November 28th, 2013 by HarlemGuy

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 4.58.42 PM’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 (, 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.”

Below, watch her perform her single, “All of My Life.

View Azania’s official web site.



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May 2nd, 2012 by tharealharlemista

Like Azealia Banks, another Harlemite is taking the music world by storm. Last month, tenor Noah Stewart became the first black singer to top the UK classical album chart in its 25-year history. From a tough childhood in Harlem, raised by a single mother, to performing at the Royal Opera House in London and Carnegie Hall (where he once worked as a receptionist), the 33 year old declares: “There are lots of roles I want to sing. I haven’t even started yet.”

His musical development began in Harlem, studying classical music at the Harlem School of the Arts. He fell in love with opera at 15. He had won a singing competition at 12 and enrolled at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, but had no interest in opera until he saw a video of the great American soprano Leontyne Price singing the Verdi Requiem. “I thought, holy cow – the tone, the intensity, seeing her with a 300-member chorus and an 80-strong orchestra and Herbert von Karajan conducting. I want to be that.” When Price signed discs at the local Tower Records he was fourth in line. “‘Ms Price,’ I said, ‘you are an inspiration.’ ‘Go to Juilliard,’ she told me. ‘That’s where I went.'”

His mother was surprised when he announced he wanted to be an opera singer. But she accepted it. “I wouldn’t have achieved anything without her support,” Stewart says. By the end of his senior year at Juilliard, Stewart was already receiving attention from the professional classical community, but it was very cliquey, he says, and he felt he was given few opportunities. He was starting to learn that life was tough for black tenors. “Decision-makers are not comfortable seeing a black male hero with a white heroine.” Black basses are fine, he says; they tend to play the dodgy characters. Ditto black sopranos (natural victims). But a black Romeo? The only plus was that the stress of studying at Juilliard made him lose weight, and the fat kid turned into a handsome young man.

He took a four-year break afterwards, doing odd jobs and singing only sporadically. He took a position as a receptionist at Carnegie Hall in the hope that someone would give him a break, but his boss just told him to stop humming. He sang in restaurants, only to be told by one diner it was a shame his color meant he would never sing Carmen on stage.

Eventually the break did come, on a young artists’ program at San Francisco Opera. He was understudying Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth when the singer playing the role fell ill. Other roles followed, and then Universal spotted him in 2010, invited him to make a demo, then gave him a five-disc deal – an offer even the world’s most established singers would kill for. His debut disc, Noah, combines opera with lush recordings of popular standards.

With a brilliant career ahead of him, Harlem’s Noah Stewart is a name to watch, he is definitely the complete package.

For more information about Harlem please also see HarlemTrends.

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