InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each month ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This month ELIXHER features 32-year-old vocalist, sound engineer, and wife, AhSa-Ti Nu.
ELIXHER: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
AhSa-Ti Nu: So, I’m me. Born as me…just kidding! I am AhSa-Ti Nu. I am a vocalist, a sound engineer, I also write poetry, I play a bit of piano, and I’m also learning bass. I have a family, I am a Priestess of the Kindred of ShiEndra and music is what I do 24-7 and I love it. I spend every day of my life working in the community to try to invoke positive change, whether it be through my music, counseling, or teaching.
I am originally from Dayton, Ohio. Then I moved to Kansas with my mother my senior year of high school. I stayed there for a while, then Texas a little bit and then back to Wichita. I first came out to the Bay Area with a band I was recording with and I fell in love with the Bay.
ELIXHER: How do you define yourself as a musician?
AhSa-Ti Nu: That’s an interesting question. Vocals are my main instrument for sure and as long as I can continue to be blessed to have the voice that I have, vocals will always be my main instrument. In all reality I can hear it and transpose it in my mind faster than I can hear and transpose it on an instrument. I do appreciate what it means to play an instrument because I feel like that’s also a foundation. I believe in creating music that feed the body and the soul, and to me a lot of that goes into even sound healing and sound therapy. I work hard to become better at my craft because I believe music to me a universal communicator and a means of healing. Vocals come first for me but any instrument that I can actually have the time to study and learn how to play, I’m always more than willing to because I think its awesome just the different sounds and the different tones.
ELIXHER: What kind of music do you like to sing and remember singing when you grew up?
AhSa-Ti Nu: If I had to list it from one to ten. Jazz would be number one. I grew up mainly listening to classical jazz. After that I would have to say rock. I have always been a fan of rock. Where I grew up it wasn’t cool to be a black girl and listen to rock so I listened quietly in my room. Of course blues, R&B, gospel, and then it gets weird. Let’s just say there really isn’t a genre I don’t like.
The three artists or groups I remember singing the most were The Clark Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald and I sang a lot of Anita Baker. With my father being a preacher I grew up in the church so gospel was always being played everywhere, and then my mother loves jazz, and my grandfather played jazz and blues guitar so all of that mixed in together, I think kind of brought in some of the diversity. But yea what I remember the most is singing The Clark Sisters and Ella. I do still sing them every once in a while.
ELIXHER: How does being a lesbian or queer fit into your lifestyle as a musician?
AhSa-Ti Nu: For as long as I have been doing this sometimes it does become an issue depending on who you are working with in the industry. I am already a pretty private person so I don’t necessarily divulge information about myself unless I feel comfortable enough with the person to offer that information. Unless it just so happens to come up in conversation or if someone asks me then its fine but otherwise who I am as a person I don’t necessarily go out and say “hey my wife is” and that’s not because I am trying to hide anything its just that’s not who I am. However, in dealing with some of the people I have had to deal with, I’ve had managers who are like “ok you wont be able to say anything or tell anybody” or if I go to events, I have to have a “guy friend” as my date. That type of thing just isn’t for me, that’s not who I am. I mean if anything I think it’s a challenge because then you are having to kind of balance and make the tough decisions of; do you maintain who you are? Stand in your beliefs. Or do you go with your passion and what you’ve always wanted to do your whole life? I mean I definitely made the choice to not necessarily “sell out” if you will, I don’t wanna use the term “sell out”, I respect the artists who are in the industry who decide not to play that game, and I also respect the artists who are in the industry who decide to play that game because its your choice and its your life but, for myself especially, being married and having kids, I have to realize that my kids are looking at the way I act and at the way I react to certain things is what they see. For as long as I hide who I am for the sake of trying to live my dream then really am I living my dream?
