Music

Exclusive Interview: Namibian Queen Taylor Jaye Is On A Mission To Take Over Africa

Published in Music | Monday, 25 April 2016

A little Intro...

Taylor Jaye is a singer, songwriter, actress and producer signed to Gallo Music Publishers South Africa. A native of the Damara tribe, she spent much of her early childhood between her birthplace in Windhoek, Namibia and the west-coast of the USA.

At the age of eight her mother gave her an American mix-tape as a gift and that was her first memory of hip-hop. The seed was planted and young Taylor Jaye became enthusiastic about becoming a rapper. 

JNE was her first formal hip-hop group that she later founded with several friends and family members. Through this group she was able to enter cultural and talent competitions that allowed her love for performing to develop.   After visiting a professional recording studio with one of Namibia’s leading producers at age thirteen and being exposed to the process of vocal recording, Taylor Jaye was now fully determined to carve a path for herself into the performing arts. 

From her high school choir Taylor Jaye made an ambitious attempt and was accepted into Namibia’s National Youth Choir, eventually becoming the lead soprano. Recognizing her outstanding talent St. Paul’s College subsequently appointed her as a Choir Director to the schools’ choir. These platforms gave her greater confidence and opportunities to explore her other performing talents of hip-hop, break-dancing and choreography. She was frequently in the winners’ circle of dance competitions.  

After leaving high school with a strong academic record, Taylor Jaye graduated as a Software Engineer in December 2014 with a BSc. Computer and Information Science and a double major in Application Development, Networks and Business Systems from the South African campus of Monash University Australia. In between lectures, exams and lab work and whenever she had any free available, she continued to work on material for her debut album and composed, wrote and produced songs both for herself and for other artists. 

In early 2015 the independent record company Jaye’s World Entertainment Pty Limited was founded by Taylor Jaye to allow her the creative freedom to pursue her own unique style of music while also providing a platform for unexposed artists to record their compositions. 

Versatility is one of Taylor Jaye’s core values as she believes that her musical style is influenced by various genres including R&B, Pop, Hip-Hop, Reggae, Classical and Jazz.  

Shortly after the release of the EP titled 780, her debut single and music video African Kings featuring Chin Chilla won the US Akademia Award for Best World Beat Music Video in March 2016. The funky radio track Supa Chikita is the second single release and quickly gaining popularity with local audiences.

                                    

You are a singer, song writer, producer and actress, how did you discover you could do each of those trades?

I push myself to explore different aspects of the creative world. I knew that I loved music at an early age and one thing led to the next. I wrote my first rap song when I was 8 because I wanted to be like the people who inspired me. I realized I could sing after my first studio experience, which led me to the choir where I gradually shifted my focus from rap to singing.  Production is something I only discovered I was good at a couple of years ago. I found myself in studio working with other producers but always had something to add to existing beats. I started to work on material from scratch I would go into studio with beat ideas or pre-written songs and work with sound engineers by arranging songs from the ground up. Acting came looking for me when I was randomly asked to audition for a role in a soap opera. I went ahead and tried it, landed the role and was cast in a commercial. That gave me the confidence to accept other roles when they arose. They are all creative and complementary skills.

You are of the Damara tribe, what are the women of that tribe known for?

Damara women are intelligent, ambitious and hardworking. They are determined "go-getters" who thrive on achieving excellence in their endeavors. They are also beautiful, compassionate and fiercely loyal to their families and loved ones.

How has living in both Africa and America affected your style of music?

It has definitely impacted my versatility as an artist. I enjoy fusing African musical elements with American genres and vice versa. It's the best of both worlds coming together all the time.

During your come up, you were involved in a group called JNE. What’s the story behind the rise and fall of it?

My cousin Edrio aka Chin Chilla was already in another group called the Saints. As we lived in the same neighborhood, we spent a lot of time together creating hip hop material. JNE emerged naturally from that environment of young kids who loved urban music and wanted to pursue it. We accepted that the Namibian market wasn’t yet ready to embrace our style at the time and the group eventually disbanded.

 

You were exposed to HipHop at a very young age, now many things attached to it are not suitable for kids, did you get a friction from your parents?

Because my mother lived in the USA and understood the culture and had a similar appreciation for music and performing arts, she was very supportive of my ambitions. On the other hand, my grandmother was initially more concerned by the abrasive language of the art form but once I explained the context she was ok with it.

From High School choir director to rapping? How did that happen?

In fact, the transition is really from choir direction to singing since I’m no longer strictly a rapper. My experience in the high school and national choirs gave me the platform to explore my vocal abilities and gain greater confidence onstage. I do still use rap occasionally to spice up my songs but as you will see from my debut EP the material is predominantly vocal. I saw that as the most natural progression.

