I've had a little over 24 hours to process Anisa's passing, and it's going to take a lot more to really come to grips with the loss of her being, despite understanding how ferocious the monster Cancer can be. You see, Anisa is one of those stars that shone bright yet hung low enough to embrace every day; she was the type of star that if you bothered to leave your house with the intentions to enjoy a musical evening under the glow of the moon, surely somewhere in the city, Anisa was to be found SHINING. And THAT is the poignancy of her life. It is what I'll always cherish of her memory.
I spent the waking hours of last night really analyzing what our friend Augi called her ---> relentless DRIVE <--- to continue doing what she loved: Being on stage singing R&B. Even before ever becoming aware of her fate with cancer, Anisa's DRIVE was ridiculous! It only took a thought, and sometimes very little planning, and Anisa was DOING IT! Over the late 90's and up until recently, she was able to collaborate with what can be considered an All Star lineup of NYC's indie-music artists; it'd take all day to list the various musicians, MCs and singers this girl has worked with in her life!! Where I fit in is small scale, a fleeting moment even:
A few years ago, Anisa hosted an open mic that our friend Nate brought to the Five Spot in Brooklyn; during those years, I, along with Augi, would sing a lot of the background vocals for and with Anisa and the many artists that graced the Five every Wednesday during that time period. And thus was the beautifully FUN Soul F'Real open mic showcase; in those glorious days (as my memory would have it), we truly lived Wednesday to Wednesday for the joy of what went on during our shows and working with everyone. I was, by far, -not- the best singer in that room, ever, BUT I so cherish how I was able to find my voice, groove and comfortable spot on the stage as a result of Anisa and Augi's encouragement. And I love how I've grown as a singer because of the seeds planted during that time. I struggle with wondering, now, did I actually TELL HER the degree to which I appreciated the time we regularly worked together..... (Every now and then, people come up to me in Brooklyn, some I recognize and some I don't, saying, "Hey, I used to come by the Five Spot every Wednesday a few years ago and see you guys! How's Anisa???" Those moments will now be bittersweet, but mostly sweet.)
Soul F'Real, however, is only one project of a LONG LIST of showcases, collaborations, recordings and jam sessions that Anisa did in her short life. Had cancer not stricken her, I know for a fact that the list of performances and recordings would have only continued. And, again, I point this out because I'm really understanding Anisa's drive to do what she loved on THIS side of the circumstance.
For me, I think that while her acclaim and the level of professional opportunities she reached may not be as far reaching as many of her peers and collaborators, Anisa has consistently been working at her craft, goals and desires in a way that made NOT SINGING a non-option. At the point where Anisa had an idea, before you knew it, she'd hustled up a location and a band, and #BOOM flyers were out! At the point where creative differences perhaps occurred, Anisa would find other opportunities to do what she wanted on other stages. It's like she knew that there is no shortage of stages in NYC! When I think of many of the indie singers I've come across over the years, Anisa comes to mind with having sang background for them or been featured on their recordings.
Besides the Soul F'Real memories, which are eternally legendary in my mind, my favorite memory of helping Anisa push a vision through was the Christmas Soul Carolers idea in 2008! While certainly there were unforgettable moments along with questionable moments during our little experiment in caroling with Anisa (!!!!!!!), what was so admirable was that she literally MADE IT HAPPEN with a simple vision to sing for New Yorkers and tourists in Times Square, had the group record three songs despite having no budget, and had tons of the -Tis The Season Joy- throughout the whole experience... and the five of us will never forget that time with her. That steady JOY & OPTIMISM in her spirit that will follow as a part of her overall legacy. (AND the smile.... and the laugh.... and the dancing.... and the beatboxing!)
So, Anisa's legacy is inspirational to me because it represents having the wherewithall to DO what you create in your mind to do, and to leave your indelible mark on the world (Much like the HU sister we lost only days ago, Kibibi Dillon, another glowing yet embraceable STAR who left the world much too soon). They are teaching me that you --DO--, not simply because someone asked you to do it, but because you KNOW that you were put here to DO it. Anisa has also taught me that regardless of whether connections with musical collaborators last long-term or not, there's ALWAYS someone else or another incarnation of that connection or project or partner to get creative work done, or to simply re-connect later on different, more progressive terms; there's always someone who will listen to what it is you want to do with them, and give you the opportunity to DO IT, either with them or in their establishment, or where EVER. It's not like I didn't realize this before she passed away, I totally know this, but it is underscored and emboldened in my mind ever more so, now that I'm able to really survey what she did and how she did it over the past decade.
And, so... my new year's resolution is more of an affirmation of life for Anisa, and a proclamation for the things I want to do as a part of the example she's illuminated and the inspiration she's left:
I purpose to do less THINKING about what it is I want to do, musically and creatively, and just simply DO IT. Most of my friends and loved ones include musicians, vocalists, MCs, writers, filmmakers, djs, photographers, publicists, actors, illustrators, all kinds of creative types, educators and COUNTLESS supporters (shout out to EVERYONE in my life that I love-- which is basically everyone!) What a joy it would be to begin a season of collaborating with them (or --YOU, dear reader!--) on projects that can contribute to the all inclusive legacy we have. So, I am putting it out there, to God, to the universe, to my friends, to my loved ones, and to those I don't know:
The Anisa Effect
to draws us together
and create some beautiful music. <3
RIP ANISA FUJAH, and thank you.
<3 <3 <3