Madagascar meets Massachusetts: How Niu Raza connects her global past to her music today.
Meet Niu Raza
Niu Raza is a singer/songwriter currently based in Boston, MA. The LONER Team had the pleasure of seeing Niu perform live at the first ever “Secret Sounds Boston” event in Cambridge. Later -we had the opportunity to pick the singer / songwriters brain about her craft and background.
Secret Sounds was an incredible showcase of local Boston talent. The venue was full of talented artists with Niu featured as the opening act.
Her performance was both deeply intimate and cheerfully inviting. Many times throughout the singers' set, Niu orchestrated the audience like a choir - giving the crowd impromptu singing lessons and harmonies to support her own performance.
Niu told her life story through song, citing her home country of Madagascar as a major source of inspiration. Despite these deep roots in her home culture, Niu also (sang) vibrantly about her experiences living around the globe as a self proclaimed “Citizen of the World”.
Culture and History
Sometime after the show, the LONER team found time to sit down with Niuraza at a local Middle Eastern tea shop located at the edge of Cambridge. This gave us the opportunity to very casually talk about her recent shows while learning more about her life and philosophy as a musician.
Niu’s been singing her entire life - from a young age living in Madagascar, she found passion in singing and as she grew, Niu decided to mold that love of singing into a career. Her journey began at the Berklee College of Music right here in Boston under its Music Therapy program. It was here that she began to take the understanding that music can heal both individuals and communities - and started to apply it on a larger scale.
These ideals still hold true to Niu as she continues her career as a recording artist, telling us how important it is that her audience leave with a "light heart" and "sense of home" by the end of each show.
Collaboration - Finding Her Sound
Music is truly a work of passion for Niu. Even in choosing the members of her ensemble, she sees the glaring importance of loving your craft. In building a team, we learned that Niuraza prefers to build interpersonal relationships before professional ones, and that she needs to know the musician loves their instrument as much as she loves hers. To perform together, everyone must be "versatile and eager to learn".
Niu’s deep ties to building good relationships with collaborators traces back to the history of Niu herself “finding her sound” - a phrase we hear often with musicians of all backgrounds. She recalled coming to college in the US and trying, at first, to imitate American artists to no avail. This identity struggle didn't subside until she eventually learned to "blend the ingredients" of her musical upbringing.
It was incredibly uplifting to see how Niu took lessons learned throughout her life's journey and forged them into her own sound. Her musicality touches on many aspects of her identity - from her roots in Malagasy music to the percussive sounds of Congolese Bantu influences, to harmonies found in contemporary R&B.
On Loving Your Craft
When asked about her evolving career, and the personal battle of being an artist, Niu explained that at one point she had a thought that every artist has in their lifetime: "I'm getting old, why am I not famous?"
This is an important moment for every aspiring musician; while becoming famous isn't the only reason to make music, it sure is a goal that many people strive for. The way that Niu reconciled this was through an understanding of what it means to create art in general.
Art is an outward expression of the inner self. Once it is released and formed into the finished product, it is no longer yours and you should no longer feel bad about how it's perceived. Niu says to "Treat art as a gift" and to let the world do with it as they please. In order to find peace, the artist must remove the individual from the art and let it stand on its own.
Apart from work in public arts, she noted her personal and ongoing mission of teaching younger generations about what it's like to be in the business of music. During her free-time, Niu teaches young musicians about contracts, publishing rights, and all sorts of different laws / regulations that go into being an artist.
In sitting down with Niu Raza, we found ourselves in the presence of an individual who truly lived the message she preached. Her music and goals in the industry radiated a warm and communal energy. Niu hopes that everyone leaving her shows leaves with a lighter heart - and that’s a philosophy that you feel throughout every interaction you have with the artist.
All this, from the woman traveling the world and bringing home with her wherever she goes.
You can find Niu here: Instagram
And listen to her latest releases here: Spotify