Many rappers tell stories of leaving school to pursue their music endeavors, you on the other hand have a Strong academic background after balancing the two, how did you manage to do it?

When I left high school there was a mental battle of whether to go fully into music at that time or to wait. Coming from an African home education was a very high priority hence, I accepted the need to complete my degree first. Finishing school and waiting to launch my career was in fact very beneficial. It has opened up a new dimension to me as a businesswoman in addition to being an artist. During school my hands were always full exploring various aspects of entertainment from writing material for others and recording, to hosting radio programs. It wasn't easy because my field of study required a lot of my time but my passion for music always kept me wanting to get better at it. If I had studio sessions during the week I had to make sure I was well ahead with my class homework ahead of time or be willing to pull an all-nighter to brush up on anything I was behind in.

What is it like being a female in a male dominated genre?

As a singer I’m fortunately not typecast in a male dominated environment. Yes, I do a blend of hip hop, R&B and Afro pop but even then my music is not centered on being an emcee. Music has emerged to be all about "good" music regardless of style or genre. I believe we are way passed the time when artists were defined in terms of genre. I aim to de-categorise my work and hopefully transcend the narrow borders of genre.

Women have told stories of men in the music industry try to take advantage of them for sexually if they are to work together, have you had any issues like that? What's your advice to women that might encounter such eels?

That’s a general downside risk of many environments where both genders work together. Women have a tough time in the music industry because men often offer inappropriate inducement in exchange for career advancement. It becomes worse when business cannot be separated from pleasure. Women need to recognize that every action and decision has a corresponding consequence. If she is enticed by favors for benefits, the consequences will impact her dignity and reputation. So she should stand firm and understand that turning down advances doesn't mean her career won't move forward, it just means taking a different route. Women can be genuinely proud and dignified when their goals are achieved through discipline, hard work and sacrificed.

You founded your label so you could have a lot more freedom with your music among other things, when did you realize you needed to do that?

I was previously signed to a strictly hip hop label and felt restricted by sticking to only one genre. I didn't feel I could experiment to find my own unique sound so I decided I would rather do it on my own knowing I would benefit from the learning curve and could follow my own creative path.

For anyone that hasn't listened to your EP 780, what can it be described as and what's the message you were trying to put across in it?

780 is a small window to the diversity of talents within me. It's a preview of what's coming in my full length album with its fusion of styles and genres. The album theme will be a reflection of the full spectrum of relationship emotions from infatuation to breakup, but would still feature uplifting club bangers that are meant to create a feeling of empowerment to women and unique African individuals.

Let's talk about your debut single African Kings, how does it feel to have your very first single already getting awarded? Because many wait years to even smell a nomination?

It feels great to be honest I didn't expect to get awarded in an American competition. It was a great surprise being nominated and winning.

How did the idea of African Kings come up, was it during a crazy night out maybe?

That’s a great question. It came about while I was listening to "Royals" by Lorde. I just felt like I wanted a happy song to make me feel like a "boss" African. The original track was slow but we eventually made it more uptempo. The track is named "African kings" because I felt like if I said "queens" I would alienate men and that wasn't the purpose of the track. It was created to make you want to “own your throne” as an African and know that we too are blessed in many ways.

Who are you looking forward to working with on the African continent?

That’s a very long shopping list of names as I respect and admire so many artist doing promoting African music. I would love to work with Wizkid, his evolution as an artist inspires me. I like the fact that he's also not restricted by genre he just does great music. I would also love to have an opportunity to work with AKA, I respect his contribution to the urban music scene in South Africa and to the continent..

Is there anything you would like to see change in the Namibian music industry?

Yes. More support for urban music. It appears as though there is little industry in terms of exposure, airplay and platforms for performance so it struggles for recognition, not just in Namibia but also the rest of the African continent.

 

In African tradition, women are always taught to not expose their bodies because it makes them look a certain way, times have changed and people have begun to accept the idea of flaunting. You seem very comfortable in your skin, was the traditional idea something you thought about or you just brushed it aside and decided to just do you?

My culture is very important to me as an African woman. However I am also an entertainer who loves fashion and truly enjoys different aspects of it. Being comfortable in my own skin regardless of what I wear is empowering. There is no distinction between traditional and modern fashion for me. I wear all fashion styles that make me feel fierce and empowered. All women should dress for themselves.

You will soon release a song featuring a Zambian artist, can you tell us who it is?

It’s a bit too early to disclose this but I can say that it will be an amazing collaboration and a wonderful fusion of sounds between our neighboring countries.

How can people stay up to date with what you are doing?

They can follow me on my social media or go on to my website.

Instagram: @taylorjayeworld

Twitter: @taylorjayeworld

Facebook: Taylor Jaye

Website: www.taylorjayeworld.com