Space to Play
Razteria (Renée) means to be reborn in French, a name that accurately describes an artist in the perpetual renaissance of sound. She creates pop music with vocals reminiscent of Sade, electronic elements of Massive Attack, grooves of Steel Pulse, and the Latin vibe of Shakira.
Based in El Sobrante, California, with Bolivian/Dutch roots, Razteria has developed a bilingual (Spanish/English) repertoire. As a result, she can hone her unique sound as she takes on the roles of artist, songwriter, and producer/engineer.
She released her first full album in 2005 and has since released seven albums and one EP under different names in collaboration with artists from the US, Argentina, Bolivia, and Colombia.
Her song ‘Once Again’ won Grand Prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, World Category (2016), and her music video ‘Inspire Me’ was an International Songwriting Contest Finalist in 2020. Razteria is currently working on ‘Space to Play’, album number 8, releasing in 2021.
Razteria’s first memories are voices singing, those of her mom and dad, who sang her lullabies, mainly traditional Latin American folk songs. Her desire to sing propelled her to begin writing songs as an adolescent, first picking up the bass, then guitar to accompany the words and melodies to express her inner adolescent workings.
Razteria has always been drawn to music with thick percussion and basslines, which complement what comes naturally, the voice.
Razteria | No Veo Nada
Release Date: May 20, 2021
Label: ASTERIA Records
Copyright: 2021 ℗© ASTERIA Records
Total Length: 04:37
Total Tracks: 1
IRIE. Can you share with us how your musical journey began?
RAZTERIA. My musical journey began with my very first memories of singing. It started before I was even conceived. As the story goes, my dad captured my mom‘s interest by writing her song. I’ve always had music as an integral part of my life. While no one in my family is a professional musician, it’s been a regular part of every family gathering, any celebration, always playing music and listening to music.
I always wanted to sing, and I started singing in the school choir. I picked up guitar and bass as an adolescent, and I started writing songs around 12-13 years old. I remember a father of one of my friends (who has recently passed on, may he RIP) reaction to one of my songs was “I wish that you could make them a little more simpler”. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time, but I know now. My ears are weird (lol), and I am aware that I hear music in a unique way. I now try to hone my songs with the listening audience in mind, focusing on making songs that people can sing with simple melody lines.
I have a lot of freedom artistically as I do a lot of the technical side of things with the engineering/production side of the music. Over the past 15 years, I have been dedicating myself to recording and releasing music and acquired a skill set to produce music which has expanded what I can do as an artist. Now I really want to harness all that power that I have creatively and technically to work with other artists and bring more voices to the table.
IRIE. What were some of the challenges or resistance you faced while pursuing your dream to produce your own music?
RAZTERIA. The first challenge was a resistance internal to myself. The hyper-critical voice that we all have
which holds us back from just doing things. My first step was learning how to ignore that voice and just let it flow. Letting go of any preconceived idea I had of being limited to one medium, which for myself was voice and songwriting, and recognizing I can write a bassline, produce beats, record…. I can do whatever I imagine. It might take a long time, but it’s all possible through trial and error and experimentation. I knew I wasn’t gonna start off by making something really good, rather starting off by making something that might sound good to my ears, but that’s really strange to other people. Trying to differentiate between how I hear something and how somebody else perceives and finding a happy medium is the challenge that I am always confronting when writing and producing.
The reality of being an independent musician without any ties to the music industry is a widespread challenge. When it comes to music industry professionals, it is a very tight-knit community, and even with the current industry shifts, still based on personal connections. I’ve been making the most of whatever opportunities I have had to work with really good musicians and industry professionals and developing long-term relationships. For example, the mastering engineer I work with, Justin Weiss, of TrakWorx.com, has mastered every one of my tracks since 2010 and I really recommend him. I hold on tight to the good relationships I have and realize there is no guaranteed path. The only thing that I can be sure of is my own
determination to continue.
I don’t know how many times I thought oh wow if I start working with this person or that person then maybe I’ll have a certain outcome. I’ve had to learn to let go of that because it’s never ever happened the way that I wanted it to. I’ve accepted that as long as I can continue to produce music, to be inspired and to improve, as well as extend my power to help other artists bring their works to light, for me I’m winning. Not the best term to describe it, but I think the most accurate given the way we measure things. Maybe the numbers don’t reflect it at this time, and maybe they never will, but I feel every day very very very
blessed to be able to continue on this path.
The more typical obstacles that people talk about related to financial aspects, discrimination based on being a woman. I am not a victim of any of that. I feel fortunate to be able to confront whatever obstacles I have because of being in the 2% (or whatever it is 5%) of women working in the more technical side of music. It’s awesome to be able to be part of this change, and this diversification is inevitable. The obstacles only enrich my perspective, being from different cultures, having grown up in different countries speaking different languages, in addition to being a woman, not bound to the typical biological and societal role of women. I’m super fortunate and I am just really running with it, focusing and working as hard as I can on honing my skills and sharing my power.
