On her debut album Alone at Last, Tasha celebrates the radical political act of being exquisitely gentle with yourself. For years, the Chicago songwriter has dreamed hard of a better world—she’s worked with the local racial justice organization Black Youth Project 100 and has been on the front lines at protests around the city. But as she returned to the guitar, an instrument her mother first taught her to play when she was 15 years old, she began exploring the ways music can be a powerful force for healing. It might not fix a deeply broken world all by itself, but it can offer comfort and respite for those who, like her, dare to imagine a thriving future.
Citing Robin D. G. Kelley’s book Freedom Dreams as a foundational text to her artistic practice, she says, “Black folks’ imagination inherently is a radical thing. In a place of oppression and colonization, the ability to imagine a future, imagine magic, imagine something better, is subversive. People don’t want you to be able to imagine yourself outside of the place that you’ve been put.” So she started asking: “What does my imagination mean to me as a radical thing?” Because Tasha’s music has served her so profoundly as she’s made it, she hopes it can be a source of strength for others, too. “I’m only able to handle the world because I can write these songs,” she says, “so I’d like to think that I help other people deal with the world for the same reason.”
Across Alone at Last‘s seven tracks, Tasha sings mantras of hope and restoration over lush guitar lines inspired by the stylings of Nai Palm and Lianne La Havas—both artists who, like Tasha, opt for a sweetness in their playing over the masculinized bravado that often accompanies the electric guitar. “You/Take care of your little body,” Tasha urges on the record’s spoken word opener. On “Kind of Love,” she paints falling for someone as the gateway to a new world where anything’s possible, and on “Something About This Girl,” she notes the profound strength that comes from vulnerability: “All her softness make her tough.”
“These songs are bed songs,” Tasha says of Alone at Last. “Songs about the place that one might go when they finally need to be away from whatever it is that might be causing them stress or anxiety or sadness or fear.” In the world she conjures within the album, there’s plenty of room to forge your own home where you can rejuvenate and heal—where you don’t have to be a superhero and you don’t have to save the world all by yourself, where nothing is expected of you except that you just be. It’s the kind of album you can curl into after a hot summer day in the city: a powerful talisman in a demanding world, and a reminder that kindness toward the self can help unlock the way to a world a little more livable than this one.
Austin, Texas-based songwriter Christelle Bofale will be the first to tell you the importance of family roots and mental health, considering how much those things aided her own self-discovery. Being the first Ameri can born in her family, the rich heritage of the Congo is deeply rooted in her upbringing and relationship with sounds. From singing and dancing with her mother as a child, to praying to Congolese music with her grandmother, to her father, a soukous guitar player and musical director for the Congregation at his church, Bofale’s journey as a musician has been defined in tiny intervals throughout the course of her life. As a songwriter, she infuses hints of the Congo into various aspects of her music, bridging the musical influences of the diaspora with juxtaposed elements of indie rock, soul and jazz respectively.
Weightless guitar tangents and lush, aquatic soundscapes are a vital part of what embodies Swim Team, her debut EP that serves a powerful introduction to Bofale’s budding artistry. Somewhere between influenc es like Joni Mitchell and Alex G, Bofale has found a sweet spot for her sound that lives between both harsh and gentle terrain, achieving a relaxing, yet rugged tonality. Each track pictured on Swim Team is brushed vividly with colors that illuminate the fear of being honest and doing that much needed personal work. Bofale’s earnest and bravery is a snapshot of black mental health and the nuance it carries. Being real isn’t easy, but it’s crucial in cultivating spaces for healthy discussion and giving other black women like Bofale a platform to do the same.