Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

Photo Credits – “Funambulista-SeñoritaR&R-22” (CC BY 2.0) by rayoplateadoMikul Photography

Have you ever been in a coffee shop and a song you forgot you loved is now playing in the background and you can not help but hum along? Picture your prom, a wedding, a graduation party… do any songs stick out in particular to you? I know for me, dances always reminded me of the widely inappropriate song parents would not want their teen to listen to called, “Get Low” by Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz. Although very raunchy, it reminded me of a simpler time when I was young. When everything felt so easy, you went to class, you saw your friends, you went home. Where would the world be without music?

Music and I have a very long history. I was always fascinated with it as a toddler. I remember trying to play my dad’s guitar as a small child. I broke the string, I should’ve cried since I hate unsuspecting loud noise, but this… this was different.

As life moves on, so do we. My family and I left our small apartment and moved into our house. It was very exciting to say the least…finally my own room. Even after all these years, my dad still tried to pick up playing guitar but sometimes I would steal it just to feel the strings under my uncalloused fingers.

I did not know any chords, I did not know any songs, two strings on the guitar were broken, but all I knew was how natural this feeling felt. My dad bought a guitar at 13 years old, and I remember thinking along the lines of “I’m not worthy of yielding a guitar in such mint condition…”. This would not only allude to my guitar. The first song I learned to play was Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl,” even though I lied and told people I learned Maroon 5’s “Misery”. Nonetheless, it all feels like yesterday, when I was trying to figure out how to play two chords, how to sing and play at the same time… but I remember having fun. It always seemed to be fun.

As I approach the rightful age of 15, I approach high school, music starts to take a back seat. I am overwhelmed, I am stressed, and above all, I am depressed. I remember being in a health class, my freshman year, my mom always discouraged the birds and bees, so I didn’t want to start in this class. I remember everyone from band class talking with one another, but I just felt so lost. Why did I feel so lost, I feel like I don’t fit in here, what is going on? During this time, I was not good at articulating my feelings. In my family, we didn’t talk about feelings very much unless they were positive, but if they were negative, we either shut them down or I got lectured. I chose to keep them inside.

But then the culmination of my freshman year turned to a stroke of inspiration during my health class. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I needed to write it down. I spent most of health class writing my first song. I didn’t know I could do something like this. I didn’t think too much about it though. In 2012, at 16 years old, I wrote, “I Can’t Make It”. Originally when I wrote this, I thought it was about a codependent relationship with my best friend, Mary, at the time. However, revealing the lyrics, they clue me in to so much more…

“I am so scared and so unsure”

“I can’t go on/ Spilled the truth like a fire”

“I can’t make this/ Till you save me/ I can’t break this till you save me”

“That’s when you spilled your secret/ And I was too scared to say it”

As I look back, I notice that the use of secret and the fear of this coming to light was something that shook me to my core. This song dealt with my homosexuality and how afraid I was if anyone found out, my life would change for the worse, especially living in a Christian household. This would be the starting point where music became more than just a leisure activity and a vital tool to help me on the road to healing.

Fast forward and I’m in the later years of my high school career. I remembered always walking to school, since my high school was close by. This meditative walk was great, I cherished every morning. I remember telling my guidance counselor that I wanted to be a child psychologist and my ambition was to go to Temple University, but I felt there was more. I felt like something was missing. So everyday on my walk, for an entire year I would just pray, hoping that God would tell me what my life’s purpose was. My faith was strong, and I have been reading my Bible more, so something had to come up. An epiphany…

I was walking up the outdoor cement stairs towards the school’s outdoor path. It was dark, it was thundering, there was an ominous feeling in the air. With the weight of my heavy bookbag, coupled with pure exhaustion of malnutrition to fit this feminine mold, I wanted to give up. I asked my question in my head for the umpteenth time and heard a small voice in my head telling me to write music. I was shocked, I had not written music for at least 2 years at this point, I can not do that. I will not do that. But as I start to panic, I remember the first time I strummed my dad’s guitar, the first time I learned my first song, and most importantly how freeing it helped to convey my feelings down on paper, with lyrics and melodies.

There were many crying sessions, there were transitions, there were many diagnoses but through the pain and heartache came beautiful music that showed who I am on a soul level. I may not always know what my songs are trying to say in the moment all the time, but they do have a way of finding me in the future and lending their support in each transition of my life. Not only this, but many people seem to be able to find a song that resonates with them wherever they are. Although, I didn’t think I had the skillset and the knowhow to write and put out music, 86 songs later and an EP shows that doing what you love is way more important than what people think. But through this whole process, along with other support, I was able to find my voice and finally be who I always wanted to be, and at the core of it, is truly me.

Cherry Kivumbi is a third-year Media & Culture major.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *