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Malaika Mfalme's debut album, Yasmin

The Power of Grief: Malaika Mfalme’s debut album, Yasmin

lgbtqia+ music queer trans Dec 16, 2023

What are acceptable expressions of grieving? Who gets to say? Where can grief get most powerfully expressed?

These questions, posed like a gentle inquiring friend, are woven into the tapestry of Malaika Mfalme’s stunning debut album, Yasmin. This beautiful container for Malaika’s journey of grief after their partner Yasmin’s passing is a direct transmission from their soul to yours. Listen here. (And all good music platforms.)

Officially launched from the stage of The Red Rattler, Marrickville, Sydney, Australia Thursday night, the live experience moved us collectively from tears into singing and finally, right onto our feet.

Here are 5 lessons in grief Malaika reminds me of:

1. Keep grief moving

Ask all the questions. It’s normal to have questions when a loved one dies. Ponder with Malaika in Spirit, when they ask, “Where has your spirit gone?”

Acknowledge how it is for you as Malaika does in Mother, “I can’t fight loss, it don’t fight fair.” And wonder together, “Maybe I could fight the fear, maybe I could fight the loss with Mother by my side.”

And then don’t get stuck on the answers. Some questions are unanswerable.

2. Get it expressed

Grief works best when it gets expressed. All of it. Pain, regret, loss, anger, despair, pity, memories, loneliness - there are many spaces of grief. 

Express it as a fantasy. Imagine alongside Malaika who sings for us, “Imagine if you were here…” [Imagine]

The amount of grief that can get expressed is directly correlated to how people are listening around you. If you have someone who can listen and hold space expansively, a lot of grief can get expressed. 

If you have someone with a small capacity for being able to listen and be with grief’s expression without shutting it down, then it won’t fully get expressed. That’s ok. Move on until you find the person or space (maybe it’s a blank piece of paper) that can hold it without judgment.

Explore grief and the presence of your loved one in your dreams. “Oh it’s you I’m missing…In my dreams, I’m right with you, in my dreams, I don’t miss you.” [Dreams]

3. Transmute it into art

A blank piece of paper can hold a visual image like a painting, drawing, collage or words that become prose, poetry or lyrics.

Malaika’s art begins with Acknowledge creating a safe container for people to listen and receive, coming into Country the right way, acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, and extending respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and elders past, present and emerging.

Midway through the emotional journey of their music, Maliaka asks us to take 3 deep breaths together. As we breathe, emotion can move and flow.

They share about finding moments of Relief, “You give my heart a break, a sweet pain relief… When I’m with you I feel relief.”

Once grief is expressed, new futures can arise, like Malaika’s devotional declaration to black women in Good Man, “I don’t know how to be a woman, but I gave it a try for certain.” “I will be a good man for you, I promise you.”

4. Share it with others - let the love in

Malaika takes the advice they would give their younger self and shares it with us in Younger. “When the pain becomes unbearable do what Mama said and sing along.” I find myself singing along to my younger self, and am joining a gentle chorus that ripples through the audience as we collectively soothe our younger selves. “Ooo child, things are going to get easier.” 

Sometimes it helps that someone else has articulated it for us. “Cos everything’s going to be alright and there ain't no mountain high enough.” Thank you Malaika.

Make space for the collective experience of grief. Malaika invites us to say out loud the name of someone we have lost. “I’ll go first,” they say. “Yasmin.”

Alan,” I add my biological father’s name to the chorus of names being acknowledged. What an incredible space for healing and sharing.

For the final song, aptly named, Yasmin, Malaika is joined onstage by a group of those who also knew and loved Yasmin. “You left too early, it ain’t right… Broken is the heart as you leave, I’ll bleed.”

And after that final song, an unmistakable wave starts to ripple through the body of people and the surge catches us, compelling us to stand. A standing ovation; in honour, deep regard and true appreciation for the gift of Malaika’s art before us. 

When this wave of love and appreciation comes back at you, be like Malaika. Place your hands on your heart and as the first wave hits you, submerge yourself. Then come up for air and breathe. Receive it. Expand and let the love in.

5. Don’t stop

It took 3 years for the development of Malaika’s album. Imagine if they had stopped. We all have gifts to give the world. The only guaranteed way to fail is to stop. Don’t stop. Go that one little step further, like Malaika has done. The world is a much richer and goddam better place with their music in it.

Listen now. You will be moved and restored.


Danica Lani

The King Coach

P.S Follow Malaika on Instagram @malaikangelking

Hello handsome, 🌈 I'm Danica Lani, also known as The King Coach, here to empower you in your exploration of gender, sexuality, and performance. I have proudly mentored, choreographed, and produced 102 first-time Drag Kings since December 2020. With over two decades of yoga practice and a decade of facilitation experience, I've led transformative workshops on queer tantra for hundreds of queer-identifying women, non-binary, and trans individuals since 2014. My mission is for queer people to enjoy long, juicy, and fulfilling lives together. 🤗💖


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