Tyla: South Africa’s Pop Princess
Since the explosion of the ‘Amapiano’ sound, there’s been a lot of acceptance across the globe and South African artistes have been passed the baton to push this hybrid of deep house, jazz, and lounge music characterised by synths and wide percussive basslines.
One of South Africa’s young talents with a fast-growing international audience is Tyla. The Pop Princess of South Africa sits down with the Guardian Life to discuss her foray into music, heartbreak and plans for the future.
Tell us about yourself, who is Tyla?
I’m Tyla, a 20-year-old singer, and songwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. I grew up always loving to sing and perform for my family so I’ve always known this would be my journey.
What was your childhood like?
I was artistic. I used to make up songs and shows, where I’d perform for my family, but I didn’t really take it seriously then. I just genuinely enjoyed it. As I got older, I saved up and bought a mini studio, where I made some music — I made music for myself, but sometimes, I’d share with my siblings or on social media via Instagram.
When did you start making music?
I was putting out my music through social media, and through that, my manager reached out. I went with my parents to his studio and I recorded professionally for the first time. Since then, every single weekend, I go there with my best friend and record music.
Can you recall your first-ever stage performance? Try and describe the feeling
I used to perform a lot at school talent shows but the first one I remember was my 18th birthday and I performed my music — had the best time.
What’s the love and reception been like for you outside South Africa?
I love South Africa, but I also love traveling, and everywhere I’ve been. There’s been a very good reception for the music and culture in general, which I really like. I really appreciate the acceptance of Amapiano and South African culture.
What was the inspiration behind your latest release “To Last” and were you recounting an actual heartbreak experience?
This was actually about a friend that opened up to me on how she was feeling regarding a breakup and I was the person that was comforting her at the time. Through all of that, I felt that it was a feeling that people could relate to, the feeling of being disposable and it sucks.
A year ago, I recorded some of the lyrics “you never gave us a chance” and I just remembered and started writing from the perspective of my friend and it just clicked.
Have you ever experienced something similar?
I’ve actually never been heartbroken [laughs] but who knows I just might get there soon and I’ll give you a fire heartbreak song.
Can you describe your creative process to us?
My process changes all the time, there are a lot of variables ranging from my mood to who’s in the studio at the time. It usually starts from the beat, it has to make me move to feel something and after that, the lyrics come and everything flows.
What are you working on right now?
This whole year, I’ve been traveling and making music with the likes of Kiki Stewart, Ron James, P Prime, Lojay, and Ayra Starr. I’ve been working with a lot of people and I’m excited about the music. I plan to release an album next year and that’s very exciting.
Who would you like to work with here at home and internationally?
I’m a big dreamer, so, I always think big. I’d love DJ Khaled to scream on my song, I want PartyNextDoor, Doja Cat, and Burna Boy to mention a few. I’ve worked with Wiz as well and that was so exciting.
I’m really not stuck with one genre and I’d love to make music with Don Toliver, something like a trap song.
What motivates Tyla?
Where I wanna see myself years from now and where I want South Africa and Africa in general to be.
What can fans expect from you in the near future?
A lot of new music, videos, shows and so much more.
I’ve been so busy with the album but now I’m ready to meet new people and have fun at all the shows I’ll be at.