy – Earth Wind & Fire

Every man has a place
In his heart there’s a space
And the world can’t erase his fantasies

Earth, Wind and Fire is church music to me. The rhythms and lyrics touch my soul like nothing else does. This song in particular keeps me hoping and dreaming. My hopes and dreams can’t be taken from me. They are mine. This song reminds me of the majesty within me. The added component is that it speaks of unity with like people. That gives me hope for my people too.

Mississippi Goddam – Nina Simone

This whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies
I don’t trust you anymore
You keep on saying, “Go slow.”
“Go slow.”
But that’s just the trouble…
Why don’t you see it?
Why don’t you feel it?

This song gives me validation for my anger. It has been only in the past 5 years or so that I have been aware of the genius and artistry of Nina Simone.  I can’t imagine the anger and bravery it took for her to pen and release this song at a time where expressing this type of emotion was totally not accepted in mainstream society. Despite identifying with so many terrible things, knowing that I’m not alone, that she skillfully put these feelings into lyrics and music, I feel comforted and empowered to keep moving forward in a world that tries to gaslight me into thinking the injuries and injustices are just in my head.

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