One thing that is amazing about music is that it’s constantly evolving, just like we are, and every day we’re introduced to an array of new and diverse artists who want to share their passion with the world. True fans of music shouldn’t care if an artist is black or white, or sings rock or soul. They should care about how they connect to the song and how the artist’s voice and melodies move them, both emotionally and physically.
We should never stop listening to old favorites like Al Green, Patsy Cline, Queen and A Tribe Called Quest, but we should also never stop yearning to hear new music. Luckily, with so many ways to be accessible to music, we can instantly Shazam a new song, give it a thumbs up on a Pandora station or add it to a Spotify playlist.
As a fan of all genres of music, I’m constantly on the lookout for new artists with unique sounds. I’ve discovered a few amazing multicultural artists that you should definitely check out now. Here are five of them:
1. Emeli Sandé (Zambian, English)
Emeli Sandé is a 26 year-old R&B/Soul singer who grew up in Scotland. Her debut album, Our Version of Events, was released in Europe in February 2012, and since then it has become the best-selling album in the UK for that year. I first saw her video for the song “Next to Me” on VH-1 Soul. She blew me away with her beautiful platinum blonde cropped hair and piano playing swagger. She has a voice very similar to Beyoncé, but a funky style like Alicia Keyes. I’d say she has officially made it big in the U.S. because popular hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar did a remix for her song “Next to Me,” and she will be appearing with Jay-Z in Philadelphia at his Made in America Festival.
2. Bat for Lashes (Pakistani, English)
Bat for Lashes is the stage name for Emily Khan, a 33-year-old singer-songwriter from London whose voice has been described by critics as “dreamy, melodic and haunting.” When listening to her songs you can hear faint influences of some of her favorite musicians, most notably Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Robert Smith of The Cure. She has released three albums since 2006, and her most recent album, The Haunted Man, was described by Pitchfork as “one of the year’s most beguiling albums.” She recently performed at Coachella in California, and is heading back to Europe to tour for the rest of the summer.
3. Hanni El Khatib (Palestinian, Filipino)
Hanni El Khatib is a 30-year-old Los-Angeles based singer-songwriter who grew up in San Francisco. He’s the son of Palestinian and Filipino immigrants who was heavily influenced by American pop culture of the ‘50s and ‘60s. I love his overall sound because it’s a beautiful blend of garage rock and blues with a sprinkling of punk. He also has some amazing tattoos and is an avid skateboarder, both of which make him an instant rock star. He released his first album in 2011, and his second album, Head in the Dirt, this year, with help from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. He’s toured with Florence and the Machine, and will be playing numerous shows throughout the U.S. in the next coming months.
You may think that you haven’t heard one of his songs, but check out this Captain Morgan Black Rum spiced commercial on YouTube. Yes, that’s his song “You Rascal You.” Also, here’s his artist profile on last.fm.
4. Solange Knowles (African American, Creole, Irish)
Yes, 26-year-old Solange Knowles is the sister of mega superstar Beyoncé, but she’s also a talented artist, actress, model and DJ in her own right. Her music is blend of hip hop, R&B, soul and funk, and her singing style is influenced by old and new school icons like Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. She has released two albums in her career, as well as an extended EP titled True, which features the song “Losing You.” This song has been described as a blend of R&B, ‘80s pop and electronica, and the video is a visually beautiful tribute to the people of the Republic of Congo. She will be touring throughout the U.S. and Europe this year, and will headline with her sister and brother-in-law Jay-Z at the Made in America Festival this August in Philadelphia.
5. Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Korean, Polish)
34-year-old Karen O may be known for her loud, resonating voice, questionable fashion sense and crazy antics on stage, but she’s a true musical talent who continues to rock hard ten years after her band’s debut album. Although I discovered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs years ago, I rediscovered them on Spotify while searching for new indie rock music to add to a playlist. Karen O and her band can be classified as indie rock, but they’re also influenced by punk, alternative rock, dance pop and on their latest album, Mosquito, even a little soul. The band is touring throughout Europe and the U.S. this year, so catch them, and Karen’s new platinum blonde hair, if you can.