Iysamuel makes us think about the link between music and mental health.
The question of how to start this article has loomed over my consciousness for quite some time. Ultimately this is an article for and about awareness- mental health is a colossal problem, but you know this. You have seen the flyers, the videos, the campaigns- the mentally ill need help, at this point it must be redundant. People are losing their grip over the most powerful tool they will ever wield, the centre of their identity, the most poignant marker of individuality- and those people need help. Those people far away, lost in the realms of the flyers and the videos and the campaigns, those people need help. How to begin this article haunted me so extensively, not because I am a particularly cautious person, but because I want to put this as precisely as possible. Those who live with mental illness do not live in the flyers we pass around, they are our friends, our relatives, and we cannot expect silence anymore. Due to the ever so complicated beauty of the human mind- and the unchecked nihilism that is existence now- one must imagine that permanently sustained sanity is an overly optimistic social construct. I have gone through depressive states, periods that I am sure a lot of the readers of this have gone through. When I went through this stage I was in Nigeria, a land I will love till the end of its existence or mine, surrounded by family, friends and everyone in between, but I could not ask for help. Due to cultural dominoes set in place before my humble existence even began- I was alienated; the ultimate point of this glorified stream of consciousness, is to say that no matter how pointless and cold existence seems to be right now, you are not alone- the universe is cold and uncaring; all we can do is huddle up with the simple details that make us happy. With that in mind, here are three songs that got me through the day in Nigeria.
“They are our friends, our relatives, and we cannot expect silence anymore”
It would almost be sinful to dare and discuss mental health and music without mentioning Kid Cudi. “Pursuit of Happiness” is a lucid, somewhat drugged up, anti-power ballad. Explaining this one is simple; Kid Cudi has had his own ongoing struggles with mental health, and the harsh reality is- it is not a problem that can ever completely be fixed. It is a fight, a sequence of falling and getting up, ultimately understanding that we will fall again. Kid Cudi reminds us that what matters is the struggle, not the achievements themselves. “The Pursuit of Happiness” is a reminder that life is worth living for the pursuit itself.
Nina Simone’s soul-infused voice could honestly make me smile through the fires of hell. Her brand of cheerful nihilism melts pleasurably in my head like butter over popcorn, but that’s just the general stuff. Her song “I Got life” might honestly be one of my favourite songs of all time. At once sad, funny, and angry, this song is a jazz ballad about how the singer has absolutely nothing to her name, but her body, her identity and her life. That’s it; I find this sentiment immortally charming, and Simone’s voice, instrumentation and energy are the wonderful strings that hold this beauty together. The world could lose its mind and take possessions away from you, however, those things were never yours to begin with. The only things you own you were born with, and only death can take that away, till then- enjoy what you have left.
Really any song on “To Pimp a Butterfly” could be on this list. An album crafted on the back of self-awareness, introspection, social awakening and, importantly here- self-love. Ultimately, I had to settle on my favourite song on the album- “I”. “I” is a rallying cry, a call to arms to fight your demons, as undying as they may seem. Kendrick himself talks about his battle with suicide, going as far to suggest that it is a battle he almost lost- as mentioned above, it’s not a battle you can ever completely win. Kendrick simply reminds us, through the seductive jazz samples and righteously energetic delivery that it’s a war worth fighting. That’s what all these songs have in common; if we are going to lose our minds, we need art to remind us ever so softly that there are reasons to keep fighting.
“Kendrick simply reminds us, through the seductive jazz samples and righteously energetic delivery that it’s a war worth fighting.”
If you have enjoyed this article, and wish to help with the alienation faced by those struggling with mental health in Nigeria, sign the petition below to open the discussion of better mental health policies to legislation. Please and thank you.