Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.
Nathalie Cerin (a.k.a. Talie): I released a project at the end of last year titled solèy midi. That’s Haitian Creole for “midday sun.” The premise is me searching for the sun in times when its presence doesn’t feel too obvious. When everything feels so strange, not even the sun seems to be right. I like to describe that collection of songs as a series of prayers for myself, for my family, for my community. I had no way of knowing just how much I would need that message in 2020.
How silly of me to plan long stretches of time without considering a possible interruption. How audacious of us to assume we could keep chugging along in a system that was never designed to be sustainable, unless you have a whole lot of money and resources at your disposal. The sun never felt right before COVID-19—that’s why I wrote those songs in the first place.
I work for a nonprofit that provides services for folks experiencing scarcity, mainly folks experiencing homelessness. I still go to work every day, so my daily routine has not changed much. But while music isn’t my only source of income, like any other artist, this pandemic meant months of canceled performances, canceled teaching gigs, lost income and lost opportunities to connect with folks and promote my recently released project. So at first I was a bit frozen. I needed a little time to mourn my interrupted year. But now, I’m playing the Zoom open mics, livestreaming on IG, joining this virtual live music scene to see if I can get back even some of this lost money and momentum. It’s been amazing to see the people I’m reaching who I wouldn’t have otherwise, as well as the amount of people finding comfort in my music during such a stressful time. I don’t take that lightly.
As we take this time to sit back, listen and reimagine the world we want to fight to create, I feel an immense honor to be able to offer my art to folks. The constant news of acquaintances and distant relatives’ deaths due to this virus breaks my heart every day. The reality that this is the cost of an unjust system that values profit over lives outrages me. But right now, I’m so grateful for music. I’m so grateful for the ability to sing my heart, and I’m so grateful for the chance to have people listen to my work and find this sun with me.