Seemingly coming out of nowhere with Pump It On, singer-songwriter Toya Delazy has given us one of the summer’s biggest smash tracks.
Its world-class beats, catchy melody and heartfelt vocals make for an infectious dance floor stomper that just won’t go away. It’s just the start of her onslaught; with an impressive follow-up single Love is in the Air, and a soon to be released album.
A KZN girl, Delazy’s made her musical journey from the convent to the dance floor. She trained as a classical pianist from the age of nine and then went on to embrace hip hop, electro and pop.
We wanted to know more about this talented lesbian and gay friendly musical groundbreaker…
How does it feel to have had success so quickly?
It’s a lot to get used to, but I’m certainly enjoying every moment. I’ve been trying to break into the music industry from around 2009 and I’ve been working on my upcoming album from around June last year.
You studied classical music and jazz. What led you to decide to work in more popular, contemporary genres?
Because I went to a convent I was really only exposed to more conservative music. All the other musical genres came later after I was done with high school in 2008. I was finally “allowed” to indulge in different genres which were considered “of the devil”.
How does that musical training affect your work today?
Learning classical piano helped structure my musical understanding of how heartfelt chords are formed, how to read music and have agility and discipline on the keys. Classical piano helped me tremendously when it comes to playing by ear and composing music. And with the jazz education [at university] I’m able to play with classical discipline and incorporate jazz swag to my sound.
And your musical influences?
My love for music grew from classical songs like Debussy’s Clair de Lune – basically unlocking my creativity and influencing the way I construct my chords. So did orchestral works sung by choirs in cathedrals.
And watching the movie Sister Act at primary school, I got my first taste of Lauryn Hill and I loved her singing and her soul. I’ve also been influenced by artists such as Kate Nash, John Legend, Radiohead, Asa, Goldfish, Imogen Heap, Adele, Kings Of Leon, Regina Spektor, John Lennon, Norah Jones, John Mayer, Black Eyed Peas, Sara Bareilles, Nirvana, Deadmau5 and Skrillex.
Brenda Fassie, Tracy Chapman and Lebo Mathosa also really inspired me when growing up. There’s nothing like them out here anymore!
What do you want to accomplish with your music?
My music is about love, unity and strength. It’s also about truth. I came out of a very dark place after I lost my mom in matric. I didn’t know what the future held for me, and music saved me. The songs I write and sing are to build people and unite people. I want people to know their beauty and understand their strength. I am sowing a seed with my music and I am hoping it grows in the minds of listeners. I also just have a lot of fun!
What’s been your biggest high since releasing Pump It On?
I had a solo performance at the 2011 Africa Day Concert. It was filmed live in Johannesburg and broadcast across the continent. I shared the stage with Baaba Maal, Habib Koité, The Mahotella Queens and Tumi and the Volume. It was a phenomenal moment in my life. Before, I had been playing at random festivals and smaller parties. I felt on top of my game that day and was glad to share my talent with my continent.
How important is live performing to you?
I love live performances. It means I’m able to express my feelings and I’m able to share with the crowd. It’s great to see the fans and interact with them.
How personal or autobiographical is your music?
I definitely draw on personal experiences for some songs, but there are also others that are more general. I discuss things that I feel, that others can relate to.
You were recently signed to Sony Music Africa. How did that feel?
It was overwhelming. I took me a while to fully comprehend everything. It was amazing!
So, where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
I’d like to have my own company. I would love to travel a bit and hopefully I would have collaborated with some big names in the music industry. My main focus this year is my new album. It’s set to hit the shelves in April and I’m so excited.
How does your family feel about your growing fame?
At first they were a bit hesitant. I think most parents would prefer their children to study. They know that the music industry is extremely competitive and unstable. But they soon realised that I’m serious about my work. Having seen what I’ve accomplished they are very supportive and proud.
And how do you feel about becoming a celebrity?
I still feel like the exact same person. I understand that I’m in the public eye, so it’s interesting and sometimes weird. I definitely love my life right now.
You grew up in KZN…
KZN influenced me quite a bit. I got introduced to various bands and different types of music in KZN. My music developed there and there’s no doubt that it’s impacted me and my music.
Where do you live now?
At this moment my home is everywhere. I really enjoy travelling so it’s difficult to pick one place that I’d like to live in.
What’s on your playlist?
Right now I’m listening to Armin Van Buuren, Coeur De Pirate, Jay-Z and Kanye West, as well as The Tellers.
You’re performing at the lesbian ‘Skin’ party next weekend. Is a gay and lesbian following important for you?
I don’t really care about the sexual orientation of my audience. As long as they know how to party and have a good time. All fans are very important, regardless of their sexual orientation.
What are your thoughts about the spate of corrective rape attacks in our country?
I’m against violence of any kind and any kind of sexual crime is disgusting. I wish we could eradicate it from our society.
Your favourite club or night out?
Any kind of music festival is really cool. One of the best has been Synergy in Cape Town.
What do you do for fun or to relax on weekends?
When I do get a bit of down time I love to watch movies, surf the net and cook.
What’s your biggest vice?
Like every girl, shoes.
Tell us something about yourself that we’d never guess about you?