Toya Delazy: Measured by what makes her different

The pianist, songwriter and composer describes herself as being an individual who believes in individuality. (Joanne Olivier)

The pianist, songwriter and composer describes herself as being an individual who believes in individuality. (Joanne Olivier)

The novelist WH Auden said that civilizations should be measured by the degree of diversity attained, and the degree of unity retained. The same criteria could be applied to Latoya Buthelezi, better known to her fans as Toya Delazy.

She’s been described as a breath of fresh air in the South African music industry and prides herself on uniting her diverse fanbase through her lyrics.

She speaks of love, happiness, peace and unity. One does not expect a 22-year-old to know much about these things, but speaking to her, one is left feeling that everything is going to be alright,  and that you can believe in her message.
There is nothing fake about it.

"I enjoy sharing what I have with people. I enjoy giving out positive energy and getting it back."

Toya is the great-granddaughter of the legendary musical royal, Princess Magogo – the Zulu classical music composer, singer, teacher, and political activist. She’s also the granddaughter of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

“My grandfather is very proud, I must say, about the fact that I proved what I wanted – I didn’t just say 'oh, I want to sing' and didn’t make it happen.”

“The work I put into it and how it’s blown up – my family really loves that. They are supportive but also very cautious.”

With a European pop sound which incorporates jazz, electro, hip-hop and soul, and hits such as Pump It On, Love is in the Air, Heart and Are You Gonna Stay?, Toya has found wide acceptance, and has become known for her colourful, unique style.

“I am pushing my own movement. There are not a lot of people that have ventured into the pop genre and I have managed to mesh it in with some soul and my jazz training.”

“I started playing the piano when I was nine years old at my primary school, so it is a huge part of my music.”

She was signed in 2011 to Sony Music Africa and, since the release of her début album, Due Drop, has appeared on almost every local radio station, with her videos appearing on local and international music channels, including Trace Urban and MTV. She’s also the brand ambassador for Reebok, and formed part of the TV campaign for the new Hyundai i20, alongside Francois Van Coke.

The pianist, songwriter and composer describes herself as being an individual who believes in individuality.

"All I can do is me. That’s how I got here and that’s all that’s needed. I didn’t even know I was being watched next thing I am flying up to Jo’burg, meeting the heads of Sony Africa."

She says that she imagines a world that is beautiful, where people get along and know about true love.  These are all messages she brings across in her music, and she is actually believable. Almost annoyingly so.

“I believe in melody and music. Music has been around in the Zulu nation for years. I think we are the most musical. We sing when we cry, when we are happy. We sing all the time. My great grandmother was an amazing musician. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by strong women.

Toya, who now splits her time between Johannesburg and Cape Town, says losing  her mother in a car accident in matric taught her to take care of herself from a young age.

“All the values my mom passed onto me – to love, being able to accept others, happiness, being grateful – instead of complaining, not stealing, all those qualities are dear to me. It motivates a lot of what I speak of.”

This month has been a swirl of excitement for her as she’s currently opening for American Idol Adam Lambert on his SA tour, and the music video of her first single, Pump It On, was nominated for Most Gifted Video Of The Year and Most Gifted New Comer Video in the 2012 Channel O Music Video Awards.

Pump It On is a song I wrote when I was going through great distress. I couldn’t get into varsity. Well I couldn’t pay rather, I was struggling really hard. No one could understand me. You know when you keep trying to convince people and it just doesn’t work so I wrote the song as a breakthrough.

“Music makes me feel really happy. It excites me to make other people happy. I want to broaden my horizons, encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and show who they are.”

Follow @ToyaDelazy on Twitter.

Rhodé Marshall

Rhodé Marshall

Rhodé Marshall is the Mail & Guardian's arts, culture and entertainment content producer. She started as a radio reporter and producer in Cape Town, before jumping into online news. When there is chaos, she is the responsible, cool and calm one. With one hand glued to her phone and the other to a can of Coca-Cola, she is a pop culture junkie. And don't you dare write her name without the accent on the e, she will make sure that you know how to do it on every device. Visit her blog: Read more from Rhodé Marshall

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