It was these words from Nina Simone – “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me, no fear” – that have both inspired and resonated with the life story and music of anaïs, a fascinating new artist who today announces her debut EP ‘Before Zero’. Unsurprisingly, the first track to be shared is an ode to her hero, ‘Nina’.
Born in Toulouse, France but of Senegalese, French and Italian origin, anaïs was moved suddenly to Dublin by her then single (and full of wanderlust) mother. Not speaking any English when she arrived in Ireland, she remained silent at school for 7 months until she had perfected the language without any trace of a French accent. Only two years later she was sent to spend a year in Dakar where her father had returned and where yet again she couldn’t speak the native language and struggled to communicate or feel at home. In her early teens anaïs made yet another move to Oakland, California to be with her mother, where her encounter with African-American culture finally led anaïs to have a sense of belonging.
Her debut EP – ‘Before Zero’ – began life when anaïs was studying at NYU at their highly prestigious Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music where her friends and contemporaries were Arca and Gallant. With a move to London in the Spring of 2015 she began to make connections and further her music.
Alongside the exquisite ‘Nina’ on the EP sit two more original tracks – ‘Set In Stone’ and ‘Window’ – as well as a wonderfully moving cover of Charles Aznavour’s ‘La Mamma’. All written and produced by anaïs herself, it’s a fiercely intelligent observation of the world from the perspective of a young black woman who’s traveled extensively and has no real place to call home. But while it’s socially and politically astute and intended to open a conversation, it’s also beautifully, compellingly accessible.
On making the video for ‘nina’, anaïs says –
“I wrote Nina at a time when I felt that a lot of the music I was hearing wasn’t reflecting what was happening in the world around me, I felt that fear had become a silencing agent and that something needed to be said. Nina Simone, who to me represents true freedom and fearlessness in art, inspired me to “say what you won’t” and to overcome the fears that inhibit me so that I can be a voice for freedom through my music. We shot the film in Senegal, which is where part of my heritage is from and we wanted to highlight real life characters who reflect in their own way what freedom means to me.”
anaïs debut ‘Before Zero’ EP will be released in March.
Before Zero EP
Set In Stone