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De'Anza Marries Tradition, Funk on Spiritually Charged "Want" (premiere + interview)

Jedd Beaudoin
Photo: Jorge Espinosa / Courtesy of the Syndicate

De'Anza has been called the leading lady of Latin alternative. Her new video for "Want" and upcoming EP demonstrate why.

Based in Los Angeles, De'Anza has made a name for herself over the last few years by combining traditional elements of Latin music with doses of the psychedelic and the spiritual. Her new EP, Cosmic Dream, arrives on June 29 and is poised to bring her to a wider audience, one that embraces the spacey, the strange and the almighty dance beat.

Cosmic Dream is an effort tied together by reflections on different stages of the sleep cycle and De'Anza delivers an appropriately heady group of tunes and interludes on this new effort that reflect our sleep/dream states hazy twilight. She's also delivered a new video for the song "Want". The clip was conceptualized by director Jorge Espinosa, who includes mandala, a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe, and geometric shapes over De'Anza's face. The song itself, she says, was born of an interest in funk music and the desire to create an unapologetically upbeat track for the recording.

Cosmic Dream is out June 29 and may be ordered here or here. She will perform at Amoeba Hollywood on June 28.

Which came first with this EP, the songs or the concept?

Definitely the songs. The first thing I wrote was "¿Estás Recibiendo?" ("Are You Receiving?"). I had actually written that years ago but I didn't show it to my producer at first because I didn't think it was good enough. But I wrote them all little by little over the years and then the concept is something that I came up with later to tie everything together because they're eclectic, bilingual. I figured it would be good to have some thread between them.

How did you go about capturing that sleeplike quality we hear throughout?

I guess you could say I'm fascinated with sleep and with lucid dreaming. "La Puerta" has is very spacey. The vocal melody isn't really set. It's more like a trip. There's a mystic I follow, a guru (Paramahansa Yogananda), who talks about the cosmic dream. I read that and thought it was a fascinating concept. I wrote that phrase down and as I was piecing the songs together that seemed like the best concept. It deals with the duality of life, light and shadows, yin and yang.

Tell me a little bit about the track "Want."

It was actually the last song that I wrote for the EP. I already had four full-length songs and I knew that I wanted to do something a little more upbeat. There were already two difficult songs, "Llena De Gracia" and "War." I wanted something that was a little more lively. I'd been listening to a lot of funk and so wrote something more in that groove. I played it for my producer, Andre de Santanna, and he had the idea to put an Afrobeat rhythm to it rather than keeping it straight funk. Then, there are the strange elements mingled in there: The keyboards can be a little bit spacey.

When I was in the Mayan jungle I sampled a shaman I heard performing a ceremony. The rhythm of his voice was so fascinating. I like to collect little things from my day-to-day life and use them in the recordings.

Were music and spirituality always married for you?

My first record was called Despertar, which means to awaken. I've been fascinated with dreams and Eastern philosophy and marrying that with the West. I guess that's why George Harrison is one of my favorite Beatles. To me, music and spiritually are one and the same. That's why I do music, to reach my consciousness to a higher vibration, to a higher level.

Is that something that you also hope listeners will take on?

I like for people to have their own interpretation. With the video for "Want" there are interpretations that the director and I have. There are these mandalas, shapes that are between myself and the viewer that start to form. I know what it means to me but somebody else might see it and have a completely different interpretation of it. We all have our filters, so however you see it, I think that's completely valid.

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