Rightnowish: Astu's Music Speaks Across Demographics

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Oakland singer Astu left her life as a preacher behind, finding herself in music instead. (Pablo Circa)

Note: This episode originally aired April 5, 2019.

Quiet as it's kept, the Bay Area's big secret is that we're a divided place.

The prevailing narrative is that this is the most liberal and thus most equal place in the United States. Yet class and race still separate us in the Bay Area, just like the rest of the country. And the arts community is no different.

Enter Astu.


A young soul singer with an old soul, Astu's raspy smooth delivery sounds like it's coming straight off of a vinyl record. It's a sound borne of life experience: after studying to become a preacher and worship leader, she left Oklahoma to return to the Bay Area—and left the pulpit for the R&B world.

Astu performing at a Nia Wilson tribute event at Red Bay Coffee in Oakland last year.
Astu performing at a Nia Wilson tribute event at Red Bay Coffee in Oakland last year. (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Five years later, we're wondering how she navigates the invisible lines that separate people in the Bay Area. In the past year, she's performed at Berkeley's UC Theatre, Apple's flagship store in San Francisco, and the underground venue Spirithaus Gallery in West Oakland. Personally, I was blown away watching her perform at a Nia Wilson tribute held late last summer at Red Bay Coffee's headquarters in East Oakland.

I recently caught up with Astu at Zoo Labs in West Oakland, where she's just ended an artist's residency. We had a little chat about arts, community and the delightful, insightful skits on her latest album, Patterns.

To hear all about it, listen the audio link above.