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Toya Delazy

Be Original, Don’t Be Dismal

by 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.

Toya Delazy

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?

I’m digging THOTS, Fruit and Veg and Black Moss.

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.

Toya Delazy

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.

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RESPONSES (37)
  1. die ducktail van vd Bijl says:

    “I have 360 degree deal with them. They handle everything, from production, to distribution and marketing.” Which probably means that Sony takes a large cut of the profits from everything, including gigs.

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  2. Alastair says:

    It’s pretty damn cool to see her get a deal with Sony. I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more, I mean… from the Pub to Sony- huge jump!

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  3. Fuck the majors says:

    Absolutely, that Sony deal is sooo cool. Especially since they’ve gone the extra mile to provide a “minder” because an artist cannot be trusted to speak for themselves without supervision.

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  4. Julius says:

    Rather have a Sony deal that takes a cut of your profits than be stuck playing at a pub to 3 ppl for the rest of time.

    Best of luck to Toya

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  5. cnut says:

    Sony deal (no matter how restricting) or playing at the Winston (no offence just different genre) for Black Labels… not a difficult choice…

    Always said you were no far off Del-girl!

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  6. Zo says:

    Despite the seemingly opportunistic 360 deal, its still a much better deal for a 21 year old starting out in the business than slogging away endlessly with unconnected talent she ‘admitted ‘ she couldn’t even afford. Also, the minder is more for the record company’s benefit than it is for her, as she’s says too, they handle everything, which certainly includes the interview with Mahala. The nature of a 360 deal doesn’t presuppose the artist can’t be trusted, it entrusts the record label to facilitate the artist in the best possible manner.

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  7. Fuck the majors says:

    “Zo” works for Sony, or close to it, right? The pungent smell of corporate hot air is unmistakable.

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  8. Jude says:

    The music is damn funfuckentastic no doubt she deserves it, not being fucked by corporates of course, but a shot in the industry! #ProudlySouthAfrican

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  9. Cinekal Dlamini says:

    she does it flipping well, but its straight up Jen+eric.
    is she Zulu, jamaican or from brooklyn?
    ya know what im saying, yo?

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  10. caelin says:

    SO so proud of you Toya!!!!! Screw the haters- jealousy makes you nasty!!! Fly beautiful spirit fly!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. AutoTune HD says:

    Why the fuck do they have to auto tune and vocoderize everything these days.

    This lady obviously has a nice and probably unique style and its a good song.
    But she sounds like Kanye West or one of his many brethren in the pop scene did the producing

    Over production + Auto Tune & Vocoder = Artist stripped of much defining character
    Oh well the public at large wants that sound

    and a job is a job so the haters may as well go back to their cubicles and fume in their little greyed out box’s – try not to brown nose the next higher minion too ostentatiously today…. please

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  12. Julius says:

    @ Fuck the majors

    I bet you would be singing a very different tune if Sony came knocking on your door.

    Something to think about.

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  13. AutoTune HD says:

    For those that may not know , Auto Tune is largely used for Vocal Pitch correction and/or adding harmonizing voices behind the main vocal – gives the singer voice that surreal rich full sound , it used to be used predominantly in very subtle amounts…..
    Vocoder gives that robotic/dehumanizing kind of sounds to vocals.
    I’m not a wizz so those descriptions may be a little simplistic.

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  14. Jude says:

    @ Autotune,damn Straight about the autotune and over Vocoder vibe … I went searching on youtube for more stuff and found this>>>her phacking voice is brilliant!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m0x1oJ5jYc

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  15. AutoTune HD says:

    @Jude , Yeah Man!
    That clip shows her real side and it shines – no laaik kif man!
    She’s got it thats fo sho

    I suppose to cut it in the Biz of music making money you got to put the sizzle on every last note , oh well….

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  16. xdoomx says:

    Read up on what a 360 deal is:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/360_deal

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  17. Fuck the majors says:

    @xdoomx – nice link, thanks. Interesting to note that Motown actually pioneered the concept of the 360 several decades back.
    @Julius – not everyone is that naive and desperate. There are many artists in this country and across the globe who have more self-respect than career desperation. Quite a few successful local artists have told Sony to get lost, including commercial acts like The Dirty Skirts.

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  18. hater says:

    this is shit music at its best… rihana wannabe+shit accent+computer generated bullshit= dead and gone in two years… but hey, atleast the pub will still let you play there…. OH WAIT!

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  19. Cookie Bean says:

    Toya is sooo on point, you guys. Stop hating on her.
    I’m from Kenya and even I can see the talent there.
    Her music is different, it really does seem like she does her things from the soul.
    She is not a sell-out.
    I’m from Kenya, and you guys need to hear just one of the songs that are main stream here.
    In Kenya, it’s like they have forgotten what music is as an art (or just never had a fucking clue), very few musicians here are good at all and if they are good, then they just don’t get the recognition they deserve.
    Here there are a lot of sell-outs and absolutely sub-standard people making bullshit music.
    It’s tragic. :/

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  20. Alaba Isaiah says:

    I Love Toya Delazy and i wish i can see her and call her..

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  21. Alaba Isaiah says:

    I love toya delazy and i wish i can see her and call her ok phone..

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  22. kingdingane says:

    “Own 100% of a grand or 10% of a milli”- kingdingane

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  23. okafor chidinma says:

    I love this girl toya delazy,love her songs even love is in the air.Also love her dressing style,kinda reminds me when I was a tomboy.Toya rock,love her masked back up singers,am a huge fan.

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  24. annonymous says:

    At first I thot she waz from Ameriaca damn Toya um a huge fan…wsh to see you one day ooor we shud hv coffe,launch,or a drink….you are the bestest love your music,videos. And the way you dress,the way you talk damn gal you got it all so burst it shoooo

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  25. JMAG says:

    Just saw her performance on BIG BROTHER for the first time, she is extremely good, very impressed

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  26. mary says:

    I love toya I wish I cn sing with her n I wana sing with her

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  27. Kudzai says:

    I love your music and hey stay original. I love u 4 that

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  28. Ade Beats says:

    Sh#*, so much hate for Toya..Well, I guess “Your amount of sucess is determined by the amout of ill-will you attain.” – Huey

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  29. Anonymous says:

    Lol Toya thot u wer from America lol wow gal u rock…..

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  30. Dean says:

    fantastic music

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  31. Sive says:

    Keep up the good work we love u girl

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  32. Thato Tsotetsi says:

    Just got the album at the prompting of my partner…I must say…wow! So vast…so damn beautiful!
    I’m impressed! It is about damn time we get someone who dares to push the envelope instead of the many “afro pop/jazz” pigeon-holed artists that are saturating the market!! *inserts Lira and Zahara here*
    South Africa has been craving someone like Toya!!!

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  33. Gucciking says:

    I love toya she a good vocalist and i love her voice

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  34. seipati says:

    u rock gal and keep it up.

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  35. Mpume Zulupoet Xulu says:

    Toya music rocks .I’m inspired ,she is talented .she take south African music to another level. Syabonga

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  36. i lyk ur swag gal keep it rolling 4rm ur biggest fan says:

    i lyk ur swag gal keep it rolling 4rm ur biggest fan

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  37. Tommy says:

    BIG uP…. ^_^

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