New York-based singer/songwriter Maya Azucena has been a veritable whirling dervish over the past half decade, working at a feverish pace and winning over an international audience with her classic soul voice and her progressive music, which bridges soul, hip-hop, world and dance music.
Azucena has built her reputation largely through her live performances and her collaborations with other artists, including Devon "Devo Springstein" Harris, DJ Jad, Gibonni, the A-Alikes, Nomadic and other hip-hop, soul, dance and reggae performers. Her collaborations alone could fill a couple CDs, but she's only released one album under her own name, the 2003 solo debut Maya Who?, a delightfully diverse CD that highlighted her affinity for beats as well as her emerging talent as a song stylist.
Maya Who? became an underground soul favorite, and stayed on the CD Baby top seller list for months. It also opened more opportunities for Azucena, who continued to work tirelessly in the US and abroad, dividing her time between performing and songwriting. Her song "Do You Really Wanna Party" became the theme song for the St. Louis UPN station to introduce its Fall lineup and her track "G-Hetto" became part of the soundtrack for the basketball documentary 25 Strong.
In early 2006, Azucena joined with guitarist CVH and an all-star band to record A Live Shot under the moniker The Rooftop. While the album was solid overall, Azucena stole the show with four wonderful songs, including her chilling compositions "Junkyard Jewel" (with Monet) and "Hallelujah," undoubtedly two of the year's most memorable cuts. One couldn't hear the album without feeling that a major talent was emerging.
In the Fall of 2006, Azucena signed with Purpose Music Group and began her work on her May 2007 Purpose Records debut, Junkyard Jewel, an edgy, acoustic album that was another positive step forward and won for her a new legion of fans. She also continued guesting on the albums of several other artists, most notably on the Grammy Award winning 2007 debut release by Stephen Marley, Mind Control. Maya also won two Grammy Awards in Croatia for her work with Croation star Gibonni. In November of 2007, Azucena won nominations for SoulTracks Awards for both top female vocalist and for the album Junkyard Jewel.
Inspired by the enormity of the 2008 presidential election and in light of her travel around the world, Azucena issued the great midtempo number "Get it Together." It became an instant smash on the indie soul circuit and warmed her fans up for her next album, slated for 2009.
By Chris Rizik