Niu Raza | Have a Purpose
A Madagascar native, having lived in Kenya, Congo, Uganda and South Africa, singer-songwriter Ny ony Razafindratandra, (but goes by, Niu Raza), is on a mission to change the status quo in these countries. Currently a senior at Berklee College of Music, the talented and passionate Niu Raza has built a following of 29K+ followers with her music. She quickly realized how her music affected people in a positive way, and being a firm believer on social entrepreneurship, Niu hopes to empower young girls in her hometown and create change.
What do you sing about?
About love and mostly my personal experience and things I’ve seen. That includes heartbreak and poverty but it’s not in a sad way, it’s more of the beauty of the struggle and seeing hope in the struggle. It inspires me more than anything else. My parents are doctors without border so I’ve seen a lot.
How would you describe your song style?
It’s a mix of things- of the cultures I grew up in. There’s a Carribean touch in all my songs. I mainly sing in Malagasy and in French, the two languages I was raised with. I’m very attached to live music, the idea not to use electronic sound and stay connected to the authentic sounds.
Why do you sing?
Growing up in Madagascar, Kenya, Congo, Uganda, and South Africa, I felt like education for girls in third countries was undermined because often, the boys are seens as the “providers”. Therefore, families who can’t afford education for both girls and both will usually have the girl drop out. I want to change that. Before I moved to Boston, I lived in South Africa where I was learning about entrepreneurship and leadership in a school that was building the next generation of African leaders. Through my school's program, we built camps to empower young girls to become self aware, and to become more independent through the process of BUILD: believe, understand, invent, listen, deliver. The concept is about teaching people how to identify high impact in communities and how to create sustainable and positive change. I’m a firm believer that teaching people to be aware of themselves is how we can create impact. I carry that with music. Music is a tool to reach cultures without actually speaking the language, a sound that carries a universal connection to everyone of us.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my upcoming album. The concept is based on Kemba; a common girl’s name from the South of Madagascar where people walk miles to find water. We are all Kembas in the sense that we are always looking for something better out there. We walk miles to get to where we want to be, to bring to ourselves or to bring home. It’s just not about a small African kid who's going to find water- it’s a much deeper concept. It’s all about perspective. We were taught the same concepts even if we were raised in different parts of the world: survival and hope. That’s what leads us to tomorrow and keeps us going.
When did you decide to go out on your own?
I always knew I wasn’t a typical African girl. I’ve always wanted to go BIG. I always told myself I would move to the USA even though most of my friends moved to France - because that’s what most people do after they pass the French baccalaureate exam. The first year in the US was really hard because I didn’t properly speak English and it was my first time away from my mother. Little by little, I started singing at school events and realized people were crying during my performance. I was like “WOW, this thing moves people!” It’s a way to connect with an audience and I could do this on a much bigger scale. That would lead to change.
Have you ever felt discouraged?
Absolutely. I think everyone has that period mainly in the entertainment and art industry. It's not always evident to be on your own and say “I love my art” and that’s it. A lot of what you do depends on other people. Sometimes it takes your art to bring back that hope- to remind you of why you do that. My art comes back in different ways; by reflecting on old work or being patient with myself. I try to reset as much as I can by trying new things. Something you always thought about doing but never did. In my case, I sometimes watch TV shows like The Voice, shows where you can so obviously see the dream of other people and how they are reaching for them. Things like this make me click and realize that I’ve been put on this earth for a purpose. I think it’s hard to live life without a purpose, you become a wandering soul and then it’s too easy to lose yourself. When you have a purpose, it’s motivating. Mine is to use music and social entrepreneurship to empower African girls.
Along the way, what was your motivation?
To know that someone’s life is changing because of me. That when I sang during that concert, someone left the venue happier. I think my biggest motivation is also seeing little girls who are singing my songs on national competitions. I love that and I want to be able to inspire little girls.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
A lifelong journey of innovation, hard work, risk, and dreams.
If you had to give one piece of advice to another woman starting out on her own, what would you say?
Be BOLD. For anything, you just have to start somewhere, you can never be prepared for the life you want. You learn as you go . It’s like having a child, no one is born a parent but you learn when the child is born and you keep moving forward.
I think the hardest is knowing mainly in the arts that there are so many musicians out there. So you may start asking yourself “Am I good enough?” - First step is to believe in yourself and DO it and keep going. You realize you’re already close further down, when a lot of people give up along the way. The ones that make it are the ones who keep moving forward, no matter how small or big the steps are.
You need other people to get to where you want to be. You need to have a team and it’s ok to work with others. Don’t try to do everything on your own, surround yourself with people who uplift you, people who create and have big dreams and you’ll create and execute your big dreams. If you surround yourself with the wrong crowds, it’ll be toxic so be selective about your entourage.
For more info and contact, Niu can be found online here.