US Cultural Ambassador Maya Azucena Teams with Nonprofit Rockademix Education Program
Maya Azucena has traveled the world to unite people through music, and now she’s singing for a nonprofit educational program called Rockademix that uses music to teach kids academics. As cultural ambassador for the United States, she’s brought soul and R&B to the Kremlin. She’s also joined lineups with Beyoncé and been featured on MTV Made. According to the Village Voice, “Azucena just could be the most impressive of the current hip-hop/soul/r&b diva crop,” and the Washington Post described her as mesmerizing.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Maya in the studio where she recorded the original Rockademix tunes “Constitution Song” and “Fractions Rock”.
ROCKADEMIX: The Washington Post covered your music tour in Russia on a State Department public diplomacy program. Can you tell us more about that experience and your involvement?
MAYA AZUCENA: The first visit to Russia was sponsored by the U.S. State Department at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy in Russia. The trip included doing several cities in Russia. We also had the privilege of being able to do public workshops for young people, and also were able to perform at the US Ambassador’s residence where he hosted a party for specially invited guests.
It was very powerful because he invited Russian government officials to the performance. It was significant because the US Ambassador was not getting along well with Russian contacts, yet he was able to have a cultural program bring people together when politically they were not seeing eye to eye.
That experience proves the point that I feel I’m able to live as an artist, is that music is bipartisan, it can connect with people on a very human level and by the virtue of that it brings people together who ordinarily wouldn’t come together. What I’ve found to be true in my travels is that people who may or may not have been in the same room together were finding common grounds through art and music and as a result it softened the vibe and allowed for conversations.
ROCKADEMIX: You’re a musician and an ambassador, is it hard walking that line?
MAYA AZUCENA: There’s an expression that people use which is, “It’s giving back.” That expression to me, while I appreciate it, means that one commitment to society or humanitarianism is an after thought. For instance, after I do all my other stuff, I’m going to give back. For me it’s different, it’s integrated from the beginning. My music is combined already with my concern for the world around me. I don’t find it as hard because it’s already fused, it’s integrated, it’s intertwined with my identity as an artist.
ROCKADEMIX: Talk to us a bit on how you got involved with Rockademix?
MAYA AZUCENA: Sonix “The Mad Scientist” is producing an album for me and thought that it would be a really good match for me to get involved with Rockademix and he was right because I definitely love the idea of using music as a way of educating young people and making it easier for education to stick with our young people. I was brought in as a referral, but it was a natural fit!
ROCKADEMIX: What do you hope Rockademix will achieve?
MAYA AZUCENA: It is known that music opens up a child’s mind, it promotes creativity, but it’s also a fun and accessible way to dive into possible challenging subjects in school. Rockademix makes it fun, it’s interactive and it’s poised for success. So what I hope for Rockademix, what I believe is possible is that the music will be able to be used over and over throughout the years to help young people to improve their education in a fun interactive way.
ROCKADEMIX: What was your first experience with making or playing music?
MAYA AZUCENA: From as early as I could remember I was singing. At the age of four I was very serious about it. I would memorize elaborate songs and rehearse them on my own and present them to my parents and their friends — I was very conscious about it.
ROCKADEMIX: Any artists who’ve influenced you in unexpected ways?
MAYA AZUCENA: Bob Dylan, he’s an inspiration because not of just how prolific he is as a lyricist but also the fact that he wasn’t concerned with perfection as much as he was with being honest and having conviction in his performance. I walk away with that because I find that perfection is not what connects with people. People connect with honesty and a sense of sincerity and conviction — that is one of the approaches that I have taken as an artist and I have found that it’s very powerful.
ROCKADEMIX: Anything else you’d like to let people know about that you’ve got coming up?
MAYA AZUCENA: My career is an ongoing adventure. I would love for people to find me on social media and connect and stay in touch. Just an outgoing invitation to those interested in what I’m doing to check out my website.
A special thanks to Maya Azucena for taking the time to answer our questions. For more information on Maya Azucena visit her at http://mayaazucena.com/ and stay up to date with her latest adventures by following her on Facebook and Instagram.