Akenya • "Decay"

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She may be in the beginnings of her career, but Akenya has been impressing in the local Chicago scene for years now. With incredible vocals and astounding stage presence, to have seen Akenya perform is to have had your ears blown away in the best way possible. Today These Days is proud to say that Akenya is premiering her new song "Decay". May is Lyme Awareness month, and more than just a song, "Decay" is meant to bring awareness to an issue that often gets overlooked - Chronic Lyme Disease. Not only a beautiful heartfelt track, but the proceeds to "Decay" on Bandcamp go to the organization Lymelight. Listen to "Decay" then check out our Q/A with Akenya below for more information on this extraordinarily talented Chicago artist, Lyme Disease, and Lymelight. "Decay" will be available on all platforms soon, and features album art from Samantha Fuehring.

For those new to the incredible music of Akenya, can you introduce yourself? What's something new listeners might not know about you?

I'm a 25 year old vocalist, pianist, composer, and arranger, among other things. I was born and raised in Chicago. I started my musical formal training when I was 13 at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, and continued my studies receiving a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance from New England Conservatory of Music. My original music is very rooted in jazz, but I love exploring other elements such as hip-hop, r&b, funk, classical, and world music. New listeners may be surprised to hear that they've probably heard me before. I've worked with many amazing artists and friends such as Noname, Chance the Rapper, Saba, Smino, and recently got to work with Mavis Staples, so I'm quite active in the various scenes in Chicago. 

Can you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to make this track, and why it was important to you? 

"Decay" was one of those things that just came out of me. I recently have picked up bass, so I'm still very new to it. But, I just started playing the bassline to this song one day, and then started making the beat, and then the lyrics came...

I definitely didn't know I was going to make a song about my illness, but that's just what was on my heart at the time. Once I started, I wanted to get across indeed how "twisted up" and completely "inside/out" lyme makes me feel. I think it was also important for me to release this song to prove to myself that I still had this in me - that even though I'm still battling this illness and probably will continue to for a while, that I'm still capable of creating something meaningful and releasing something successfully. 

What can you tell us about Lyme Awareness Month and LymeLight?

What I can tell you about Lyme Awareness is that it is ABSOLUTELY necessary, because this is often a very invisible illness. Many people suffer in silence. Looking at me, no one would think I'm experiencing chronic pain or fatigue or cognitive impairment. So there's a real lack of understanding and therefore a lack of empathy surrounding this illness, especially its complexities. This is extended to the medical industrial complex; many doctors don't even acknowledge chronic lyme. The science is still changing and evolving, but there needs to be more research, definitely more funding, and real change in the way we understand chronic illness in general. 

LymeLight is a foundation that I happened upon during a very serendipitous google search - I was feeling extremely alone and afraid and googled "success stories and testimonies" and happened upon LymeLight's website. I then saw that they gave medical grants to children and young people, which is so important because many insurance companies don't cover a lot of lyme expenses. I received a grant from them that has without a doubt saved my life, and I wanted to give back a little bit to a foundation that has helped me so much already. A percentage of the proceeds from "Decay" will go toward LymeLight to help other children, young folks, and families on their road to recovery and restoration. 

What are your plans for 2018?

I'm really feeling ready to get into album mode. When I was diagnosed with lyme disease last year - after a full, previous year of strange mysterious health issues - it caused me to really re-evaluate my career. It became clear to me that I couldn't travel extensively anymore, and during the worst stages of my illness, I couldn't even work part time. I haven't performed much in the past 6 months. I've really been focusing on my health. I still have a lot of ground to cover health wise, but I definitely plan on kicking lyme's ass this year and all of the nasty pathogens that come along with it. And I am hoping to complete most of my album, if not release it by the end of 2018, and I am feeling like I can get back on that path again. Most importantly, I plan on cherishing my life and being good to myself. I've come a long way and have grown so much throughout this journey. This is just the beginning for me.