Alesia Lani conjures soulful magic for ‘Cirque du Lani’ performance

Jan 18, 2018
Alesia Lani hosts a show she’s calling “Cirque du Lani” at Spiderhouse on Jan. 20. Contributed by Robert Hein

A definition bleeds into a declaration on the spoken word intro to Austin artist Alesia Lani’s 2017 album “Resilient”:

“Able to withstand or recover quickly after difficult conditions. Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching or being too compressed. I am … I am … I am strong. I am tough. I am hearty. I am flexible. I am pliable. I am resilient. I am Alesia Lani.”

Lani has been making a slow-burn rise through the Austin scene since she released her debut collection of steamy bedroom R&B, “First Impression,” in 2015. On “Resilient,” the sensuality still simmers, but it is fueled by an undercurrent of fiery defiance. This is love on her terms — courageous, powerful and true.

“Just in case I failed to mention, I am grown, on my own, yes, I make my own decisions,” she testifies on the ’90s throwback track, “Intentions.” Later, on the funky party number “Celebration,” she spells out what she’s looking for: “I want you to treat my love like a celebration,” she sings.

Lani says she didn’t set out to create an album about refusing to lose yourself in love or maintaining your personal strength in times of adversity, but as she was writing, the idea of resilience emerged as a motif. In 2017, it felt like the world was burning. She wrote these songs because she needed them, and, she figured, maybe other people did, too. When a hurricane ravaged the Texas coast on the same weekend as her album release party, that need felt even deeper.

On Saturday, she hosts her first big performance of 2018, the Cirque de Lani at Spiderhouse. Silky singer Mike James Jr. opens, DJ Kay Cali provides grooves to make you move, and Qi Dada from Riders Against the Storm plays ringmaster.

With a series of successful residencies, Lani graduated from the ATX underground to bona fide player status in 2017. This year, with a series of video releases, plans to tour and a South by Southwest appearance in the works, she aims to take it further.

Austin has always had a solid selection of soulful singers, but over the last few years, a real movement has developed, particularly among the women on the scene. They recognize something special is going on and are plotting ways to rise together. Alesia Lani is one of the artists leading the way.