So needless to say, I no longer network with those folks anymore. No, I just can’t see myself saying I wont acknowledge that I have a wife and kids. I will not ever deny that I am in a same gender loving relationship for the sake of getting a record deal or distribution deal or whatever because in that case whatever money I am bringing in isn’t worth my happiness. I guess the question is how bad do you want it? For myself, I don’t truly see myself being happy by not being who I am.
ELIXHER: How do you manage being a musician and having a family?
AhSa-Ti Nu: It’s sort of a bittersweet thing. At this point I’m blessed to be doing what I love, to be out on the road, to be traveling, and performing. Really, just for people to have the opportunity to hear me and hear the music no matter who I am performing with its an awesome experience. On the other side I miss my family and of course I would rather be at home. It’s hard to leave them, but it certainly helps that they are all so supportive of me and my career. Again, it boils down to what I’m teaching my children. As a parent there are certain things that I miss out on because I’m not there, but the fact that I’m doing what I love and, its not a lot of people in the world that can say that, it’s like you just have to learn how to balance the two and not let one become so overwhelming that it overtakes the other. I have yet to have gone on a long tour. I think even then if I went on a long tour then I’m definitely gonna be making money where I can bring them along or for part of it. As long as I continue to try and find balance between the two then that will keep me sane.
ELIXHER: What would you want people to know about you as a musician?
AhSa-Ti Nu: For the most part I want people to know that the music I do is music that I love. That’s really the way I am able to speak clearly in the world and do my part in provoking positive change, it is my medicine to the world. Not all of my music is feel good music but it’s definitely something that you should feel regardless. It all has a message behind it and that’s my goal. I think it means something that someone can listen to and be able to get a message from my music. Maybe it won’t change their entire lives but perhaps make them become a little bit more open, a little bit more accepting, a little bit more loving, and understanding of other people. I want to try to get people to be more positive in this life and to see the hurt and the pain and not be completely swallowed up by it; to recognize it enough to be able to change themselves so that they can help to change somebody else. I want people to know that I try to be a play a role and be a part of all that’s happening around us in the movement towards trying to make things better and make the world a better place.
ELIXHER: What are your current projects?
AhSa-Ti Nu: Well my main project right now is with Puppet Radio. We have finished our EP and are working on continuing to build a fan base. We are also in the studio recording our full-length album so I’m pretty excited about that. It will be about a year that we’ve been together in October, and we have accomplished a lot in these past couple of months and are really working hard to finish this album. We are hoping to get at least a short tour on the books for next summer. On our to do list we are also shooting a video. Yea, I’m really excited about this full-length album, getting it out, and pushing it to the public.
My next project, well I have been slowly working on a solo project, AhSa-Ti Nu. It’s still in the writing phase and that’s been about two years now or maybe a little less. The other projects I have been working on are with Quinn Deveaux and the Blue Beat Review. Recently I’ve started working with Sean Hayes, which has been pretty exciting. I am doing the Outside Lands Music Festival with him in August. Otherwise I have just been working with different bands. I get different calls to come in and do vocals and background vocals for different people.
ELIXHER: What kind of legacy do you hope to leave as specifically a queer Black female musician? Why?
AhSa-Ti Nu: Honestly, when I think of legacy I think of the young people, like my kids and the people who are coming behind me. I definitely want to be able to leave a legacy for my children. I wanna be able to leave something behind, more than just financial, or being able to say I was in the Hall of Fame, but them being able to see the fact that not only did I have a dream, not only did I pursue my dream but I succeeded and didn’t allow the world to stop me. I didn’t allow the world to keep me from moving forward despite all of its objections. That anything is possible for as long as you are seeking your happiness.
I think the biggest part of it again goes into the message of the music. My thought is that maybe if you could hear some of the stories and some of the things that have happened then you may make a different decision to not go that route. Again perhaps I’ve played a part in changing something for the better.
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Interview by: Ahmunet Jessica Jordon
Ahmunet Jessica Jordon is a Black, queer writer, performer, and holistic practitioner, currently residing in the Bay Area. She is committed to sharing raw stories of the Black experience to ignite change, transformation, and healing through art.