Ben: So you’ve lived in a few different cities. How is DC different for you, and why are you still here?
Asha: Well, DC is definitely different for me because it’s my first time living in a city life, in the fast paced life. And this is my first time actually, really LIVING.
B: What does that mean?
A: Like, being myself. You know what I’m saying? I date women, and that was always something that… I just never opened up about, when I was in Texas.
In this third part of the interview, Asha and I discuss gender issues in music and life, and where inspiration for her music comes from…
Ben: Which artists inspire you?
Asha: A lot of my inspiration comes from Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Tank, Tresongs, Chris Brown, Floetry, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Hiatus Coyote I love—
Catch up on Part 1 here!
When you wander downstairs into Asha’s apartment, you’re surrounded by art on all sides—to the left, to the right—even the ceilings. Every square inch of her apartment is covered in art—most of it hers, some of it works in progress… Just as many musicians feed their brains with music almost every day—to grow their vocabulary, to remind them of their inspirations, to study the writing and production techniques of others—Asha’s visual surroundings are a constant reminder of yet another reason why she’s on this planet.
Ben: Let’s talk now about your art—you’re the only local artist whose work I know I would immediately recognize if I saw it on somebody’s wall.
Asha: Awesome. That’s good!
B: One of the things that I respond to a lot about your artwork is that there’s a certain pop art approach. There are a lot of repeated elements: the heart, the female form—it’s meaningful in a deeper way, but also lighthearted. Maybe that’s what makes it accessible for me. There’s the boombox that shows up a lot, and the record, you know, the recording medium. This could just be me looking for a deeper thing that maybe isn’t there, but to me it goes back to the rhythm thing, the groove thing, repetition—the drummer’s job is to hold it down, and be that pulse. Your art has the same kind of rhythm and repetition to it. Was there a point where you realized “Okay, this is my voice, this is my brand, this is what I want my art to look like?” Do you feel it evolving?
My name is Ben Tufts, and I’ve been an active musician in the DC region for over ten years. I’ve always enjoyed writing about music, but it’s only recently that friends and colleagues have convinced me to take it a bit more seriously. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to contribute to Hometown Sounds!
In the digital era, the way that musicians make a living is completely shifting. In many lines of work, we strive for “fair trade” for laborers–but nobody pays for recorded music anymore. My aim with the interview series is not to just profile musicians living and working in the area, but to portray them as complete humans. In other words, I want to let the reader behind the curtain, to learn who the artist is, on stage and off. It’s my hope that when people see these faces and hear these stories, they’ll begin to understand where the music is really coming from.
My first interview is with DC drummer/artist/entrepreneur/educator extraordinaire, Asha Santee. Enjoy!
Based On Love
A conversation with Asha Santee
“It was just immediate shock, because the first thing that ran through my mind was ‘I don’t have a job, I don’t even know if my insurance is up, and I know this is about to be serious, if it’s a broken leg.’”
It was a pick-up game. He’d driven to the basket, their shins had collided. Now, staring up at the sky, clutching her leg, surrounded by people covering their mouths or their eyes, Asha’s whole life plan seemed derailed. Both of the bones in her leg were shattered.
Santee had moved to DC from Houston, TX in 2004 to play college ball for Howard University. She played out all four years of her scholarship, graduated, got a job in admissions, and was being courted to play professional ball overseas. Asha describes the moment that she turned the end of one career into the beginning of another…