2020 was not a year that most people will look back on as a personal success, but if you asked anaiis, she might disagree. The French-Senegalese singer started the year by delivering a talk at the TEDxWomen event in London, discussing her journey towards self-acceptance and self-liberation. She then wrapped things up with a breathtaking COLORS debut in December performing her track “Vanishing”, a fearless display of her talent and capability. The smooth depth of the song gives space for anaiis’ celestial vocals to burst through like sun behind clouds, taking the listener with her on a journey through her mind. “Vanishing” was a way for me to show through music the thought process I go through when I notice myself talking myself down into a hole, and then putting a halt to it.”
anaiis speaks to me from France, where she is staying after spending the holidays with family and where she is continuing to write her next record, set for release this summer. Following her 2019 debut full-length project darkness at play, she explains how after a period that felt like “a never-ending downward spiral,” writing new material has allowed her to reclaim her narrative and has given her power to reveal parts of her story that were perhaps too vulnerable to explore previously. “I’ve become a lot more fearless about being transparent,” anaiis says, and with this new-found freedom to be as honest as she wants to be, she is moving into a space of ownership and empowerment.
NATASHA ZINKO X DUO LTD.
anaiis was born in Toulouse and has gained a rich experience of different cultures from her time spent living in cities across the globe including Dublin, Dakar, California, New York, Salvador de Bahia and finally London, where she has resided since 2015. Her multicultural upbringing has undoubtedly shaped her character; the use of traditional Senegalese percussion and singing in multiple languages in anaiis’ songs on one side of this coin, but on the other is her desire to carve her own definition for what home and belonging looks like, a concept she has struggled with growing up. “I felt like I just wasn’t from anywhere and I didn’t particularly fit into anything” she reveals, explaining that in pursuing music comes an opportunity to try to unravel who she is both personally and as an artist.
This exploration of culture and character is also prevalent in anaiis’ visuals, which she refers to as “visual poems” that help frame and deepen the narrative of her music. She is often absent from her videos; instead they are arranged with a stunning display of people whose stories are untold, giving them a space to exist. anaiis explains how this relates to not being able to see herself represented in her environment and the sense of disconnect she felt with the cultures around her growing up: “I feel a need to evoke something that hasn’t been seen before… Perspectives that are not necessarily at the forefront.”
(LEFT) Shirt by BUDD SHIRTMAKERS, gloves by KATIE SCOTTS, collar by CAR|2IE, dress by CECILIE BAHNSEN. (RIGHT) Coat by KAROLINA BROWN, skirt by NATHAN MICALLEF, trousers by SONIA RYKIEL, shoes by VAGABOND.
Shirt by BUDD SHIRTMAKERS, gloves by KATIE SCOTTS, collar by CAR|2IE, dress by CECILIE BAHNSEN. Coat by KAROLINA BROWN, skirt by NATHAN MICALLEF, trousers by SONIA RYKIEL, shoes by VAGABOND.
anaiis is on track to have an even bigger year in 2021, with several releases planned including a new single mid-March and her currently untitled sophomore album. After a period where her relationship with music became complicated and her future uncertain, she is back stronger and more empowered than before, secure in the knowledge she is doing what she loves. “I don’t feel like it’s a choice… I just don’t see what else there is in this world for me to do or to be.”