Profile: Jazmin Sisters

JAZMIN_photo1Before Beyoncé became Mrs. Carter and Kandi Burruss re-emerged as an Atlanta-based reality star, they both essentially represented the peak and unfortunate decline of one particular American musical staple: 90s R&B girl groups. Popular acts including Destiny’s Child, En Vogue, Xscape, SWV and TLC were quite common place thanks to perfect harmonizations, fun music and flat out style. While today’s contemporaries find influence from those described above for individual careers, it’s quite difficult to name on even half a hand the number of girl groups out currently, let alone one grounded in R&B. This is what makes Los Angeles-based foursome, the Jazmin Sisters, such a breath of fresh air. Chinese-American sisters Nadia, Felicia, Celia and Daria symbolize a very forward methodology juxtaposed with something rooted in a past many still yearn for. These girls have already created a massive amount of buzz thanks to their single “You,” which cleverly flips SWV’s classic ballad “Weak.”

Like many R&B singers past and present, church became the sisterly foursome’s first stage. Having a preacher for a father and piano teacher mother meant music perforated every moment of their childhood. “It started with our father asking us to sing before he preached so we were like the opening act before his sermon,” says Celia. “Our mom would help us find a song and then she would teach it to us on piano as we figured out our harmonies. It just naturally happened; we never took any classes or anything like that as it was something we just did growing up.”

Singing everything from traditional Christian hymns to contemporary gospel was the norm in a conservative household, outside of parental favorites which included Motown and jazz. In fact, the sisters once didn’t even understand the concept of “music videos” due to growing up without cable. Like any family dynamic, eldest sister Nadia introduced her younger siblings to hip-hop and R&B through old CDs given by friends. At the time forbidden fruit for the girls, Felicia jokes about them sneaking and becoming consumed with such a new sound. “Once we discovered that, it just opened our eyes,” added Nadia who described their first experience as an explosion of ideas and creativity. “It was like discovering Disneyland for the first time.” Daria remembers listening to Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Destiny’s Child’s The Writing’s on the Wall constantly after receiving copies from Nadia. “I’d listen to it over and over again while memorizing every riff,” said Daria. “ I wanted to sound like Lauryn, I wanted to sing like Beyoncé.”

Since officially making a push for mainstream, the Jazmin Sisters became finalists on MTV’s Top Pop Group along with NBC’s StarTomorrow and America’s Got Talent. The group’s breakout moment came last year through the release of their free debut EP, appropriately titled 90s Baby. Executive produced by Grammy Award-winning duo The Midi Mafia, the project features tracks dipped in cool homages to 90s classics, from Tupac’s “I Get Around” to Q-Tip’s “Vivrant Thing.” 90s Baby’s sound came after the sisters recorded for sometime without actually finding a sound they felt at ease with. According to Felicia, the production twosome gave them the creative freedom they wanted for quite some time. “They gave us a shot and gave us control,” she said. “This is the first time we felt comfortable and we’re releasing songs we’re proud of.”

So how are their more traditionalist parents dealing with the girls’ transformation from church girls to the potential saviors of R&B girl groups?  Absolutely fine, says Felicia, on one condition.“The main thing they care about is us getting rest,” explained Felicia. “They understood that the love of music is something that they can’t deny so if that’s something we want to do to keep us together as a family, why not.”

As “certain” artists appropriate music propagated by black artists in almost a parody-like fashion,  the Jazmin Sisters have a reverence for the music that reflects the quality of their work. So much, to where their ethnicity matters none—something Nadia says was their mission. “No one thinks about the race or what someone looks like when they’re listening to you,” Nadia said. “Yes, we’re Chinese-American, but we can relate to anyone doing the music we love.”

—Ural Garrett

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