Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Music that heals body and soul

Published:Sunday | February 19, 2017 | 2:51 AMAmitabh Sharma
Cover of, Down But Not Out
Leesha Mac
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For Alesha McIntosh, the journey of life is climbing a cliff face, which requires agility, stamina, negotiating skills, and the presence of mind to find a grip to support and move up. One key word of advice, do not look down. The drop is sheer.

Diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at a young age, McIntosh is living this life ­ literally and figuratively. She makes frequent trips to the hospital, more than those to the playground. Syringes, blood transfusions, operating theatre, cuts, and incisions, she has to bear them all.

“Being in and out of hospital was normal for me,” she recalls. “My school peers and others around me viewed me as being ‘different’.”

“I had to be mindful of not participating in ‘normal’ activities due to the sickle cell,” McIntosh said, adding that this genetic condition kept her away from the playground, the swimming pool, and any form of extraneous physical activity.

“When I was 18 months old, I had a splenectomy (spleen removed) due to the sickle cell taking over my spleen,” McIntosh, a Handsworth, Birmingham-resident, said. “This made me more prone to infections.”

EXTRA SUPPORT

When she was 13, McIntosh suffered a mini-stroke after a head injury. “I then had to retrain my brain to do the most simple of tasks and activities,” she said. “I also had to have extra support when I returned to school to get through classes to gain my qualifications.”

In her endeavours, crests and troughs, her parents, family, and a few friends have supported her, she says.

“OSCAR (Organisation for Sickle Cell/ Thalassemia Relief) Birmingham and The SCAT Center (Sickle Cell and Thalassemia team) have helped me a great deal to overcome the pain,” she said.

McIntosh has been a patient at SCAT since she was 17.
Music became her silver lining

One needs a hint of a silver lining to shine through the dark clouds ­ for McIntosh, it was music, which gave her a new perspective on life.

“Without realising it, I had a gift of singing and was always singing from an early age,” she said. “As time went by and I got older, I realised that my singing was my coping mechanism of dealing with sickle cell and other health-related issues.”

And Leesha Mac was born.

“My father was a big influence for me in music as he is a DJ-Promoter,” she shared. She grew up with music being played in the house and at church.

In music, which was calming and soothing, she found solace, purpose, and a reason to live strong.

“When I was down, I wanted to give up on life,” she said. “I put pen to paper and wrote down my feelings.”

McIntosh penned Down But Not Out, which she has dedicated to those suffering from sickle cell and thalassemia around the world.

“This song tells a journey, and I hope it gives inspiration to others,” the aspiring singer said. “I am a living example that no matter what you’re enduring in life, you can turn your dreams into reality.”

Down But Not Out has been chosen as the theme song for the campaign ‘Every Black Donor Matters’ by the UK NHS (National Health Service) Blood Donations Service.

LIVE YOUR DREAMS

McIntosh wants to live life ­ making each moment count.

“My aspiration is to become a successful recording artiste, touring the world and sharing my experiences and musical journey,” she said. “Given the fact that I have a story to tell, I would like to tour the world with my music. I want to tell those who are living with the disorder that they can live their dreams no matter what.”

She dreams, one day, to perform in Jamaica for her Jamaican ‘family’. Leesha’s father was born in England and went to Quick Step in St Elizabeth, Jamaica, when he was one year old, and he returned to England at 11. 

“I have several grand-aunts and my dad’s sister and uncles still living there,” Leesha said.

She is thankful to her father, who she calls her ‘rock’. “He has kept me grounded. He is always there to support me physically, mentally, emotionally and financially,” McIntosh said.

Songstress Leesha Mac is inspired by Erykah Badu, but, she says, she is an eclectic person, listening to all genres of music.

“I feel I am a unique individual, so I create my own style.”
Leesha Mac’s life revolves around the words of Erykah Badu, who once said: “Hopefully my music is medicine, some type of antidote for something, or some kind of explanation or just to feel good.”