Anna Pannell, also known as DJ Malika, is surrounded by friends, family and other participants for her inaugural music video, shot at Skate World of Troy June 5.

Anna Pannell, also known as DJ Malika, is surrounded by friends, family and other participants for her inaugural music video, shot at Skate World of Troy June 5.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Quadriplegic DJ/songwriter’s first music video produced with local foundation’s help

By: Jonathan Shead | Metro | Published June 10, 2021

 Danny’s Miracle Angel Network Foundation Creative Director Herb Harris Jr. directs participants at Skate World of Troy during a music video for DJ/songwriter Anna Pannell.

Danny’s Miracle Angel Network Foundation Creative Director Herb Harris Jr. directs participants at Skate World of Troy during a music video for DJ/songwriter Anna Pannell.

Photo by Deb Jacques

OAKLAND COUNTY — Local 22-year-old DJ and songwriter Anna Pannell, or DJ Malika, from Ypsilanti, has never let the physical limitations of being paralyzed stop her from pursuing her dreams, even when it comes to uncharted territory.

It was no surprise she grinned ear to ear when asked about her first music video shoot June 5 for her new, unreleased song, “Lashes,’’ at Skate World of Troy. Through the Danny’s Miracle Angel Network, or D-MAN, Foundation, she pushed her musical career to new heights. The foundation funded and organized the music video for Pannell.

“I’m excited. It’s my first music video, and my dream come true,” Pannell said about the June 5 shoot. “I hope that it’ll maybe help me reach out to my favorite celebrities, like Chris Brown, Ciara and Bow Wow,” with the hopes of one of them noticing and wanting to collaborate, she said.

“I expect a lot of people to come with a lot of energy, and we’ll be having a lot of fun,” she added about what to expect from her upcoming video.

Making a music video may be a first for Pannell, but she’s not new to producing music and putting out records. Before “Lashes,” Pannell helped co-produce, mix and write original lyrics, which have been featured on some of the foundation’s previously released albums.

D-MAN Foundation founder and Chairman Ziad Kassab said he’s been working since 2018 with Pannell on her original music at the organization’s Berkley-based music therapy studio.

“All we did was set up the platform. She’s the one doing all the work and making her dreams come true,” he said. “She’s a very hard worker. She’s very dedicated to what she’s doing. She’s very passionate about it. Whatever she got is not because of me, but because she earned it.”

The D-MAN Foundation films three to six music videos for their clinical patients yearly, with each video being given $5,000 from the foundation’s budget. Donors, sponsorships, community support and discounts allow the foundation to produce high-quality videos at a fraction of the cost. The foundation’s focus on funding music videos was highly intentional, because they’re focal to every artist’s journey, Kassab said.

“We have a voice, and a platform at D-MAN, so we want to use that voice and platform. We want (Pannell) to be a star.”

 

‘Be happy with who you are’
Pannell, and others at the D MAN studio, use hands-free assistive technology — including the Jam Box, and the Magic Flute — to help disabled people produce music from the neck up, Kassab explained.

“What both of them do, they’re controlled with breath. It’s almost like autotune,” he said. With some practice, paralyzed or disabled aspiring musicians can learn how to play songs like ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and work their way into music theory, unlocking their ability to produce original music.”

“The Magic Flute is amazing. I got to make my own beats, and it was awesome. I never got to experience that before, and technology is amazing. I can’t wait to see what technology has in store in the future for making music,” Pannell said. “It took a lot of time to practice, but once I got the hang of it, it was pretty easy.”

The Jam Box and Magic Flute are not the only devices D-MAN Foundation sound engineers use to assist in the music-making process.

“Any good DJ will tell you, every good song starts with a bassline — the beat. What we’ve done with some of our folks, we’ll record the heartbeat, and that becomes the bassline for the song. It’s actually the person’s heartbeat. Then you can add layers on top of it, (but) the foundation of the track literally came from the heart.”

Aside from the hopes of meeting one of the artists who inspire her, Pannell also hopes to show the importance of never giving up. “Life is too short. If you really want to go at what you want to do, you should just do it now. Who knows what’s going to happen in the future? Just be happy with who you are and believe in yourself. Life is too short to stop and put everything on hold. If you want to do something, just go at it.”

The work Pannell has done through creating original music has helped her “progress dramatically” from a clinical standpoint as well, Kassab said. Her physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills have all improved.

“It’s awesome, because all of this is helping me, because I want to be an actress also. It’s helping me get to where I want to be in the future; to accomplish my dream. Who knows, maybe one day Chris Brown, Ciara, or whoever will see it and be like, ‘I like her. I want to sign her,’” Pannell said. “And, hopefully, I can help another person achieve their goals as well.”

Pannell’s original song “Lashes” will be available on all streaming platforms once it’s released. For more information about the D-MAN Foundation, visit mydman.org.