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    Making music that uplifts the soul is something that American singer-songwriter and social activist, Maya Azucena, has been doing for a long time. We catch up with the 40-something singer as she gears up for her first performance in the country. Probably best known for her collaboration, Let Her Dance—a song on Stephen Marley’s Grammy-winning album, Mind Control—Azucena has also teamed up with renowned artists like Marcus Miller, Eminem and Bob Sinclair. Here she opens up about her inspirations, collaborations and more.

    On your first visit to India.
    I feel like I do before a blind date. I am excited to meet the Indian audiences and I am feeling very optimistic about it. I know the people take entertainment and the arts very seriously and I believe that my music will be well received.

    Taking up music as a career.
    I studied opera in New York. But, in the end, (my music evolved) from an overwhelming desire to do something to help the world. I felt this was my special power to contribute to social change, healing and empowerment.

    Themes that influence your lyrics.
    I like to write about my own experiences, mixed with the things that matter to me—like freedom. A lot of my songs mention subjects of overcoming painful obstacles and finding one’s way to victory.

    Your role models.
    My inspirations evolve. A key artiste who’s impacted me is Mahalia Jackson, a gospel singer from the era before Aretha Franklin came into prominence. I am also inspired by Ella Fitzgerald, Prince and Stevie Wonder while growing up.

    Collaborating with Stephen Marley.
    It all started because I love collaborating with international artists. I wrote and sang four songs for a popular Italian hip hop artist, DJ Jad, for his Milano New York CD. Bonzai Caruso, the studio engineer who worked on the CD, happened to be one of Marley’s mix engineers. After seeing my work, he referred me to him. The collaboration felt divine. It is pretty amazing that Let Her Dance was part of the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album of the Year.

    Your support of social causes.
    We each have a super power. In my case, it’s music and my voice. I am deeply disturbed by the many human rights infringements I witness and I use my microphone as a way to empower others.

    Coming up.
    My new project is called Unleash Me. The music producer, Sonix The Mad Scientist, and I are talking with potential business partners and record labels now.

    Your performance in the city.
    Well, I have something special planned, but I can’t tell. Just know that I believe in exemplifying cross-cultural exchange.
    October 31, at Phoenix Market City, at 7 pm. By invite only. Details: 30083008

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