Felicia Alima desperately wanted to move to America, but Madison wasn't what she had in mind.
From her hometown of Perth in Western Australia, Alima fell in love with the American pop, hip-hop and R&B she heard on the radio during her school years.
"When I graduated from college, I applied for every internship I could find in America," says Alima. "I wanted to move to New York or L.A., but the first company to make me an offer was located here in Madison."
Alima had never heard of Wisconsin, but she took the job anyway.
"Then I looked at the map, and when I saw where it was, I started crying," she says. "I cried the first five months I was here."
More than five years later, Alima now calls Madison "my city." And as it turns out, the local hip-hop scene has musically nurtured the pop star Felicia Alima is now poised to become.
"DJ Papi Love was dating one of my roommates," says Alima. "I remember being out with them soon after I moved here. We were walking down State Street, past all the bars, and I remember thinking, 'Oh, this is my fate, drinking beer in Wisconsin.'"
"Then we walked past the Orpheum, and there was a DJ showcase going on," she recalls. "I heard the music and I said to them all, 'This is where I want to go. Let's go in!'"
Alima has immersed herself in Madison music and art ever since.
"I started making DJ mix tapes and attending the local spoken-word poetry groups," she says. "I would hear these songs in my head, and they'd have the same beats per minute, and I really wanted to hear them together. That's why I loved making mix tapes."
She began performing her compositions under the pseudonym "MissMadisonMixes" in 2005. In 2006, Alima tried recording her music for the first time.
"I was just out of a relationship at that time, and of course I was heartbroken, so I had a lot to say," says Alima.
Reflecting her mood, she wrote a set of mid-tempo R&B ballads and recorded an EP, The Way We Do, at Madison's Paradyme Productions. One of the tracks, "Leaving Here Tonight," got significant airplay back in Australia.
"That's when I decided music is what I really want to do," says Alima.
With her blend of stage charisma, vocal talent and production skills, Alima is attracting attention from well-known producers in the U.S. This weekend, she's releasing her first full-length album, Know Me. Multi-platinum producer Curtis "Kobane" Couthon (2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre) wrote and performed the beats and samples for three of the album's tracks. The disc is urban R&B with an international flavor.
Alima is the daughter of two Australian immigrants. Her mother is Indonesian. Her father, who died when she was seven, moved to Australia from the Czech Republic.
"People look at me and have no idea what race I am," she says. Representing her heritage, Alima named her record label Chantik Soul. "Chantik" is an Indonesian word for "beautiful."
Following her CD release party at the King Club on Saturday, Nov. 17, Alima will return to Australia for a three-month stay. In January, she'll travel to Indonesia to visit her grandparents. She's scheduled to perform at the Equinox in Jakarta on January 23.
Alima says she loves Madison now, but there's still one thing won't miss when she leaves town next week.
"I can't say I'm sorry I'll be missing this winter!"