Taína Asili is a Puerto Rican singer, bandleader and activist.
She revealed her new album Resilencia on April 19th.
For this project, the NYC-based artist selected women of color and interviewed them with the intention of creating compositions and documentaries based on their stories of resilience.
“The stories spoke about surviving breast cancer, body hatred, sexual abuse, misogyny and racism, as well as finding their path to becoming community leaders, activists and healers. These fourteen interviews with women across the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada became the inspiration for my new album Resiliencia, as well as a documentary series I am releasing throughout the year,” explains Asili.
Asili has performed around the globe, sharing the stage with renowned artists and activists such as Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Talib Kweli, Toshi Reagon, Angela Davis, Cornel West, and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine.
Taína Asili’s new album Resilencia is now available worldwide.
Introduce yourself - where are you from?
That’s always a tricky question for me to answer, as is it can mean so many things. My ancestry and cultural heritage is Puerto Rican, but I was born and raised in upstate New York, where I have lived for the majority of my life. I now reside in Albany, NY but I travel regularly all over the country.
What's your story?
I was raised in a house where Puerto Rican music and culture were carefully preserved and celebrated. My mom was a beautiful salsa and bomba dancer. My father loved to sing, especially doo-wop, and he also played the conga and was a Latin-jazz aficionado. Singing and dancing with my family is where I would begin my musical journey, but I have definitely worked to carve out my own unique path throughout my life. I started training in opera at the age of 14 and had a huge passion for musical theater. However, a few years later I began singing in a punk band called Anti-Product that changed my life forever. For eight years I wrote songs of rage and resistance with this band, touring the nation many times, and putting out records all over the world. It was such a transformative time of my life, that has influenced a lot of who I am today, both in the activism I am involved in, as well as the lyrical content and energy of my music. But as I moved into my early twenties, I was ready to expand myself artistically. This eventually evolved into the music that I make today, which is essentially a fusion of the music of my upbringing and vocal training mixed with my punk rock rebellious spirit.
How would you define Taína Asili, the artist?
Today I make music woven with the spirit of social justice, inspired in large part by the activist movement I am a part of. I compose songs that speak to a variety of issues from working for climate justice and food justice, to working to end mass incarceration and state violence, and many other topics. Stylistically, those themes are carried of Afro-Latin, reggae, rock and hip hop sounds. I really try to take listeners on a musical journey and allow my art to be as expansive as I want to be. With these songs, I tour to venues, festivals, conferences, colleges and protests, to engage audiences in what I call the “rhythm of rebellion,” often incorporating talks, workshops and film screenings into the events. I recent years I have become a filmmaker as well, and have produced and directed award-winning music videos and documentaries as part of my creative work, which I am excited to expand on with this new album.
Resiliencia is your latest album. What's the story behind this project?
For this new album Resiliencia (resilience) I decided to select women of color who have inspired me, and then interview them with the intention of creating compositions and documentaries based on their stories of resilience. The stories spoke about surviving breast cancer, body hatred, sexual abuse, misogyny and racism, as well as finding their path to becoming community leaders, activists and healers. These fourteen interviews with women across the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada became the inspiration for my new album Resiliencia, as well as a documentary series I am releasing throughout the year.
While I was continuing this project, Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico, and about four months later, on New Years Eve, I went there with cameras to speak to four artists and activists I knew on the island about what they had experienced and learned during this time. It was a very emotionally challenging time for me to witness our beloved island and its people in such a state of devastation from the natural and unnatural disasters that impacted Puerto Rico. I witnessed an immense amount of suffering. But I also witnessed resilience in ways I have never seen before, reminding me of the strength of my people in the most challenging of times. The song I wrote from this experience became “Resiliencia” the title track of my album.
What can you tell us about the short documentaries that accompany your music? What made you want to make documentaries?
Most of the interviews I conducted and accompanying songs will become part of the documentary series I am releasing throughout the year. I have released two of these so far including Resiliencia, about my journey to Puerto Rico, as well as Plant the Seed, where I interviewed Black food justice Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm. I love making these music videos and documentaries to go with my music because I think it really helps audiences to connect more deeply with the meaning behind the songs. I have had many people who were living in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria speak with me about how the documentary really helps to lift up their own story and experience. That is everything to me. And I have had many people share with me how Plant the Seed has inspired them to find the courage and creativity to follow their heart in terms of their work and passion. As a full time working artist, I know all too well how important and difficult this can be, and I am grateful to offer this story of inspiration for all of us who need it.
As an artist, what do you want to accomplish?
As an artist, I first and foremost hope to be true to myself, my story, my heart and my truth. I also hope to offer my art in service to all those who wish to do the same, and especially those like myself who have been affected by systems of oppression that can stop us from living free, whole hearted and healthy lives. My hope is that my work is a small offering to help us find the strength, courage and creativity to end those systems of oppression and transform the world.
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