Tanya Stephens, Thank You for my Anthem.
It Served Me Well Back Then.
The plan was to get together – one way or another. We hadn’t hung out in what felt like decades although it had only been weeks. Ok, about two months. Time was slipping away. Life was unfolding differently for each of us and our “go here, there and everywhere” ebb came to a complete halt. Last year’s overflow of “girl time” shifted. Sometimes our plans and life are not in agreement. The thing about life though, is to trust it – even when it goes like that. It ill behooves you to swim against the current. As weeks passed us by, it seemed like we’d never get some real quality time in. Finally, Tanya Stephens brought us together for her performance at Dub Club in LA. I left feeling like I witnessed a queen, born of authenticity, expressing herself through voice and words, leaving her audience completely filled. Tanya Stephens, thank you for my anthem. It served me well back then.
It’s a Pity
I remember seeing the flyer just over a month ago. I figured that I’d love to go see her but the only song that came to mind was “It’s a Pity”. Well, that song is so good, it would be enough just to hear her sing it.
As we were driving to the event, we started discussing what songs we knew. A little late for that. “It’s a Pity” was the only song I remembered. I assumed and confidently stated that Tanya probably didn’t have many other good ones. This was her “one good song”. You might feel insulted right now if you’re a big fan of hers – even worse if you’re actually THE Tanya Stephens. I apologize. I am pleased to report that the joke was on me.
We arrived and the vibe was nice. Girl time was in full flow and all I was waiting on was to see Tanya Stephens and hear her “one good song”. My voice was coming back from a sore throat and I was ready to sing along too.
One of my pet peeves about these events is how long the artist takes to come on stage and how short of a time they perform. Tanya was different. I didn’t have to wait long.
I Love Tanya Stephens
She was on stage by 11:45pm and didn’t stop til after 1:00am. As she stepped on to the stage, her energy preceded her. She was smiling, full of light and good vibes. I knew I’d enjoy her. Her essence filled the room, if you’re into that kinda thing. What I didn’t know was how many of her songs I had forgotten. Among them are “These Streets”, “Pon Di Side”, “Boom Wok”, “Tek Him Back”, “You Noh Ready Fi Dis Yet”, to name a few. Suddenly, it felt endless.
How could I forget? I Love @iamTanyaStephens.
One of them was my personal anthem during a heartbreak some years ago. As soon as I heard it, the memories came flooding back to me.
I used to go riding in the evenings with my playlist in tact. Whenever that song came on, I would replay it at least 3 times before I could move on to the next one. Somehow this song gave me a sense of strength. The words may seem harsh – ill minded even. At the time, they held power for me. I needed to know that I’d be missed. I suppose we all go through that, unless you’re an enlightened being or yogi who no longer subscribes to your ego. I’m not there yet.
The name of the song is “Can’t Breathe” and I had it strategically set up on the playlist.
As I set out each evening for my ride or what I like to call my “natural high”, I’d first need to navigate the traffic of downtown Belize City. Then I’d make my way over the famous Swing Bridge and hit an immediate right heading toward the sea. I could take my concentration off pedestrians, other cyclists and my having to ride within an inch of passing cars. Not exaggerating.
As soon as I passed the walls of the Tourist Village, the “high” would start to find me. There were no more structures blocking the sweet Caribbean breeze that always seemed to reach for my hair first. The sea was completely visible and the horizon was endless. Some days I’d have the honor of witnessing birds in flight, boats in motion and feel this overwhelming gratitude for the fact that I am alive.
And, just as I timed it, my song would come on and my high would arrive.
There was a good stretch of road to enjoy the view, the breeze and my anthem. I’d hit replay on “Can’t Breathe” for as long as there was no obstruction to my endless view. There was a storyline in this song that I related to deeply.
The song tells a story of a woman who was left. She was bitter and hurt and wished for her lover to miss her forever. She wanted thoughts of her to haunt him all the days of his life. I couldn’t relate to every line but I understood the sentiment. I understood that she felt rejected and abandoned. A lover doesn’t have to leave you for you to have those feelings. That kind of emotion can erupt from being cheated on, neglected or lied to. The list can go on and on.
Marinated in Pain
My anthem was a testimony to how sorry my partner would be. Of course the lines about eating and breathing were purely symbolic. I was more connected to concept of someone being regretful of losing me. Once I grew pass the hurt though, none of this mattered. That kind of low level vibration is usually marinated in pain.
Hearing Ms Stephens sing this song live, the memories flooded my mind but pain was nowhere to be found. Instead, I learned that the “power” had nothing to do with the other person suffering. “Can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t breathe” – nowhere close to my wishes for anyone. Standing there, reminiscing, my frown was now a smile. I was in awe of how far removed I am from that time and also that I had forgotten just how many of Tanya’s songs I knew AND loved. How could I forget?
Watching her perform with so much confidence was mesmerizing. She intermittently spoke about several things including some of her sexual experiences and how they inspired her writing. Tanya was advocating for everyone – she was promoting unity, good energy and love. The few hours on stage took Tanya from “man a bad man” stance, to feminist, to activist and finally entertainer. She was engaging, unapologetically real and encompassed feminine and masculine energy in every other sway and swag she portrayed.
Killing Them Softly with Her Words
My thoughts were everywhere. When she first came to the stage, she invited us to time travel with her… go way back! I time traveled with Tanya more than she knew. As she started to promote unity in the audience, my attention shifted to the now, then to her and how blessed she is to be doing what she loves. Even her accompanying band consists of musicians passionate about their craft, including Belizean drummer Emmanuel Cattouse. I kept thinking “How absolutely amazing it is to be doing what you love.”
Ms Stephens reiterated my thoughts as she expressed gratitude for her talent, blessings and opportunities. She finally sang her “one song” at the end of the show paying homage to Gregory Isaacs. Tanya then asked the audience if there was any song she didn’t sing that they wanted to hear. As each person belted out their song or showed her on their phone, she swung into acapella style and honored ever single request that reached her.
Release with Love
As the night closed, I pondered on the power of words and how Louise Hay, among others, teaches that every thought is an affirmation. “Can’t Breathe” would not be the ideal song for positive affirmations lol. But it was my anthem and for that time, it served me.
The thoughts of her performance bring a smile to my face. I left feeling inspired, empowered and like I need to get a new camouflage outfit because I just loved the way she rocked hers. It was simple but I LOVED IT!
As I close, I give thanks for the opportunity to see her perform and to appreciate the gift of words whether written in a story, a song or a poem. May they always find you sweetly.
May you always be able to eat, to sleep and to breathe.
With love, I release all thoughts past and future that would inhibit anyone from living their truest and most fulfilling life. Namaste.