Be Original, Don’t Be Dismalby Lindokuhle Nkosi / 25.01.2012
Toya Delazy is a busy, young woman. I’ve been given twenty minutes to talk to her, over the phone, while a minder from Sony Music listens in on the line. She sounds excited, if not a little overwhelmed. For people who haven’t been in and around the Durban music scene, Toya Delazy’s jump to South Africa’s musical mainframe may seem a little sudden. From relative nothingness, this young jazz student now has a music video “Pump It On” on high rotation on Trace and other mainstream music media. She has however been pushing her hustle in Durban for a while now, performing in pubs and at Open Mic sessions. It was at one such gig that she was she discovered. I sat down with the 21 year old singer, rapper, musician to get a little background.
Mahala: Where did this all start for you, how did you get to where you are now?
Toya: I started performing at the Winston Pub while I was a jazz student at Howard College. I went solo in 2009, and played the songs on the keys.
Solo? You were part of a band before?
Well, yeah. I performed with a band but it was just too expensive, you know. I’d get them to back me at gigs, and then I’d have to pay them with money I didn’t have. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
So you were a jazz student, playing the keys at a rock venue. How did that go down?
They loved it. I endeared myself to them by playing the favourites. Nirvana, Radiohead, Kings of Leon. I had them singing along. And when I got rid of the band, I got a beatboxer (Kay) to back me.
So how does your album sound? Is it the same kind of stuff you were doing at The Winston?
It’s a little bit of everything. Jazz, electro, hip hop, pop. I get my bass elements from my jazz background, add some electro keys and my flow is heavily influenced by hip hop. “Pump It On” has all these elements, but it’s still quite poppy.
Is this where you think your commercial viability comes from, the poppy-ness of your music?
No, I think that just comes from working with the right people. People who’ll fine-tune your music and sell it well. And also, I play an instrument. People are more keen on giving attention to rounded musicians. They get a real performance.
And Sony Music was the right team?
Yes. I have 360 degree deal with them. They handle everything, from production, to distribution and marketing.
Who are your favourite local artists? Did you work with any of them on the album?
All Durban artists.
Well, I’m from Durban, it’s what I know; but I also really enjoy The Soil. I worked with them on a song I traditionally performed with a beatboxer and keys, but I got them and we did it acapella.
You’ve been featurerd in Rolling Stone as something of a style icon. Is this how you see yourself? Is your look deliberate?
Well, kind of. I think about the way I look. I want to show people that you can be elegant and street. I really think I’m starting a trend here.
“Be original, don’t be dismal” is a line from “Pump It On”. Is this aimed at anyone in particular?
It’s aimed at a younger me. As a young black girl in Durban who looks the way I do, dresses like this, acts like this – you get a lot of stares. People point and comment to themselves, loud enough for you to hear, I had to remind myself to be myself. Not to change for anyone.