Asantewaa Processes Global Influences To Make Something Purely Chicago
Written by Vocalo Radio on March 23, 2020
Chicago native Asantewaa credits the diversity of Chicago for influencing her music … a dazzling mix of Afro-Caribbean sounds inflected with the sultry grooves of R&B and Hip-Hop
In addition to Asantewaa’s singing and songwriting, she is finding ways to remain creative while staying at home and practicing social distancing. She spoke to us about her Chicago up-bringing, the importance of gratitude, and her vast musical influences.
How would you describe your work to someone in a few sentences?
Hey! I’m Asantewaa and I’m a singer/songwriter. My music is kind of a mix of west Afro, R&B, and hip hop. At the moment my music is groovy/spicy, so you can move to it and the lyrics and music is on the sexy side of the spectrum.
Are you from Chicago originally?
Yes, I’m from Chicago. I was born on the north side, but I spent most of my childhood and adolescence on the South Side. I lived in this little neighborhood Evergreen.
Nobody knows it by name but when you say “you know the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club off 95th?” they’re like, “awww I know exactly where that is!”
How has Chicago’s music scene influenced the work that you do?
Wow, where do I start?
Chicago’s music scene influenced my work in a tremendous way. From all the R&B I was bombarded with at every juke jam or basement party, to all the Afrobeats and Highlife music I was surrounded by at every African function I’d attend with my mom. To all the drill music my friends and I were blasting out of my car when I finally got my license, and even the hint of Middle Eastern music I was exposed to at my old job .
I know these genres are aren’t exclusive to Chicago but I definitely don’t think I’d be able to experience music to the capacity that I have if I hadn’t grown up in Chicago. It’s because of Chicago’s diversified, vast music scene that I’m able to cultivate the music I make.
What do you think is missing from today’s music landscape?
I think the music landscape may be starting to miss genuine artists artist to fun relationships. I feel this way for a couple of reasons, but the main reason I think of is how we consume content today. Content is consumed so quickly and passively now that it can really be hard for artist to stick. There are 40,000 songs released A DAY! I don’t know about y’all but for me as an independent DIY artist that’s scary. When was the last time you really heard a super classic song in the past couple of years?
With such a surplus of music it doesn’t seem like artist today are building those loyal super fans that help make their living by buying merch and going to concerts. Nowadays some artists aren’t going on their own tours they’re just getting booked for festivals. Today we see new artists get big, then two weeks later people are switching sides tearing them down (sometime at the artist’s own doing) but the whole culture of it all is a bit concerning.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Daaanggg this hard question! This question is so hard for me because I get influenced by bits and pieces of everything.
Tone is big for me. You can have all the musicality and agility in the world but if the tone isn’t there, I can’t get invested in it. That’s why singers like Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Anita Baker (to name a few) have a big influence on me
Of course I have to mention Beyoncé in this; her vocal control, work ethic and longevity in the music industry are things I strive for. Remember this is just naming a few.
What other mediums, genres, or art forms make up part of your creative identity?
Sewing, drawing and hair make up a big part of my creative identity. I’m very visual and have major tunnel vision, but because of that I like to be able to make the images in my head tangible. So that’s what leads to me to draw and sew clothes and wigs. You can’t exactly see my thoughts or read my mind, but you can get kind of close to seeing some of what’s going on up there through the things I create and wear.
How has the COVID-19 situation affected you as an individual and as an artist?
Well right now the situation has caused my school to move classes online for the rest of the semester. I don’t really mind online classes, but it’s going to be hard to translate some of the performance classes to an online setting. Now I won’t be able to perform and engage with live music. The situation is also slowing down the final touches of my EP, so I’m trying to figure out how to solve some new obstacles.
Overall though, I’m very blessed the virus itself hasn’t directly affected my family. I’m incredibly grateful for that
How is creativity helping you to cope during this anxious moment?
It’s making me feel optimistic. When I wake up in the morning I get kinda of excited like, “Hmmm what can I work on today?” Yesterday I messed around on the sewing machine for a bit and made a lasagna for dinner. Today I decided to try and focus on some music theory stuff, so I don’t forget things when classes start back up, tomorrow I think I’ll play around in Procreate. There’s just so much that can be done in all this free time.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m finishing up my EP. I’m really excited about it. Last year I was feeling frazzled as hell trying to figure out the direction I wanted to go with the over all project sonically and visual. Now I’ve gotten things figured out and can breathe a little. I’ve been working to grow as an artist. Sometimes I’m like, “Damn I don’t have enough music out,” forgetting about all the older music I’ve made in the past, because this project is going to be a new start for me.
I’m finally able to get the quality of sound I’ve been wanting for my track, and I hope people will be able to hear the growth in this project. Of course I don’t want to belittle the process so all my old stuff is still on SoundCloud under my old artist name Akosua; even my first ever cringe-worthy recordings. I leave them there because I want people to have the opportunity to go through the journey with me.
Interview edited for length & clarity by Luis Mejía Ahrens
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