Why you should care

Because there’s a reason Eve Ensler, the State Department, the Grammy folks and people all over the world care so much when she sings.

First off, total disclosure: Maya Azucena is totally OZY, what with her involvement with Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising global campaign for women, a Grammy, touring from Russia to Brazil, and working with everyone from Beyoncé to Lauryn Hill to Vernon Reid. She’s also family — quite literally. She’s one of OZY deputy editor Eugene S. Robinson’s four kid sisters. Which influenced our decision to write about her only in that we got tipped to a good story a bit sooner than others.

How good? Mix equal parts neo-soul with a thick current of R&B and a multioctave voice that not only got her a Grammy for a song she did with one of the multiple Marleys (progeny of Bob), but what amounts to a Grammy in Croatia for her work there with the Bono-esque Gibonni, and shows everywhere from Moscow to Rio, New York and Zanzibar, and you have a CV that would make a gypsy weep.

Mix equal parts neo-soul with a thick current of R&B and a multioctave voice…

Her endless travel eventually drew the eye of the U.S. State Department, which pressed her into service as a cultural ambassador, leading to speeches at the U.N. and an appearance with former President Bill Clinton this past October.

Working with advocacy groups in Tanzania in the midst of doing shows, or leading classes in China, Azucena has been an ardent and enthusiastic supporter of women. On MTV’s show Made, she was an integral part of coaching a young woman through high school malaise and into believing in the power of her own voice.

“Some of these places I have been, no one’s expressed any concern or care for the girls there at all,” says Azucena. “Doing so is probably the most and greatest gift they’ve been able to give me. Letting me in. Honestly? Worth all the Grammys in the world.”

Next up? A February show at Carnegie Hall to raise money as part of the KHK Youth Benefit Concert for Clean Water in Haiti.

Go, sister.

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