Photo: Annie Reid

Introducing: Tyla

Before the pandemic shook the workings of the music industry three years ago, Tyla was already on course for a run at the top. Then 18-years-old, her debut single “Getting Late,” which is a velvety interpretation of Amapiano, expresses a feminine point-of-view that has stood shoulder to shoulder with the male-dominated perspective of contemporary pop music. Talk about a killer meaning. The heavily percussive genre, one that can only be described as a force that is snowballing with time, clears the way for artists like Tyla to stand tall on international stages as it gains more global recognition, making it natural to be intrigued by the South African songstresses intense and explosive rise to fame.

As the next year came, evidence of credible listenership was unfolding right before Tyla’s eyes. Having amassed a following for both her music and personality – boasting over 1.6 million followers on TikTok alone – the singer-songwriter has found reason to venture deeper into the nexus of her creativity and talks about how this is all she’s ever wanted. “Since I could remember I’ve always said I’m going to become a popstar,” she states unwaveringly. “After school, I passed everything very well, my parents hoped I would grow out of it so I could go and study a profession,” she notes. “But, after a lot of tears, I convinced them into letting me do this full-time,” she says. “All my life I’ve gravitated towards the music and entertainment industry,” she shares. “My family home was always full of music and it stuck with me,” she recalls. “Watching artists like Rihanna, Michael Jackson and Beyoncé perform on TV sparked that passion in me to, one day, do the same.”

As someone who’s always imagined themselves singing and performing to crowds, even before they had an inkling of what the lifestyle of a professional musician demanded, all the Johannesburg native had to go by was her love for sound. “South African music is basically all we listen to back home,” she says. “I’ve always loved the sound and I definitely incorporate that influence in my music,” she points out. “I grew up listening to all different sounds and I loved them all,” she admits. “All I do now is add my African flavour to make it new. I personally like it more.”

With relationships being the usual subject of her work, Tyla reverts the attention to herself in “Been Thinking” as she sings her innermost desires with a sharp focus. “I worked on this song with the legends Tricky Stewart and Theron James,” she informs us. “We created a fun party banger about that feeling of seeing someone for the first time and having them run through your mind.”

The colourful pop track, complete with polishes of house and disco, extends the sonic direction that the scintillating performer has charted in her career so far. As it moves with purposeful intensity, the beat coerces a similarly fierce performance from Tyla as she sings the feelings of lust with an urgency that changes her songwriting. “All day, all night, I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout ya,” she sings in the catchy choruses before flexing her pen game with strong imagery in the verses. “You the best that I never had / Somebody call up Usher ‘cause I got it bad / I’m on your top like a durag / I’m at your crib where
you live with a duffel and my Louis bag.”

Not only has Tyla grown as a writer, but she’s also grown as a person. She’s more confident in herself, her culture and her desires than ever, constantly making sure the origins of her musical inclinations are laid bare. “I’m South African and I’m super proud and ready to show people that,” she proclaims. “I feel like more people are opening up to us [South African artists] as creatives and giving us the recognition we’ve been wanting for years,” she notes. “I want to be part of the next wave of African mega-stars who open doors for the next generation.”

Similarly to everyone these days, the star’s experiences are shaped by widespread totems of globalisation such as television, art, movies and fashion, something she makes sure to include in her creations. In terms of fashion, Tyla reiterates how she’s “always down for a fire look” and loves playing dress up. “It always starts with the vibe I want to give off,” she begins. “I’m very bad at describing things so my style brief always consists of the words sweaty, wet and hot,” she laughs. “I love clothing and playing dress up. I’m always down fire a fire look.”

Though her emotionally rich music began when she was just 12, penning songs in her diary, Tyla’s been guided by her intuition which has her primed to build out her fanbase and maximise her reach. Focused on the year ahead, she’s crafting her debut album with the same intention from when she began and is poised to achieve international dominance with style, soul and spirit. “I just want to be performing everywhere and anywhere,” she exclaims. “I love what I do and the more countries I can do it in, the better,” she states. “My debut album is dropping this year too,” she beams. “I’ve worked on it for over a year now and I feel like it’s about time I release and share it with the world,” she admits. “Africa to the world!”