IRIE. Why the name Razteria? Is there a story behind it or a particular meaning?
RAZTERIA. Razteria does have a history to it. My name is Renee Asteria and I’ve had multiple artist names throughout this journey. In 2010 when I started to own more of the production side of things, I wanted to
anonymize myself. I did not want to be assumed to be a single person or even associated with a gender or anything about my individual person. Just a more symbolic name. It is literally the “R” from Renee linked to Asteria with a ‘Z’ because I love the musicality of ‘Zs’. Unintentional symbolism associated with it speaks to my South American roots Raza (race in Spanish) and also interestingly people assume Rasta, when they hear it, but I’ve never practiced Rastafarianism. However Reggae music and the reggae community has impacted my music and my path in music a lot. Reggae music carries very strong messages, raising awareness about inequity and of universal love. And of course the beauty of the music itself
IRIE. Who are some of the musical influences that inspired you to become the artist you are today?
RAZTERIA. My two parents are both musical people and I grew up listening to them singing and playing guitar, mostly traditional Latin American folk songs and also more North American folk songs.
My first musical discoveries in the realm of reflecting what I currently make, can be heard in bass driven music. I remember listening to “Musical Bones” by Lee scratch Perry on loop. Very experimental with lots of different sounds and not really song-based just more sounds and soundscapes, I was just fascinated. Other influences include the Abyssinians ‘Satta Massagana’ album, of course Bob Marley and the Wailers. Horace Andy, lots of rock steady, Desmond Dekker. Alternative rock and a bunch of 80s-90s artists, Nirvana, the odd harmonies and basslines of Alice in Chains. Classical music – Mozart, and I love musicals, The Phantom of the Opera, Sound of Music…
Since I’ve delved into making music, I actually don’t listen to as much music perhaps as I should. I spend a lot of time interacting with music creatively, so in terms of more contemporary songs and artists I feel like I’m actually a bit underdeveloped. I definitely make an effort to turn on the radio and listen to what’s out there or just ask my friends like hey what are you listening to can you recommend something you know. I discover what other local artists are making.
There’s a lot of really, really good independent music. To give a shout out my friend and fellow musician, songwriter-producer Caroline Chung came out with her first album called ‘Sounds Of Haejin’ (https://carolinechung.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-of-haejin) which is a really good example of the diversity of music, musicians, and talent here in the Bay Area. So much good music out there it’s very humbling to be part of the making of it.
IRIE. You just released your new single, ‘No Veo Nada’, which was written using poetry from Zezé Fassmor. How did this collaboration come about?
RAZTERIA. The story of my collaboration with Zeze starts in fall of 2016 actually when I met him Antena del Mundo , a community radio station in Buenos Aires when I was there on an independent production tour collaborating with local artists (which culminated in a volume 1 of Cruzando Corazones EP (2017), https://asteriarecords.bandcamp.com/album/cruzando-corazones). He was there and taking pictures of the different artists on this show. It was surprising because he was blind and he was the photographer.
Turns out that he actually became blind at 25 as a result of a penetrating eye injury but he had started working with the show before he became blind and he kept going, adapting to his disability doing everything he could to pursue working with media and music.
The day we met I walked with him to the bus stop and he was pretty independent. Navigating Buenos Aires on his own, the subway, buses, all blind. He’s a poet and deeply connected in the local musician artist scene and he had a few connections in Uruguay. We ended up going there together with Lucas Rochaix, a jazz guitar player (who is featured on ‘Infinito’, https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=vAw15yWbikw), to play a few shows and he recited poetry. It was my first time really
navigating the world with a blind person.
I came back to the States and we’ve been in communication. I reached out to him recently and the pandemic hit him really hard as he basically lost all that capacity he had developed to get around on his own. He basically had to stay in quarantine with limited movement and as a result lost the sense of place and the ability to navigate without seeing. It was very much more of an imprisonment than most people realize.
I was thinking to myself how I really wanted to collaborate with him and I was in production for the album that I have coming out in September (‘Space to Play’) so I revived this piece of music that I have been working on since 2016 and asked him if he would be interested if I adapted his poetry to music. So that’s what happened. I took a few pieces from a few different “stream of consciousness style poems” that he had sent me through WhatsApp and sent him a first version.
I can only imagine how it felt to him to hear his words to music. You know him being blind and everything… the visual internal experience must be so much more powerful. He said it definitely impacted him a lot, that it was really intense, but worth the journey.
IRIE. What message are you hoping to convey with ‘No Veo Nada?
RAZTERIA. I guess through this song I am trying to raise awareness about what it is like to be blind, through his experience, and that despite this challenge, he overcomes and thrives. The song describes
what he sees in his head. One of his eyes is dead, so it’s dark completely and the other is perpetually bright because he has retained some neural activity (those he is unable to see anything).
