Ready for Jazz in the Gardens stage
April Raquel’s self-proclaimed musical style is urban, rock, soul and funk. She’ll be one of the local artists showcasing her talent at the Miami Gardens music extravaganza.
BY PENNY DICKERSON
Jazz in the Gardens will kick off on March 18-20 with a star-studded lineup that includes Usher, Aretha Franklin, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Michael McDonald, Average White Band, Kool & the Gang, Fred Hammond, and Brian Culbertson.
Along with internationally known artists, the multi-day concert at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, will introduce attendees to homegrown favorites like artists CriStyle Renae, Lavie, and regulars on the Broward County nightclub scene – April Raquel and Kouture Band.
Singer, model, actress
Raquel’s talent has poised her for success and continues to catapult her on to national entertainment scenes. The South Florida native is a model, actress and lead singer for her band Kouture. The ensemble succinctly promotes Raquel’s unique brand and self-proclaimed musical style that she calls: urban, rock, soul and funk. Her musical influences include Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, MC Lyte, Pat Benatar, Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé.
“Speaking as a professional, full-time singer, it is so important to have local representation at a music festival the stature of Jazz in the Gardens. To share the stage with other musicians and artists that you admire is an invaluable learning opportunity,” said Raquel. She’s scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 18, at 5 p.m.
“It’s important that local artists are present because this is a huge career-defining moment that I hope will lead to other amazing opportunities, networking and media exposure. The local artist does not have the backing of the big label, or resources,” she added.
In the same vain that Franklin started performing locally on what was intimately known as the “chitlin circuit” and musicians like Najee got their start in local bands who played at the Miss Black America pageant, Raquel has paid her dues and looks forward to finally being a major contributor to Jazz in the Gardens.
“We are makers, forging our dream into reality. There’s talent in all corners; having local music artists share the stage with big-name acts ignites inspiration. I have prepared for over two years to be on this stage and it is here; I’m ready to RaQ out,” she remarked.
Igniting a dream
On stage and under the bright lights first ignited a dream in Raquel while she was a student at Florida A&M University (FAMU), where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Management and a Master’s in Business Administration. A member of the Broward County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the driven artist was a member of the on-campus group, The Epicurean Fashion Experience while at FAMU and portrayed the likeness of Tina Turner in a Tallahassee stage production of “Ebony Lipstick.’’
Without haste, Raquel traded the east coast for west and headed to Los Angeles following her college graduation. She walked directly into success and landed roles in television, film, and music video roles, including the featured model in “I Like the Way You Move” and “Hey Ya!” for the hip-hop group Outkast.
Her credits include on-screen appearances in the motion picture “Hair Show,” starring Academy Award nominated actresses Mo’Nique and Taraji P. Henson, and she additionally teamed up with the Golden Globe winner Mo’Nique again with her appearance in the hit sitcom “The Parkers.” As a contract model, Raquel has appeared in numerous television commercials, including spots for Time/Life’s Body & Soul Collection and Luster’s Pink Hair Lotion.
But for all her early accomplishments, Raquel has found her home on stage and created her own lane that she has no problem staying in.
“Urban, rock, soul, funk is a lane I created for myself. Each genre is a reflection of how these great contributors to music influenced me, as well as a reflection of my energy, creativity, and style,” explained Raquel, who firmly believes an audience at Jazz in the Gardens or elsewhere embraces an appreciation for all music genres, including rock.
“I think music is music. It evokes emotions, regardless of race or creed. Some of the greatest African-American artists were true rock stars. Tina Turner is still the queen of Black rockers. She was daring and unapologetic. You see the influence of rock in so much “Black” music, including Prince, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, even Run DMC. These are iconic geniuses who stretched beyond the limitations of just one genre; they were not especially limited to a specific Black music box,” she added.
Currently, Raquel and her band, Kouture Funk, have a weekly residency on Miami Beach at the famed Ocean’s Ten as well as a monthly standing performance in Palm Beach Gardens’ Dirty Martini. The regular performances are complemented by national and international performances and the fulfillment of every artist’s ultimate goal: writing and releasing new music.
“So far, I’ve released two singles. The first, “Nobody Does It Better” last fall, and the recent single “Dat Fire’’ said Raquel. “After Jazz in the Gardens, I will return to the studio to complete my first EP release this summer. I go big all the time. I love live instrumentation on my songs because it conveys energy and feels good to the soul.”
Described as fiery, captivating, exuberant and energetic on stage, Raquel’s self-marketing takes advantage of every social media outlet and she maintains a strong online presence.
“To know who I am, I invite fans and potentials to visit my website: http://www.aprilraquel.com, or like/follow/engage in my social media and listen to my music and if they like it to support and download the music,” offered Raquel, who admits that her quest to promote herself and find successful has been a grind, but one well worth it.
“So much effort, no sleeping, endless sacrifice, and obsession all goes into creating a piece of art, then releasing it to the world for consumption,” she shared. “Just knowing there is an audience out there is a challenge, so I invite the readers to experience a bit of my gift.”