by The Alchemist
When we hear a piece of music that heals us, we pull the song close to our hearts and bring the rest of the world with it. Emanuel is a student and creator of R&B that makes the listener shudder with passion, delight, or pain – sometimes all three – but his chief concern is getting the listener to experience the same curative transcendence that the music’s creation provided to him. This is the crux of Alt Therapy, the title of Emanuel’s debut album and his artistic manifesto; “The idea of healing in my music is the most important thing,” he says. “If I was on stage just to have fun, I wouldn’t take it as seriously. It has to be deeper in order to take me further.”
The Alt Therapy paradigm came to Emanuel when he was working in a hospital. “I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t settle for anything but what I felt was my purpose.” To fan the flames of this first spark, Emanuel drew on the rich texture of his life’s soundtrack: As a child in London, Ontario born to Ethiopian parents, Emanuel was exposed to music from around the world and absorbed it all. His mother played songs from across the African diaspora, while his father introduced him to Western classics, specifically Motown.
Toronto R&B artist Emanuel learned how to sing with no formal training at age nine, huddled next to his family’s computer with YouTube and his sister as guides. Boyz II Men, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III, and Bob Marley were the foundation; projects like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly made him want to make music that can live through us long after the song ends. “I would listen to these albums sometimes in my darkest moments,” he says solemnly, “Those songs would affect me powerfully. I don’t want to deify these individuals, but something special was happening while I was listening to the music.”
His newest release is called, “Black Woman” and has an incredibly inspiring message. Although the track doesn’t have too much depth in the instrumental portion, the emotional feel is unmatched and the composition is incredibly impressive. The song is a moving, celebratory ode to the resilience of black women. In a time of reckoning and racial injustice, the song offers what Emmanuel hopes all of his music can inspire: healing and self-growth.
Emmanuel had the following to say about the track:
“I walked in hearing these chords and it literally just hit me – it was like I was seeing a music video in my head – and I just started singing about my mom,” Emanuel says. “But the feeling at the pit of my stomach was more weighty. We had been having a conversation about civil rights history and Black history and we were talking about subjects that hold a lot of weight in our lives, so I felt like that definitely had a lot to do with grounding my mind and humbling me in a way where I was thinking about how blessed I was and thinking about how far there is still to go, just in general, when it comes to being someone of African descent. I had watched the video of a conversation between James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni and there’s a very gritty question that they circle around when they talk about the relationship between the Black man and the Black woman and how does one support one another and what that looks like in a world filled with hurdles and glass ceilings and people really trying to break you down on both sides, so how do you balance out affection and love and real support. That definitely sparked my pondering of my relationship with the Black women in my life and on the relationship between Black men and Black women in general from my view. So in that way, that conversation directly informed the type of thinking that I was in. But in that moment, I heard those chords and just started singing and we got down the larger portion of the song just in that first freestyle. When I was hearing myself sing it, I felt like ‘This is powerful. This is speaking to me. This is how I want my music to speak to people.’ It was a really special moment.”
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