He is overcoming the fact that he lives in a state of torment between night and day. If you can imagine what it’s like to live in a world that is neither dark nor light, just how that would impact your ability to function, to sleep and to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not..
The chorus sums it up – “No veo nada, nada más que fuego, las llamas de mis adentros’’ translates to “I don’t see anything, nothing but fire, the flames of my insides”. It continues “me entrego a lo que siento, mi deseo sigue entero”, translates to “I surrender to what I feel, and my desire remains whole.”
This particular collaboration came together so magically.. I wanted to draw attention to a fundraising campaign to help purchase equipment to start a home studio and a podcast (link here https://gofund.me/bfb5e219). This is a way that art can be used, to raise awareness about something and help someone, in this case Zeze, a really amazing poet who also helps promote a lot of local Argentinian artists and musicians.
IRIE. Is it important that each song tell a story or have a particular message? If so, how do you decide on the topics of your song?
RAZTERIA. It’s important that each song has a message and substance to the lyrics. Although a lot of
people don’t really listen to the lyrics, and I include myself in that. When I’m listening to other music I don’t first listen to the lyrics, it’s more of a musical journey. When you think about it, all the people who don’t speak English or don’t speak the language of whatever the song is in, the message has to be powerful enough musically that they can take that journey without necessarily understanding the words.
While I do try to make songs with message-driven lyrics, I also realize that my priority is on the music and the melodies. I really want to have a soundscape that generates emotions in people. Makes that time that somebody has spent listening to the music worth it as they will never get that time back. I want to make good music and if I can also have lyrics that mean something that’s wonderful.
I write about things that I have direct experience with. A lot of my songs are related to the human condition and love, but also very specific social commentary as they relate to my personal life. Protesting against police brutality (song BOMS), ending toxic intimate relationships (song STOP and RISK), the plight of the undocumented (song ILLEGAL) and also that we are fundamentally all the same, sharing the same irrational side, the same basic needs to live and love (song WHY).
I’ve also written public health-themed songs, more playful yet serious songs. For example, I wrote a song about Chagas disease and the insect that transmits (song VINCHUCA) and Dengue (song MOSQUITO).
IRIE. Is there a song that you’ve written that resonates most with you? If so, why?
RAZTERIA. To pick one song – I just released a music video – it’s called ‘What I love’. It’s a recognition that
“what I love is right here” and that “it’s all about the process”. I’ll let the music and the video speak.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efDQgARPJz8
IRIE. Are there any particular causes that are very important to you right now?
RAZTERIA. The list is long because there’s so much that is happening in the world that’s important to raise awareness about and try to participate in some way. It can be overwhelming and perhaps paralyzing so most people, I will take the opportunity to express what I am doing in my everyday life to move the needle a bit.
To create a more of a balance with the world, with nature, I am working on growing things, a garden, planting fruit trees and learning about things like gray water systems. Also making efforts to reduce what I consume energy wise, water wise and being aware of where my food comes from. The ethics of my consumption patterns. I’m not just talking about ‘vegan veganism’, that is a good start, but, it’s a broader question for me.
Being aware of how we’re all connected and every single decision that I make to buy, eat or throw something away has a ripple effect. My consumption patterns affect basically everything globally,, especially given that being in the States, we are on the top of the “food chain”.
We consume and pollute on a per capita basis, an order of magnitude more when compared to individuals in any other country. Being aware of that and trying to work towards balancing that out is a priority in my daily life.
IRIE. Now that you released your new single, ‘No Veo Nada,’ what’s next for Razteria? Are there any new or upcoming projects that you can share with us?
RAZTERIA. Besides that the biggest thing I want to do something about is to help undocumented people in this country get a better fare at life because they are exploited. And to that note I would say I’m going to be reworking my song “Illegal” which I re-recorded with a group called Kalimba Reggae in Buenos Aires at the same time that I met Zeze. I’m going to take that session and rework it, update the lyrics. I wrote and released in 2010 and nothing has changed, if anything, it has gotten worse. Chorus is : “Illegal immigration is just an illusion if you think this is untrue pick up their tools and work”. That’s one the songs on the horizon. And lots of other works coming as I work towards the ‘Space to Play’ September 22 album release.
IRIE. What do you hope first-time listeners take with them after listening to Razteria?
RAZTERIA. For the first time listener, I hope that they enjoy whatever song they listen to, and that the melodies hit them. I would invite them to listen to other materials I have made over the years as I make a
lot of different styles of music and in English in Spanish (developing more French language-based ). I hope they fall in love with the intricacies of the music and the production all the while being able to just sing a simple melody line or hear it in their head.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the IRIE audience?
RAZTERIA. . I just want to say thank you for giving me this opportunity to express myself and share some of this music. I am really open to collaborate with other artists, musicians, visual artists, for songs, music videos and artwork. I’m also an engineer myself so I am down to work in many different capacities.