The new diva: Toya Delazy

2012-05-18 10:38

A few days later, I am in Rosebank at a CD launch and there’s a song spitting over the speakers.

“I will hold you like a chopstick, save you from a mosh pit,” raps a female voice before breaking into a hard, anthemic vocal.

The combination of hip-hop with a rock edge, a soulful underbelly and a spattering of unexpected instrumentation comes over as a fresh new sound.

“I was raised by Goths,” chuckles Toya Delazy (Latoya Buthelezi) when I meet her at Sony Music headquarters the following week. The 23-year-old from Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal has a bout of flu after the craziest week of her life.

It’s a rare thing nowadays – the signing and launching of a new female artist by a major record company. Sony has worked for several years to package and present Due Drop, her debut.

She comes self-styled, with her trademark thick-rimmed glasses and braided Mohawk – more Smartees than sex kitten. Today she’s in a gold jacket, leggings, trainers and a kattie for a necklace.

It’s not just a hardcore exterior. I have to work to get her to open up. Once she does, she has an extraordinary story to tell. Most people know that Delazy is a soundalike for Buthelezi – but not that her great-grandmother was Princess Magogo, the traditional Zulu composer and mother of IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Her fierce independence and unique sound are a direct result of her upbringing.

“Basically, I was in a convent school hostel from six and a half.”

She started playing the piano at nine and excelled at it. It was one of her few outlets as she moved to a revivalist Christian mission school, where they “shaved your hair, made you wear dresses and banned you from listening to anything but secular music”.

There, Delazy was at school with children from all over the world.

She was in matric when her mother died suddenly, and she began to write and sing her own songs – some of which would end up on Due Drop.

In Durban, she took up jazz piano and performed in venues like The Winston, home to her first fan base – white kids in black clothes who loved Nirvana.

When she could no longer afford varsity, she took a practical course in the music industry.

“The internet defined my career. Myspace, actually.”

She recorded a demo that eventually got Sony’s attention.

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