(photo credit: DAVE BENDER)
What if a song had no permanent lyrics, but changed according to the inspiration of the singer? That’s the distinctiveness of Safed-based singer Tziona Achishena’s newly-released single “I Have Everything I Need Right Now.” The song taps into the dynamic tension between longing for whatever is missing in life and being content with what is.
After producing 10 albums of original music, much of it based on Hebrew verses, Achishena, who grew up in Maryland and made aliyah from Northern California on the last day of 1999, is currently creating original music in English.
“The last few years haven’t been an easy time for me,” she reflects. “Raising three kids on my own, leaving my home, a religious community, getting out of a relationship where I didn’t feel safe, waiting and fighting for years for a get [religious divorce] and really having to start over in so many ways.
“So this song came at my lowest moment, when I really had to focus on what I had, and not just what was lacking. In the simplest way, I had to start listing what works in my life.”
The result is a new single that changes every time it’s sung.
“The chorus stays the same. When I get to the verses, I get present in the moment. I look within myself, at my life, and I make it rhyme. What do I have to be grateful for at that moment? There’s no one version of the song. I’m learning how to let go. I’m making it up as I go along.”
For Achishena, singing “I Have Everything I Need Right Now” mirrors the process of creation. “Hashem [God] is creating the world all the time. In the moment I’m singing this song, I’m in God-consciousness, because right now, I’m creating. I can’t do it myself. I have to move my ego out of the way.”
Rather than being scary, the experience of singing a song that has no permanent words energizes her. It “makes me feel free and happy and sends me to this joyous place,” she shares.
“I do this flip [from focusing on lack to focusing on gratitude] every time I sing this song and I’ve sung it hundreds of times. I focus on the positive. It’s a muscle, a spiritual muscle that I have to keep flexing.”
The song’s Hanukkah release is not coincidental.
“A little light pushes away a lot of darkness. At night, when it’s dark, we need the light more. [This song] came out of what was a very dark period of time in my life.”
The song’s music video juxtaposes Achishena and a dancer. Achishena is portrayed singing in a forest. The dancer is on the beach. Achishena is a woman, the dancer is a man. Achishena is an American olah. The dancer is Israeli. Achishena is religious. The dancer is not.
Nevertheless, “we’re both going through a similar process. You see us each becoming more comfortable. He’s a man, able to embody this Dovid Hamelech [King David] energy of freedom and expressiveness. [He represents the] masculine embodying the feminine, as opposed to the masculine holding back and not expressing itself.”
Achishena stays with this theme for a few more moments.
“The rabbi of Safed told me that the music of this generation will bring back prophecy – another feminine expression of receiving from [God]. So, yes, this story is about me, my redemption, the return of my freedom, my playfulness and spontaneity, my simple joy in singing and feeling free.
“But there is also something bigger at play here in a world that has forgotten the awesomeness of the power of the feminine. Maybe the world needs to hear women’s voices. When prophecy returns to our world through song, perhaps we will live in a more harmonious balance between masculine and feminine.
“Judaism can’t be just rituals and what’s allowed and what’s not allowed, but [it must include] a deeper level of awakening the spirit. It’s definitely a process unfolding in our generation. Bringing the spiritual back into Judaism is something that needs to happen.”
After waxing philosophical for a bit, Achishena confesses, “I would love it if other people would hear this song and get a sense of faith and trust in themselves and the world as it’s unfolding.
“Or maybe they just feel happy,” she adds with a laugh.
“Music is the main thing I have done, in one form or another, over the past 18 years. I have been singing as long as I can remember. It’s the thing in my life I love the most. I’ve always known there was some kind of special blessing there.
“Singing is my superpower,” she concludes with a smile. “I Have Everything I Need Right Now” is available on iTunes and Spotify.