This piece is part of the Algorhythms project: artists telling stories about music they discovered from humans. Because where we discover music is an important part of its impact, and not all music is discovered through an algorithm.
Dominique Fils-Aimé is a Haitian-Québécoise singer-songwriter from Montreal, Canada.
Dominique is two-thirds of the way through a trilogy of albums exploring histories and legacies of African American music and culture. Her debut LP Nameless, released in 2018 to critical acclaim, examines slavery and work songs through blues and includes bookend covers of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” On her JUNO Award-winning sophomore album Stay Tuned!, Dominique picks up in the civil rights era, charting revolution and freedom through early jazz. Her forthcoming third album Three Little Words will conclude the trilogy with elements of soul, reggae, and disco.
Dubbed “Princess of Peace” by All About Jazz, Dominique hopes her music will inspire empathy, healing, and, most importantly, unity. “Real revolution will not be about turning the tables,” she told Musicworks magazine. “It will be about everyone having a seat at that table, together.” Dominique’s vision of unity is made clear in “Love Take Over,” the first track off her new album slated for release this February.
For her Algorhythm, Dominique recalls the songs that made her fall in love with music as a teenager.
Telling a story, passing on a feeling. This is what certain songs made me understand about music and made me fall madly in love with it. Two specific songs put me under that spell. The first one was in my early teenage years: my big sister had hundreds of CDs, so her room felt like a music shop to me. I’d borrow them one at a time so she wouldn’t notice and when I’d find one I liked, I’d listen to it on repeat in my bed at night for hours, sometimes stay with the same album for days. When I discovered B. B. King’s “Lucille,” it felt like I had struck gold. Hearing the guitar duet with BB for 10 minutes, hearing her sometimes cry, sometimes chuckle, it took me to another place. I felt not only B. B. King’s emotions but his guitar’s too. Lucille was not an instrument, it was a person sharing her story, never using a single word and yet I felt and understood her better than anyone else. I listened to that single song for weeks.
Fast forward a few years later, Night Safari in Singapore, we are about to board a small train that takes us around the park. My best friend said he had the perfect song for this moment, he gives me headphones and presses play as the train starts to move. “Fire Coming out of the Monkey’s Head” by Gorillaz starts. The mix between the song’s mood, the night ride in the middle of nature and the narrator’s voice, it all felt magical. It felt synchronized, like I was supposed to be listening to that song at that moment, in order to absorb all it had to offer. A reminder of why I love music so much. That gratitude for music filled my heart and that feeling just never left.
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