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YOU ARE MY JUNKYARD JEWEL
Foreigners in China

By Cool Han


NOTE: The following article is Track A of a two-track series on American indie-jazz band MAYA AZUCENA, who performed this past April across China. The four-piece outfit - Maya Azucena (Vocals), Ivan Katz (Drums),Christian Ver Halen (Guitar) and Bruce Mack (Keyboards, guest), - are part of the The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program developed by ‘Jazz at Lincoln Center’ and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which affords MAYA AZUCENA a chance to perform internationally before a wide variety of audiences.

TRACK A: Maya Who?!

He was a Junkyard Jewel, hidden in trash, forgotten too long until found at last
Junkyard jewel with so much inside, hidden from the rest as a matter of pride
Junkyard jewel you are so beautiful, oh can't you see, oh can't you see...
He was a Junkyard Jewel, hidden in trash, forgotten too long.
--Junkyard Jewel


Maya Who? The New York-based emerging song stylist? Which one? Who’s Maya?

Today, while Maya Azucena is fuelling an audience of hundreds of Chinese with her raw soul sound and progressive lyrics as a part of “The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad” program, she is not a “rock star,” she is just herself - a singer connecting with the heart of men and women while traveling around the world with one goal: to uplift the global community.

If you’ve seen this girl live, you will realize how hard it is to compare Maya Azucena to any other performer. She may not be the first artist to combine multiple genres into a musical melting pot (R&B, soul, classical, folk, pop-rock, hip-hop, funk, reggae and gospel, to name a few), but she very well could be the first one to pull it off in a fabulous fusion.

And her voice, oh that voice - one moment the soothing sound of classic-soul; the next blowing out your speakers. Yet the power is not just in volume, but of an emotion deep inside that becomes a wellspring freshly unearthed once on stage.

In a letter to her “Dear Soul Trackers” in the liner notes of her sophomore LP Junkyard Jewel, Maya writes: “It is a collection of songs that express my personal feelings about the things I have lived through, about the world I see around me, and the hope and faith I live by.” For Maya, “music is more than just entertainment; it can be a tool for activism, a tool for healing, and a means of giving a voice to those who do not have a voice.”

In Burma, such a country where Maya personally observed “it is illegal to have a formal gathering for more than 5 people at a time” and where the government “censor the TV and listen in to phone conversations,” she and her band worked in a music workshop to encourage Burmese music students “to find confidence in the beauty of their own voices.” Maya took it as a great honor to “offer hope, love and a touch of healing through music” to a people whom she describes as “sadly oppressed.”

Most recently, Maya and her band mates spent two weeks in China performing in five cities. Two events in Beijing were held at separate universities filled with hundreds of the capital city’s vigorous youth, allowing Maya an opportunity to intimately interact with her fresh Chinese audience. “Chinese people are really COOL, and they are so nice. I really do have a good feeling in China.” During a performance at a Beijing Modern Music Conservatory, young music students actually became part of the set: Maya sat and sang together with her Chinese fans and encouraged other students to “show themselves on the stage,” transforming, the concert into a Sino-American festivity of love and joy.

Maya on stage and Maya off stage are two different personas. Once named by AllHipHop.com as “Best Alternative Artist of the Year,” Maya on stage is as polished and professional as any “mainstream” artist in the field. When Maya sings, people know that she is on top of her game. However, Maya off stage remains good, honest people - sweet and wonderful like anyone’s best friend. When you speak with Maya, she has an uncanny tendency to look directly into your eyes, absorbing your words with her eyes, ears, even her hair. No matter how noisy the place is or how busy she is, at that moment you are the only one in her eyes and the only one she’s talking to.

Maya’s strength not merely lies in music; she writes in her blog not unlike a poet or columnist, sharing her “fashion tips for female artists on the road,” and taking the time to “big up” her supporters by writing a soulful Ode to the Press: “It’s like when I am on stage and the lights are in my face, I cannot see you all, but I feel you, know you are there, and respect you.” Maya confesses that “I have cried on more than one occasion just out of surprise and gratefulness of a review that helped spread my story.”

If it is “Junkyard jewel with so much inside, hidden from the rest as a matter of pride,” her lyrics might be true. When Maya hosted Turntable Unplugged on West 26th Street NYC, she recalls hip-hop superstars Jay-Z and P-Diddy sitting down beside her, yet her doctrines prohibited Maya from approaching them. “I felt I shouldn’t try to inset myself into their world, not without being invited. They are like sharks, and if they want something they’ll go after it. You don’t go up to a shark, they come to you.”

But if it is “…Junkyard Jewel, hidden in trash, forgotten too long until found at last,” it might not be true. Being “indie” is not such a carefree thing; Maya has been at the forefront of all the action where “there were no glossy, slick covers or walls” to protect her eyes. But Maya definitely isn’t someone that could be hidden in trash and forgotten - she’s the jewel, and no one can ignore the splendor of a jewel for too long.

On the back cover of their first CD, Maya Azucena writes: “I am a work in progress.” Today, 5 years later, Maya has become a polished stone out of that long process. In the eyes of her fans, she is their “junkyard jewel.”


