The Jazmin Sisters: a Chinese-American R&B Foursome
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the Jazmin Sisters are bringing the smooth, feel-good vibes of ’90s R&B to your summer 2014 playlist.
By Melissa Pandika
Who doesn’t feel nostalgic for the silky harmonies and sultry beats of En Vogue, SWV, TLC and other ’90s R&B girl groups? And if you’re too young to remember the ’90s, let Chinese-American R&B foursome the Jazmin Sisters — real-life sisters Nadia, Felicia, Celia and Daria — give you a soulful, feel-good introduction.
“Back then, the music was about people having fun. People just wanted to dance,” Felicia says. “We just want to have fun, too. … That’s who we are as people and as a family.”
“Fun” and “family” perfectly describe the L.A.-based group’s debut six-track EP, 90’s Baby, released last November. With their flawless four-part harmonies, natural chemistry and homages to smooth classics like Soul for Real’s “Candy Rain” and Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice,” the sisters radiate the sunny positivity of a Cali backyard pool party.
They grew up listening to Christian hymns, gospel music, Motown, jazz and show tunes — forbidden from listening to anything else.
But these ladies know how to hustle, too. For the past few months, the America’s Got Talent and MTV’s Top Pop Group finalists have been promoting the remix of their breakout single, “You” (featuring rapper Iamsu), which debuted on L.A.’s local hip-hop station in April. They’re scheduled to kick off a summer nationwide promo tour this month and hope to release a full-length album in 2015.
Born to a preacher and a piano teacher, the sisters sang together in church, arranging their own harmonies. They grew up listening to Christian hymns, gospel music, Motown, jazz and show tunes — forbidden from listening to anything else.
Eventually, eldest sister Nadia snuck her younger siblings some hip-hop and R&B CDs that her friends had given her. Obsessed with the new sound, the sisters naturally gravitated to ’90s girl groups. “They really inspired how we are,” Nadia said. “We want to be laid-back and more tomboyish, which is really dope.”
Church members often asked whether the girls had formed an actual musical group, which made them wonder: Why not? Naming themselves after their jazz influences and the jasmine flower (a symbol of happiness in Asian culture), they began performing and promoting themselves on social media. Meanwhile, their appearances on competitions like NBC’s StarTomorrow impressed Keri Hilson, Eve and other R&B artists.
We’re not trying to be something we’re not. This is the music we love.
In 2011, the Jazmin Sisters began recording more than 40 tracks with Grammy-winning production duo MIDI Mafia as they experimented with their sound. When it came time to record their EP, the songs “came out like water,” Felicia said.
Their best ideas bubble up when they’re having fun, usually at night. “Laid Back” started with the sisters spitting their own verses over “Gin & Juice” as a joke. Of course, their uncanny sisterly intuition also comes in handy. “You don’t have to try hard to be on the same page,” Nadia said.
90’s Baby features the Jazmin Sisters’ fresh take on ’90s favorites. “You” showcases their sweet yet sassy vocals over a sample of SWV’s classic ballad “Weak” and an infectious “Dooo-ooo-oo it” hook. “Cali Girls” is a hazy ode to parties, palm trees and sunshine. And on “Laid Back,” the girls croon about growing up and following their passion for music together.
Despite racking up thousands of YouTube “likes,” the Jazmin Sisters sometimes encounter confusion from viewers over their ethnicity. “I haven’t seen any girl groups doing R&B and hip-hop that are Chinese,” Nadia said. “One of the challenges is telling people this is who we are. We’re not trying to be something we’re not. This is the music we love.”
However the Jazmin Sisters look, their sound is irresistible. Roll down your car windows and turn up this hot summer soundtrack.
- Melissa Pandika, Melissa Pandika is a lab rat-turned-journalist with an eye to all things science, medicine and more. Likes distance running, snails, late-night Korean BBQ + R&B slow jams.Contact Melissa Pandika