Jhene Aiko’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Chronicles Ascension

A lotus flower often symbolizes purity, spiritual enlightenment, and re-birth. This is how Jhene Aiko dives into her Tiny Desk – like a mermaid, dressed in an aquamarine silk dress, her various singing bowls laid out and ready as she waves her magic wand above them. 

The first sound we hear as the concert begins, right before she drifts into the first track, “Lotus Intro” is the ringing of healing sound frequencies that erupt from her bowls. Aiko’s touch amongst the bowls is as gentle and delicate as petals on a flower. She chooses to both start and end her concert with the power of various relaxing tones and stress relieving vibrations that the bowls possess. 

The color blue seems to be everywhere on the stage – indigo lights shine down on her like heavy rain as the sound bowls mimic the melodies of the ocean. The sound bowl’s notes and harmonies mirror the noise that erupts from Humpback and Beluga whales communicating with one another across the ocean floor. 

Aiko is extremely devoted to incorporating spiritual practices into her art – her herbal tea sits waiting for her to sip, an angelic golden harp is being plucked in the background as percussion chimes glisten and hang like blue icicles. This is the soul of Jhene Aiko – a prolific teacher, healer, and artist who is here to merely share her journey of her time on this earth. She bestows upon her fans the many lessons of life she has mastered and those she still has to learn from. 

She recognizes how often she is placed on this beaming spiritual pedestal and is quick to remove herself from that picture frame of worship. She sings, “And we are all slaves of desire. Controlled by the things that we think that we need, no I’m not trying to preach to the choir. I’m just a girl born into this world, no I am no god or messiah.”


Jhene Aiko’s inner balance that she exudes throughout this entire concert stems from her ability to remain both incredibly humble while also displaying confidence in her personal power. The act of attaining ascension (reaching higher heights of consciousness and elevating your vibrational energy) is a process of breaking down and re-routing destructive patterns we see ourselves falling into repeatedly. 

The first song she dives into is birthed with the intention to unravel and embark upon the journey towards ascension. Each of the eight tracks Aiko performs in this concert represents a different stage of learning curves and growth, until she reaches the final song, “Eternal Sunshine.” 

One of the first hurdles Aiko introduces is the concept of seeing the same pain, the same heartbreak being immortalized through every new person she meets. The second track she performs, “Stranger,” has her trying to peek open the curtains to the future only to find herself having to confront the rear-view mirror first. 

She sings, “I think we may be in a different book, on a different page. You said you were different, but you’re the same. Stranger.”

This is one of her first revelations and lessons towards achieving ascension – the unraveling of repeating painful cycles, of not learning the lesson and finding it only following you in the eyes of a stranger, in the eyes of what is supposed to be new.

The next track she dives into is, “Do Better Blues.” “Do Better Blues” is about that uncomfortability that comes with releasing past thought patterns or relationship attachments. It’s not always fun to do better for yourself even when you know you should.

The following track into the journey of ascension is “To Love & Die.” Aiko often speaks on notions of love and lust within her music. This track, however, seems to be a straight devotion to return to love at any time, even amongst loss and unforeseen battles. It’s speaking on being open to forgiveness as a means to be able to find and return to love at any given moment. 

However, embarking on the path of ascension can get exhausting and be quite defeating. It’s so easy to fall back into our past ways, to fall back on working on ourselves. Aiko is revealing that ascension and healing are never finite goals that can ever truly be completely met. Healing and elevating your vibration to be higher is something that is never truly done. In other words, there will always be more to heal, more lessons to learn, more patterns to unlearn. 

The track she performs next, “Born Tired,” speaks to that self-defeating, inner critic voice that often creeps in when we are trying to maintain our path of healing. 

She sings, “It’s been a long night. Long life, long time fighting. Let out a long sigh. Alright, why am I trying?”

When you cannot see the blooming of petals on a lotus that have since been withered away, dried up and discarded – it becomes increasingly difficult to keep watering and nurturing yourself. 

Yet, sometimes a spark of inspiration or motivation can come seeping out of nowhere when you least expect it. Aiko on the track “W.A.Y.S.” stresses the importance of shedding and shutting down the ego in order to cultivate the strength to keep going. She also illuminates that sometimes we need to break down, to have a tower come in and shatter everything that we once knew in order for that lotus to flower again.

This introduces one of the final lessons toward “Eternal Sunshine” – the inevitable storm. Loss and grief are pouring down from the sky above her. Aiko lost her brother, Miyagi to cancer in 2012. The last two tracks off her tiny desk performance are a reckoning of grief – an ode to her brother and his unwavering presence she still feels all around her. The track “Summer 2020,” and the title alone symbolically represents our society’s current state of perpetual loss. 

Aiko sings,”And there’s not a doubt inside my mind. That you’re still here, right by my side. Take some rain with my sunshine.”

I truly think this “Eternal Sunshine” she is referencing is the essence of her brother. Right before she reaches for that sunshine though and goes into the final track – she instinctively makes her way towards her singing bowls. She plays and dances in their medicinal properties as she sings, pleading, “Only the good things, only the good things. Only the good, the good, the good.”

The final step in her ascension journey: Gratitude. She has now cultivated a new profound gratitude for it all, for the mere presence of life itself.

She sings, “Is it strange for me to say that If I were to die today, there’s not a thing I would change. I’ve lived well. Maybe I have made mistakes and been through my fair share of pain, but all in all, it’s been okay. I’ve lived well.”

The last shot and sound we receive from her is the energy of ascension being brought forth through the singing bowl’s rims. She mouths in a slight whisper and wears a smile on her lips as she says, Thank you. 

Maddy Ipema

My name is Maddy Ipema, and you can usually find me with headphones blaring and a book on my lap! I am a senior at Columbia College Chicago, where I am majoring in fiction writing. I love writing in all forms, and mostly work in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry! Music is my main source of inspiration for life as well as my writing!

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