ESSENCE.com’s “New and Next” column spotlights the brightest new talents Essence thinks we should know.
New and Next recently featured jazz and soul singer and Harlem resident Azania. Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa but raised in Geneva, Switzerland, the classically-trained singer’s sound takes from her multi-cultural background—she calls it a “mix of 70s soul, some gospel and some jazz.”
Azania (pronounced Azanya) was born in Boston but grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where her mother worked for the United Nations. She started singing professionally at the age of fourteen working with many different bands traveling Europe. She won the French TV competition, ‘Graines de Star,” an American Idol-style show, and was heralded as “the next Whitney Houston.” Later, Azania decided to make her way to the US two years ago. “The US is the ultimate challenge, and the biggest market. I love the spirit here.”
Azania is also very involved in All As One (allasone.org), a Sierra Leonean charity that is dedicated to providing the orphaned children of Sierra Leone a loving home, medical care, and schooling. AAO provides shelter, medical care, education, meals, clothes, social activities and love for the children. A dollar a day can literally save a child’s life.
Her advice for aspiring musicians is “No matter what your circumstances or problems are, instead of worrying about what’s wrong in your life and your challenges, focus your energy on what you do have, be deeply grateful for it and do the best you can with those things to move forward.”
Recording artist and producer Jeremiah Abiah who has worked with Azania’s says: “Azania has quickly garnered the kind of tenacity one needs to be successful here. Not only is she beautiful but she is a talented songstress aiming to make a difference.”