Maya Azucena can be contacted via her official homepage:
http://www.mayaazucena.com/
http://www.myspace.com/mayaazucena

你是我旧货栈中的珍宝

    编者按:以下这篇文章是对美国独立爵士乐队玛雅阿祖赛娜的系列报道之一。2008年4月乐队在中国进行了巡演。乐队的成员包括主唱玛雅﹒阿祖赛娜, 鼓手伊凡﹒卡茨,吉他手克里斯汀﹒冯﹒哈伦和客座键盘手布鲁斯﹒马克。他们的演出是由林肯中心爵士乐社和美国国务院教育与文化局共同主办的“旋律之路:美国音乐在海外”活动的一部分。这个活动给玛雅乐队提供了在全球众多观众面前进行演出的机会。


A声道 玛雅是谁?

    玛雅是谁?纽约舞台上正在崛起的那个风格鲜明的歌手?谁是玛雅?

    今天,作为“旋律之路:美国音乐在海外”活动的一部分,当玛雅用她发自灵魂的声音和渐进式的歌词激发众多中国观众的激情时,她不是“音乐巨星”,只是她自己—做为一个歌手,她的国际巡演用音乐把观众的心连在一起。演出的目的就是:振奋这个环球社区。

    如果你亲眼见过玛雅的现场演出,你就会意识到要把玛雅和其他表演者作比较有多困难。她也许不是第一个把多种音乐类型进行融合的艺术家(说唱,灵歌,古典,民谣,流行摇滚,嘻哈,乡土,雷盖,福音等等),但是她很有可能是把所有这些元素进行绝妙融合的第一个人。

    还有她的嗓音,那非同一般的嗓音—前一分钟还是传统灵歌的心灵抚慰,后一分钟就要让扬声器爆裂。显然力量并非仅仅体现在音量上。内心深处的情感才是玛雅在台上自如挥洒的源泉所在。

    在一封印在第二张唱片封皮上的给她“亲爱的心灵追寻者”的信中玛雅写道:“这张专辑收录的歌曲是我个人情感的独白,我经历的生活,我看到的世界,以及我深信不疑的希望与信念。”对玛雅而言,“音乐远远超越了娱乐。它可以是行动主义的工具,疗伤的工具,更是为沉默者提供表达的途径。”

    在缅甸这样的国度,玛雅发现“每次五人以上的正式集会即为非法集会”,政府“审查电视节目,监听私人电话”。她和她的乐队投入到音乐研讨会上,鼓励缅甸那些学习音乐的学生重新认识自己音色的优美,找回信心。玛雅认为能够“给受到压迫而充满悲伤的人们带来希望和爱,以音乐疗伤”是她极大的光荣。

    最近,玛雅和她的乐队在中国五个城市进行了巡演。在北京的两场演出分别设在两所大学中,观众是中国首都里数以百计的活力四射的年轻人。这给玛雅提供了一个近距离和中国新歌迷接触的机会。“中国人真的很棒,很好。我对中国的感觉很好。”在一场音乐学院的演出中,年轻的专业音乐学生实际上已经成为了演出的一部分:玛雅坐在观众中间和她的中国歌迷一起歌唱,鼓励他们“到舞台上展示自己,”最终把这场音乐会变成了一个表达中美之间爱与欢乐的欢宴。

    台上的玛雅和台下的玛雅完全是两个人。被AllHipHop网站命名为“年度最佳另类歌手”的玛雅在舞台上和其他任何主流艺术家一样专业干练。玛雅一开唱,观众就已晓得她是一流的歌手。然而,台下的玛雅是一个善良,亲切的普通人—就像你的知心密友一般。当你和玛雅说话的时候,她几乎是目不转睛地盯着你,好像她的眼睛,耳朵甚至是头发都在吸收你的言语。不论环境有多吵杂,她有多忙碌,在那一刻,她的眼里只有你,她只和你一个人说话。

    玛雅的才华不仅仅局限于音乐。她像个专栏作家或诗人那样写博客。她和读者分享“行走在路上的女艺术家时尚小贴士”,花时间给她的支持者鼓劲打气,给媒体写首充满感情的赞歌:“就好像当我站在舞台上,灯光打在脸上,我看不清你,但我感觉得到你,知道你在那里,从心底尊重你。”玛雅坦言“当我看到一篇真正讲出了我的故事的乐评,我既意外又感激,不止一次地落过泪。”

   如果是“珍宝藏在旧货栈,内心如此绚烂。不肯示人,只因傲然,”她的歌词也许是真的。当玛雅在纽约西20街主持“拔掉电源的唱盘机”音乐聚会时,嘻哈乐巨星Jay-Z 和P-Diddy就坐在身旁,然而她自己的原则却阻止了她和他们接近。“我感觉在没有被邀请的前提下不能生生把自己塞进他们的世界。他们就像鲨鱼,如果想要什么东西就会主动去追逐它。你不会主动走近一条鲨鱼,他们自会来找你。”

    但如果是“珍宝,旧货栈,藏在废料堆里被久久遗忘。直到有一天,终于被发现”,那也许不是真的。做独立音乐可不是什么轻松活儿。玛雅一直处在所有活动的最前线,那里没有什么富丽堂皇的墙壁来保护她的眼睛。但是毫无疑问,玛雅不是那种可以在废料之中被掩藏和遗忘的人—她是宝石,没有人可以长时间忽视宝石的光芒。

    在首张专辑的背面玛雅写道: “我是一件还在制作中的作品。” 如今,五年之后,在经过精心雕琢的玛雅已经成为了一块宝石。在她的歌迷眼中,她就是他们“旧货栈里的珍宝。”

可通过以下官方网站联系玛雅
http://www.mayaazucena.com/
http://www.myspace.com/mayaazucena

 

 

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