I feel like music is a tool for me to make positive change on the continent. The highlight of my musical journey was the validation of 4,000 people in a stadium singing my song from top to bottom without me having to sing it… It has been really nice to see how much impact one can have on a younger generation and even the older generation of people just who want to change.”
Ny Ony Razafindratandra ’11 is a Malagasy singer, songwriter and performing artist. Publicly known by her stage name, Niu Raza, her music features a blend of African influences, telling diverse stories about the African continent and its people.
Ny Ony was born in Madagascar and raised in both Francophone and Anglophone countries on the continent including Congo, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. Her father was an avid musician always playing the guitar and singing in his free time, thus creating the space in their homes for artistic and musical expression. From a young age, Ny Ony always loved singing and entertaining just like her father. Today, Ny Ony (known professionally as Niu Raza) is an internationally renowned artist and singer-songwriter who has garnered the global attention of several thousands around the world. Ny Ony’s exposure to different cultures and languages in her childhood has influenced her unique sound today. A deeply passionate humanitarian and activist, Niu Raza uses her songs to tell her stories, challenge a range of preconceptions of what it means to be a female African artist, and most importantly inspire and empower young girls around the world.
Early Forays into Music
From a young age, Ny Ony always loved performing for the people in her life. Her talent was recognized by the schools she attended as she was often chosen to close the school year with a song. However, Ny Ony’s journey as a musician did not officially start until someone heard her singing in the bathroom on the ALA campus. She considers her first ‘gig’ as her very first Assembly performance which evolved into her singing at every Assembly, at birthday parties, for important donors, and even at Fred Swaniker’s wedding!
Starting her musical journey at ALA truly shaped Ny Ony’s artistic expression. Through her exposure to this pan-African environment, she was able to connect with peers from different backgrounds and truly see people beyond her own preconceptions, which enabled her to experience a crucial cultural exchange. This, coupled with Ny Ony’s upbringing in Anglophone and Francophone Africa, has uniquely shaped her as a musician. She integrates different genres of beats, style, dance and languages from all over the continent into her art. The beauty of growing up and attending a diverse institution enabled Ny Ony to create an intentional multicultural community around her music. From ALA, she went to the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA where she continued to sharpen her musical skills and studied Music Business. Today, Niu Raza represents herself as a singer and influences and inspires her fans through her multilingual and multicultural performances.
Storytelling through Music
As a young female African artist, Ny Ony sees great opportunity for impact on future generations. Not only is she telling stories through her lyrics, dances, and outfits, she is shifting the concept and stereotypes around how an African artist should look. Currently, she perceives a lot of stigma and a complete lack of fluidity around what it means to be an African artist, with Western society often dictating that African artists should look, dress, and dance in a particular way and sing “traditional” songs in order to fit in and succeed in the world of music. Every time she performs, Ny Ony pushes those boundaries as much as possible, refusing to be placed into a box by the expectations of others. She continues to remain true to her identity, ensuring that at the heart of every song she produces, there is a deeper story.
Ny Ony’s rise to musical prominence has not been an easy journey. Working tirelessly to change the narrative around what it means to be a young female African musician, she battles a dominant culture that sets the expectation that female artists should have a male producer and manager. As a young artist, she feels the weight of perpetually pushing back the notion that women should not be loud and expressive. While being proud of her hard work and investments in her chosen career, Ny One is conscious, especially when performing, that she is truly making herself vulnerable and opening herself up to criticisms through her art.
Ny Ony’s desire is to use music and social entrepreneurship to empower African girls and women. In her words: “The goal has never been fame; the goal has always been impact”. Her impact spans from challenging the views of the older generation about young African female artists to inspiring the young, and paving the way for others to pursue successful professional careers in the creative arts. Knowing that many people in Africa do not view music as a viable career option, Ny Ony uses her extensive knowledge of the music business to runs workshops for young artists. Through her music and online presence, she continually educates young women and promotes self-love through her lyrics. As she looks into the future, Ny Ony does not want to lose sight of the impact she is having through her music. Reflecting on her experience of being raised by beautiful strong women, she aims to create the same safe space for other women around the continent.
Helping to create a generation of African women uplifting each other is no small feat, but through her pan-African multi-lingual music and persona, Ny Ony is up for the challenge and ready to use her platform for female empowerment.