Sometimes the things we love most in life are also the sources of the greatest pain for us. Unfortunately this is often the case for musicians and other artists, whose natural attraction to certain scenes—or certain mediums, more broadly, with poisonous industries grafted onto them—are soured once they get their foot in the door and learn the realities of their inner workings, which preclude further immersion either on moral, social, or—increasingly—financial grounds.
Brooklyn-based songwriter/harpist Rebecca Kitba Bryson El-Saleh addresses this right off the bat on “Tied to Strings,” a song featured midway through their debut album under the name Kitba. Clashing with the wispy orchestral instrumentation and El-Saleh’s equally soft vocals is a boiling frustration with the realities of the community associated with “something that feels inextricably linked to your self-expression,” in their words. “I grew up fully immersed in classical music, studying and consuming it, but it broke me in a lot of ways that I’m still healing from. I’ve felt estranged from the harp community for years, despite studying at a high level and ‘proving my worth’—it was and continues to be a realm of existence in which I was never enough.”
But there’s a sense of catharsis in the track’s conclusion (not to mention its mere existence in defiance of the community it’s addressing), gently expressed with droning harp and calming piano. “Ultimately the song ends with me letting go of the illusion of control,” they continue. “I'm OK with not knowing or being able to explain anything tangible about the connection of self and expression. The pull is natural and innate, like the moon pulling the tide.”
The track arrives with a video which literalizes the song’s title, with an odd variety of everyday objects standing in for the pain El-Saleh carries with them. Watch the surreal clip below, and pre-order Kitba here.