Kenyan musical band, Sauti Sol, has been hyping their song which they did together with Sol Generation for almost a week. The song is finally out and it has been received with much love by their fans.
Among the musician s present in the song, they are all men apart from one songbird, Crystal Asige, who is visually impaired.
Many people don’t believe that she really has an issue with her sight since she stares on the cameras so confidently and has great music performance.
She grew up in Mombasa and always had a great love for music. Her mother always encouraged her to always push on with her dreams. While in high school, she developed difficulties in reading her books.
She sought medical attention, but due to negative experiences with doctors, she was reluctant to follow up on her health. Instead, she adapted to her visual challenges.
She said; “I just continued to pretend. I began to memorize my scripts as soon as I got them so that when it came to rehearsals, I already had all the words in my head and I wouldn’t feel embarrassed reading in front of the entire cast.”
She made it her trend to always arrive in class early so that she could secure the front position to avoid straining reading on the blackboard.
In 2007, when she completed high school, she went to the UK to study film and theatre at the University of the West of England, Bristol. With the lecture halls being significantly larger than the ones at her high school, she could no longer simply get by. She was forced to get examined by an optician.
On visiting the optician, she reived alarming news from him; “Crystal, I don’t mean to raise any alarm, but you need to go to the eye hospital immediately. Right now. Don’t go shopping, you need to go now. There is something seriously wrong.”
The optometrist also told her that because she is black, the disease would be more aggressive due to the color of her eyes. Black people have dark eyes, so less light enters into their eyes naturally.
“I just walked over to the hospital and check myself in. After two months of tests, they told me that I had a disease called glaucoma.
They told me that glaucoma has no cure and that it basically eats away at the retina, which sends images of what you’re seeing back to the brain. They told me that I wouldn’t be able to see for very much longer. They predicted that by 2013, I would be completely blind. I was 20 years old.
I just sat there, hearing all of this…blow by blow. I wondered if there was any good news. The only thing they could do for me was to give me some eye drops to reduce the pressure in my eyes because what eats away at the retina is high pressure in the eyes, “she narrated.
She was on medication for a year. After the doctors noted no improvement, they suggested a surgery to be done.
“I had my first eye surgery in 2010. It worked in a sense in that my intraocular pressure came down, but it didn’t work in the sense that I lost some vision on that operating table due to the trauma. It was my first major surgery and my body did not respond well to it.
I was just inundated with all of these emotions. I thought I wasn’t good enough, and that I was never going to do this music thing or theater. I tried to smile and be happy and be the person that I was expected to be. I don’t think I really got through it. I would just go out drinking and partying…anything to distract me.
When a doctor tells you-you’re going to go blind in a few years’ time, what are you supposed to do? Nobody hands you a book at the beginning of your life and says, ‘Here is the condition you are going to face in your life and here are the steps you need to follow to deal with it.’ So, I stayed in denial. I dealt with it the wrong way and it wasn’t healthy.”
The doctors thought her vision would return after a couple of months but it didn’t. It was so difficult for her, being away from home with no one to support her emotionally.
After the first surgery, she went back to Mombasa and was in depression for ten months to the extent of falling into suicidal thoughts.
While asleep in one night, she had a dream that changed her life. “I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life.
“In the dream, there was this bright light. I was sitting cross-legged looking at this (illuminated figure), and it was shining back at me. I thought immediately that it was God.
It was very bright, and I couldn’t see anything apart from the light. The dream felt like it went on for so long and it was so comforting and reassuring. At the end of the dream, the light reached out and put its hands on her cheeks and said the words, “Be still,” she narrated.
After waking up, she ran to her mom for assistance to interpret the vision; “I went to my mum and asked her what ‘be still’ means. We went to the Bible and looked up Psalm 46 verse 10.
It says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God…’ I felt God reassuring me that He is God and that all I needed to do was be still. That was a turning point for me. I knew that even though no one else understood what I had experienced, I knew what I had felt during that dream. At that moment, I decided I was going to take charge of my situation.
She started searching online for doctors, assistive software and any associations dealing with vision loss in her area; “I wanted to be proactive and get back to the Crystal that I knew. I started to write music again in my free time and got back to being me.
I even applied for my work visa back to the UK. I got that and went back to the UK in 2011. I ended up working for BBC. It was that dream that propelled me forward.
Since 2010, I have had eight surgeries in six years, but nothing has worked. So, in 2016, I decided to stop having surgeries. I decided I wanted to take my life back because it was now a situation where I was either preparing for surgery, in surgery or recovering from surgery.
I lost a lot of time, and emotionally and psychologically, it was a huge battle. I was in my twenties – at a time when other young people are saying life has just begun for them, yet here I was, going for surgeries.
View this post on Instagram
People say they don’t believe I am visually impaired because I can look straight into the camera and smile with my blue eyes… Ati, ‘you’re so beautiful but shame about the blindness’ 🤨🤨 do you really believe being different is bad? Isn’t standing out from the crowd what the entire human race is chasing after? Where did you learn these #bullshit rules that just because our bodies are limited, our lives must be too? If you ask me, it’s your #vision that is impaired 🙈 A #BlackGirl with #Natural #BlueEyes??? Shoot, I’m already #winning #smize #disability #disabilityfashion #MotivationalQuotes #Singer #Musician #PublicSpeaker #blindgirlmanenos #Grateful #thankyoulord #Fashion #Modelling #modelswanted
In 2017, I had to buy a white cane because I could not walk on my own any longer. I had to either walk holding someone’s arm or shoulder. But I decided I wanted to be independent. So, I decided to get myself a white cane and try to walk on my own.
That, itself, was such a process emotionally. It was a public symbol, I felt, of me saying I’m not going to get better. Before, I would tell myself that I was at peace with it, but there was something about buying the white cane that made me really sad. I felt like I was giving up on God and His miracles.”
It was a great challenge for her losing vision but she has overcome it. She now lives on her own and believes that she is just abled differently.
She is a staple on the music scene in Kenya and abroad. She released her first album in 2014 titled ‘Karibia’ (‘get closer’) and received praise for her fresh and electric sound. Her single ‘Pulled Under’ from the album climbed to the number one spot on a UK-based chart in 2016.
When it comes to relationships, Crystal desires love like anyone else and believes she has something unique and special to offer; “Just because I have this limitation does not mean that I’m not able to love. I’m actually able to love in more creative ways.
I cannot compliment you on something you’re wearing, but maybe I can compliment you on a scent you are wearing. My fingers have become my eyes, and that can actually be more romantic.”