making music that goes beyond genre
meet Asukal

Asukal is a rising Asian - American singer-songwriter and producer Raquel Undheim who sites Grimes, SOPHIE, Empress Of, Charli XCX as influences. She tells tmrw that her new single Ways2Love is reflecting on the importance of self-love and what it’s like growing up in a society with Eurocentric beauty ideals.

The name Asukal is a deeply personal name that works on numerous levels as it not only ties Rachel’s Filipino roots into her music it also references her family in a more direct way as her parents own a sugar cane farm. Asukal currently resides in New York stating that she felt that as far as her music career was concerned that was where the opportunities really lay.

“I moved to NY pretty much for the music scene and opportunities I’ve found here. Every artist comes through to perform here and there are great underground scenes”

Nonetheless pursuing a music career in New York hasn’t been an easy one and has certainly shaped Asukal’s own unique sound. She explains that living in a big city also carries the very real cost of experiencing isolation despite being surrounded by hundreds of people and that self-love is so key to surviving in such environments.

“Living in NY, I’ve overworked myself sometimes to the point that it puts my physical, emotional, and spiritual health in danger. I’ll be lying in bed thinking about the 10 to do lists I have, never really being able to rest. It’s about knowing your boundaries and limits, giving yourself time and space to rest and respect yourself and those around you”

However, living in the city wasn’t the only source of stress there was also the added exhaustion of having to “fit a mold” by being “Asian but not too Asian”. Asukal describes growing up between the Philippines and the U.S as difficult for it meant having “to put in a little more effort into researching what was happening pop culture wise in the US”, however, she believes that this experience helped broadened her worldview.

All this combined has certainly translated into Asukal’s music stylistically as it refuses to be confined to one genre, seamlessly embracing the nuances of both Asian and Western musical influences, a sound that has previously been described as “Hyperactive Bubblegum Pop”. Thematically speaking the Asukal explains that it acts as markers points in her own life, pinpointing certain points in life and acting as a reminder for moments when she has been victorious or as she beautifully terms as marker points for “overcoming different life seasons”.

The new single Ways2Love, however, is riding on a different wave as it introduces us to a more mature and reflective side that we’ve yet to see of the artist who explains that in regard to the new single:

“I think a lot of my previous songs have been produced similarly to what the inside of my brain looks like. I’m constantly thinking of 20 things at once […] I’d describe it as cyber futuristic pop meets 90s club vibes with some trap elements. It’s a little more serious than my other songs. Even though I’ve contrasted dark lyrics with hyper-cheerful bubble pop production in the past, I wanted the production in Ways2Love to sound more mature and reflect the real and raw subject of the song.”

On listening to the track it is clear that there is a level of reflection and acknowledging of an unnamed source of stress, which when we asked for more clarity on Asukal explained that “my lyrics don’t overtly talk about specifics, the song is about exhaustion of various sorts, and how I’ve internally navigated how to respect and take care of myself, so I can properly love the people around me”, but eventually she revealed that the unnamed source of anxiety stems from her own struggles with self-identity in two worlds that she felt equally a part of but never fully accepted by.

“I started reflecting on times where I would accentuate my European features enough to fit Eurocentric beauty ideals and play up my western characteristics but be non-white enough to be unusual and interesting. Similar enough to be palatable, unique enough to be intriguing. Coming back to the US, there were times where I felt like I had to prove my Americanness and justify and explain my genetic makeup”

This struggle with identity is one that many mixed-race individuals feel but the stress that comes with constantly having to prove herself is something many of us can relate to living in a world dominated by social media. When we ask what for possible solutions to tackling this Asukal replies:

“Love others around you especially those that are different than you by listening to them, seeing them, asking them what they need, and giving them space to speak about their experiences to expand their platforms”

The recent release of the single is only the tip of the iceberg it seems as the ambitious Asukal who hints at that production is already underway with other writers and artist not to mention an upcoming show in New York on the 10th January. For those of you in the states be sure to check it out, as for the rest of us we will just have to stay patient and wait to see what is next for this exciting new artist for she helps to contribute to the development of changing beauty ideals in the music industry.


Stream Ways2love, and more below:

Words by Emily Takeuchi-Brown / Photography by Stephanie Dimiskovski / Styling by Daniela Gutmann / Glam by Summer Tran

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