International Soul Singer Azania Talks Soul Music

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[Helese TALKS!]

Music For The Soul...

Recently, I got to sit and talk to international soul singer Azania  backstage at the Triad Theatre in New York City after her performance that night.

Helese: Can you start by telling us a little bit of your background?
Azania: So my parents are from Sierra Leone, and I was born in Boston. Then I lived in Madison, Wisconsin for a long time. After that I went to Geneva, Switzerland where my mother was working for the United Nations. That is where I went to school and had my music career, until I moved back to the States; to New York eight months ago, and I’m really excited.

Helese: I saw on your website that you said things are going very well for you, because you moved back for music right?
Azania: Yes I did, and my family is now here.

Helese: Your music is soul music, and you’re very adamant about it being classified as soul music. What does “soul music” mean to you?
Azania: Soul music is somewhat difficult to explain sometimes, because many people have different opinions. Some people go for the traditional music, from the era of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin; there are certain names [that] come to mind when you think of soul music. To me music that comes from the soul, that you can really feel very strongly is soulful.
Many people speak of Adele being soulful, and she’s just a singer simply that sings directly from her heart. It doesn’t necessarily sound like Aretha Franklin, but it touches everyone and that’s why she’s number one right now. So soul music is not about a genre, it’s not about a type of sound, it’s about a singer singing from their heart. Yes.

Helese: Beautiful. Talk about where you are on the business side of music. Are you independent? Signed?
Azania: Right now I’m still independent; I was independent before as well. I did a whole lot independently. I’m still my own manager, I have been for many years. I’ve been managing numerous bands as well, in Switzerland, and now that I’m here I really would love to work with management, or tour management, just to have help because I don’t know the city or the country as well as the professionals here.

So, I would love to be signed. That is one of my goals. Whether it be a major label, or an independent label. I definitely wanna be taken under the wing of a large company so that I can have more distribution, more marketing and promotion. Those are things I simply can’t do by myself.

Helese: Yeah, it’s hard to do everything at once and look good doing it, but you know, you manage.
Azania: Yeah and I mean, it brought me this far doing it on my own, but I would love help now. That’s what I’m looking for.

Helese: So where do you see yourself going, whether you stay independent or whether you get signed?
Azania: If I find an opportunity to be signed, tomorrow even, if it’s a good opportunity of course I’m gonna study it, I won’t just jump into the first thing, but if there is a good opportunity that comes my way I’m totally ready to pass the baton on to a bigger enterprise. That’s the goal of growing and becoming a better and bigger artist in the way of reaching more people. My whole purpose is to reach as many people in the world as possible. 

My music, that is my dream. I do believe that people receive joy when they listen to the music. I see many smiles, people tell me afterwards you know “you really made me feel good.”  

Helese: And it makes you feel good while you do it right? There really is that give and take.
Azania: Absolutely. That’s why I sing because there is a give and take. I don’t know, some people are okay with just singing in the studio, but for me it’s essential that I sing for others. That I can feel, that I can share with their emotion. That is part of the joy of singing for me.

Helese: So if you had a world tour, what would be one of the major places that you’d like to go that you haven’t been.
Azania: Everywhere! Absolutely, I mean there really isn’t a specific place because my goal, my dream is to tour the world. Whether it be Asia, Africa, South America, Canada, I’m ready and very, very happy to go everywhere.

Helese: Do you have any music that’s out right now in other languages?
Azania: I speak fluent French, but in other languages, no, I haven’t explored other languages other than English and French for now. I know my parent’s dialect, and I do understand it, and I’d like to compose a song in the future in the language of Krio.

Helese: Musically, what are influences from your sound, the melodies, the tones? And who are some of your favorite artist?
Azania: Definitely Whitney Houston is the singer that inspired me to sing--so I thank her for that. Chaka Khan; there’s a singer called Eva Cassidy that I love; Sade. It’s interesting because I have an idea of what influences I have, Ella Fitzgerald for example. But when people hear my music, they have their own interpretation of what they hear. So I’ve sung so many different styles from classical, to reggae, that I believe there is a blend that comes into play in my music.

Do you have children, do you have a family, are you married?
Azania: Oh, that’s super personal! Helese!

Helese: Well you know what I just wanted to know because let’s be honest, when you get to that level, cause I see it happening, people are gonna wanna know. How are you going to deal with those questions?
Azania: I think you can always remain mysterious, it’s a choice. You have Beyonce and then you have Sade. You can be seen, or you can decide not to be seen and you won’t be. Or the way people see you, they won’t necessarily come at you in that sort of way. I think people approach Sade very calmly, very respectfully. It’s a career choice.

Helese: I can definitely respect that, but you know I had to ask!

You can learn more about Azania
and her inspirational, uplifting music at

Helese Smauldon, Columnist for The Black Star News

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