Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.
Vocalist/composer Ana Roxanne's most recent album, "Because of a Flower," begins with an incantation: “The spirit of harmony, as it condenses, produces all beings.” The sentiment might serve as a guiding principle for her creative work as a whole. Roxanne's debut EP, "~~~," made a splash with its quietly bold reworking of Chaka Khan's 1978 disco classic "I'm Every Woman." Her version is refracted through Whitney Houston's powerhouse 1992 remake, which she heard as a child of Filipino immigrants newly absorbing American pop. These kaleidoscopic layers of influence and interpretation show up in Roxanne's original material as well, where her jazz and classical training melds with her interests in ambient, spiritual, and popular music. The results are unclassifiable and bewitching, reminiscent of spaces as vast as a cathedral and as intimate as the womb.
For this edition of Private Playlist, Ana Roxanne recommends her favorite vocalists whose music fills your head, including H.E.R. and Ethiopia’s Bezawork Asfaw.
“The music that I listen to has some quality of an emotion or mood of filling my head, filling the room.” — Ana Roxanne
Ana Roxanne: This playlist features all vocalists that I've either recently discovered or have been enjoying for a long time. I think there's a very potent emotional quality to these. Some are maybe a little darker than others, but I think there's a very tender emotional quality among the different genres.
I’ve talked about this in other interviews, but when I first saw Alicia Keys on MTV in middle school with her first single, for whatever reason, I remember being just enchanted by her. Her style and everything. But that’s when I decided that I wanted to sing. I had been singing before then in musical theatre or whatever, but that was a moment for me. There’s a moment on her first album where she’s talking over herself playing the “Moonlight Sonata,” and it’s so moody and dark, but very beautiful. Her harmonies also come in out of the background, and it’s this sweeping feeling, an all-encompassing sound with so much happening at the same time. I was 13 or 14, so I didn’t really have the language for that, but I would put on my headphones and sit in the dark in my bedroom and play it over and over again. And I remember this feeling washing over me. I think that definitely stayed with me.
When I first started trying to write my own music, I was using this loop pedal that a friend lent me. I had never played with pedals, but I started looping my voice with all this reverb. And it was a similar feeling of having a wash of sound completely enveloping me, but it was just my voice. And the music that I listen to has some quality of an emotion or mood of filling my head, filling the room.
A friend put me on to Bezawork Asfaw through a documentary about Ethiopian jazz, and she's honestly one of my favorite vocalists that I've discovered in recent years. This song is called "Tizita," which, by my understanding, is a genre maybe similar to the blues. It emits a mood of melancholy, longing, or nostalgia.
HTRK is a band out of Australia, and one of my all-time favorite bands for sure. The mood of "Chinatown Style" feels very specific. I find myself coming back to this album a lot, and specifically this song if I'm in somewhat of a heavier mood. It's really sparse and mysterious, but at the same time the music is very poignant and romantic and beautiful all around.
H.E.R. is really huge and has been active for a while, but I only recently discovered her. And I also discovered that she's half Filipino and from my hometown in the Bay Area. That was exciting to discover too, because I love being able to see parts of my heritage reflected in popular music. "Damage" in particular samples one of my favorite slow jams of all time by Herb Alpert and Janet Jackson, "Making Love in the Rain." Such a good song.
I love simple, singer-songwriter, voice-and-guitar music. Maxine Funke’s “Make That Dream” also feels like a snapshot of everyday life, while feeling extremely tender in terms of mood.
Dr. Prabha Atre is a classical Hindustani vocalist. I discovered her years ago. I was taking voice lessons in the Bay Area, and I noticed that my teacher had a big collection of her CDs in the studio where we would rehearse. So I looked her up and immediately fell in love with her voice and the way she sings. And "Ja Khuni Shodhuni Aana" in particular is from a collection of ghazals and devotional music. I revisit this one quite often, because it's really beautiful. And I think she's a huge inspiration in terms of vocal style and ability.
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