PHOTO CREDIT: Superbalist
THERE is so much to draw the eye and ear to Toya Delazy.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alisson Chaigneau
She has been telling me about her epic new cut, London Town, and moving from South Africa to London; what it is like being cast as the first black Powerpuff Girl; if there is a new artist we need to look out for – what sort of tour dates are coming up.
Delazy tells me how she got into being an M.C. and songwriter; what ambitions she wants to fulfil before the end of the year; if she gets chance to chill away from music; what we can expect going forward – she ends the interview by selecting a rather fine song.
Hi, Toya. How are you? How has your week been?
I'm fine. My week has been hectic as usual; lots of stuff happening - I got back from attending the Midem in Cannes last Friday where I was part of two panels and also part of their first-ever songwriting camp - I've been moving house as well for the first time since I arrived in London.
It feels like an upgrade after sharing for three years and I'm still in the East which is like a dope area; so I'm feeling kind of good. Currently, I’m preparing for a live Facebook interview which is going to be for the launch of the new season of The Powerpuff Girls - as the partnership has been renewed after the successful addition of the first black sister (Bliss)!
And it's only midweek...
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I am a pianist, singer; rapper and producer; originally from South Africa, now settled in London - my genre of music is whatever vibes me in a Jazz/Electro/Hip-Hop-sorta-way.
London Town is your new single. Can you tell me what the story behind it is?
It's about the London mentality, especially in the arts scene - how we get around the city getting interconnected; it's about the melting pot boiling over. I feel I have finally gotten to the place where I fully understand the city and know how to move with it instead of letting it overwhelm me. So, it basically celebrates London as a cradle of diversity and multiculturalism.
PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Wisbey
What was it like working with Rymez on the track? Did the collaboration add to the intensity and flow of the song?
He is a star! I first met him through D.J. Sbu who is one of South Africa's biggest self-made entrepreneurs and C.E.O. of Mofaya - South Africa's first black-owned energy drink. He was making tunes with him and invited me over. A year later, I called Rhymez up for some studio time after I wrote the bassline of London Town (and lyrics); I needed someone to help me package it nicely.
He was so humble and really great artist; a real pleasure to work with; open to collaboration and he loved the fact I had worked on the bass already. Chill guy!
Do you think there will be more singles out before next year?
Yup! Some of the songs I recorded in Cannes at the Midem songwriting camp are going to be released: one of them is in collaboration with Elvis Crespo; I can't say too much. Magical vibes!
PHOTO CREDIT: Claire Bilyard
I understand you will voice the first black Powerpuff Girl? How does that make you feel?
Really great; bearing in mind the history The Powerpuff Girls has and the impact they have made in the animation world and kids worldwide. I used to love them growing up: it's like living a childhood dream; more excitingly is the positive spotlight on Africa and diversity in the animation world. It's really sparked exciting conversations which is great. It's a movement that had to happen.
Are race and inequality something that is not being tackled enough in modern music? Do you think there is an imbalance that is affecting black artists?
Modern music has no race or inequality: it’s the purest; the furthest it can be from some authoritarian model. Modern music is the epitome of freedom. The problem is old mentalities which seem minced into every modern success story. It's clear that people just want a chance to be themselves and feel alive - we want tolerance and equality and anyone against that is a social pariah.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alisson Chaigneau
How did you get started as a songwriter and M.C.? How important is London and its energy regarding your creativity?
I started writing songs from an early age as I started piano from the age of nine; after high-school, I started playing in pubs in Durban, South Africa - I joined cyphers and attended lots of local art events just so people could get to see me.
London destroyed the restraint I had and allowed me to function as my honest self. I threw myself into my artistry and that type of freedom is rare to find. Also; the city squeezed me and made me really face the reality of being a musician and I didn't run back to Africa where I was more comfortable - being uncomfortable is the key ingredient to unlocking yourself and find yourself. So, musically, it's been amazing: so much to sing about so many emotions to deal with...
PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Hanson
Which artists are most important to you? Who do you recognise as idols?
Artists that are humble but have all the reason not to be and artists that are genuine and original:
Black Coffee - first met him when I hit the African scene and he was already established. I always admired him since then; thereafter, we would bump into each other at international events and he is still the KwaZulu-Natal bro I remember looking up to when I was young - and now making a serious name for himself in the world.
Can we see you tour this year? What gigs do you have coming along?
Yes. My European tour is coming along so far on my calendar:
Cologne Pride - 7th July
Bristol Pride - 14th July.
Do you have any ambitions to fulfil before the end of the year?
Yes. I have to make all my buddies know how to replicate a Zulu ‘Q’ sound: it's like watching a dog with peanut butter on the roof of the mouth when everyone is practising it, but the joys of hearing a Non-Zulu utter their first "Qoh" is so satisfying.
Also; I would like to get London Town on one of the big radios after it reached number-three on the Club Chart - hoping the music video shows the vibes and peeps love them to be honest...
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind
Performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem for the first time, as part of the Africa Now series, made me feel like I was spearheading the voice of the next generation.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill
If it wasn't for Sister Act, I would have never discovered her! Her selfless desire to feed the heart with her voice; her lyrics and soul really helped shaped me into mixing my piano with Hip-Hop.
Nirvana - Nevermind
The wild spirit of freedom they brought with them; the musicality and the ease at which it was all done - remarkable band.
Nina Simone - I Put a Spell on You
How the vulnerability in her voice was the most beautiful thing to channel the keys (and vice versa). How she lost herself in the moment and meant every word while still putting the Soul and Jazz into the keys - breathtaking artist.
PHOTO CREDIT: Frostee
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Keep going: it's a hill all the way. Stay original, because everyone else has been taken. Don't take it too seriously; have fun and, if you don't love it, then don't do it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Che Lingo
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Che Lingo. I love the way he raps articulately and pensively! One of my favourite artists at the moment…
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Yes. I make the time – otherwise; living every day in the studio or in your bedroom; waiting for performances to come up can do your head in. I learnt to take better control of my compulsiveness.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Ok. Please play me Muzi (ft. Tiro) - Questions
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PHOTO CREDIT: Superbalist