Words – Thandie Sibanda
With South Africa’s music firmly gripped on the collar of the global music stage, and Southern African artists reaping the seeds of the neo-African music market, set alight by the popularity of the Black Panther film and Beyonce’s Black Is King – the spotlight glares firmly at the region. While quarantine wasn’t the most upbeat tempo, it sculpted a new level of “genre-blending” amongst the Tik Tok crowds and the global music industry. 19-year-old Tyla is the love child of pop music, South Africa and Tik Tok, and when combined, her debut single Getting Late featuring Kooldrink is the national anthem. Exhuming Y2K’s traditional ode to high-pitched repetitive hooks, Tyla, alongside Kooldrink’s composition, has solidified the Amapiano genre to the new age. The babe’s recent success, since racking up over 2 million views on YouTube and 10 million likes on TikTok, has recently been met with her label deal with Epic Records.
It’s no wonder Tyla has been dubbed the “Pop Princess” of South Africa. On her route to self-discovery, conquering the Tik Tok world, all while dragging her South African pride along with her (Johannesburg to be specific), we caught up with Tyla to see what her royal duties entail.
Thandie: How are you? Are you ready for the summer?
Tyler: Yes. I’m ready – I’m ready to move the groove.
You’re a real dancer though. I’m always seeing your TikToks and reels; the dance pages love you. It’s looking like it’ll be a great summer for South African music.
Have you been watching the Major League DJ sets?
Yes! I have, I’ve actually watched all of them – I even went to one. And one of the songs we are actually working on [Banele] played during his set.
With South Africa at the full view of the global stage, you’ve been labelled the “Pop Princess” of South Africa. What does one’s royal duties entail?
So it’s a huge blessing that people are saying I’m a whole pop princess. That’s cute. I have a huge pride for my home. You know, I’m so excited to just keep pushing, keep working to build my name. A lot of South African artists have been doing really well like Nasty C, Focalistic, Major League and I just want to be like one of them.
A huge dream of mine is to the biggest pop star – period. And I just want South Africa’s name to be there with me. If that happens, when that happens, hopefully, God, please.
You started from an early age; what were you listening to back then? Imagine you’re a house, what is the foundation of your sound…
So I grew up listening to a lot of music, a lot of different genres. My parents and my whole family love music. I grew up listening to South African music, Nigerian music, and international music as well. I fell in love with almost every genre. So when I make music, I don’t like being tied down to one sound, I want to be able to be flexible and create as much as I can. So with my music, I feel like the foundation comes from pop because that’s my voice. That’s what I enjoy doing. I love pop music and how universal it is. Basically, my sound is pop fused with all different types of genres.
Oh, I have a lot, like specifically African I would love to collab with Rema, Whizkid, Tems, Ayraa Star, Koffee, Nasty C, Focalistic. International; I’d love to work with Doja Cat, Chloe and Halle, SZA, Party Next Door, Drake, Skepta.
Will the sound always include an amapiano beat or do you want to experiment?
I feel like I’m still very new to everything. The first time I ever recorded was in 2019. And Getting Late is my first song. I’m so open to exploring different sounds and different things and learning through this journey. I’m just super excited for that whole process and to see how my sound develops over time.
2019 was the first time you recorded? How was that?
It was a very new experience because I was so used to sitting in my room, waiting for everyone to sleep, so I could sing and not be shy, and just making up random songs. So from that, to actually being in a studio in front of a mic and singing in front of my manager and producer, and all those people… It was kind of nerve-wracking, but I’ve just seen how much I have grown since then. And I’m just excited to keep on growing.
Love the dance video’s on Tik Tok, they are always so much fun. Is the goal a viral Tik Tok song, with your own dance?
Yeah, that would be very cool. Actually, I made a dance and a lot of people are actually doing it. So hopefully, it becomes a global trend.
Now, we are talking for PAUSE Her, so let’s talk fashion. You’re doing a show and they’re like Tyla we’ll put you in anything you like; what’s your go-to?
I’m not really a brand person. I like what I like, there’s no specific brand that I gravitate towards. One thing that I want to do is bring African designers and stylists to global stages. So definitely the first thing I’m doing is reaching out to different African designers and just seeing what we can come up with. My style is very girly, so definitely little girly African outfits. That will be the vibe.
What are your music goals for this year?
I want Getting Late to be a Summer Jam for everyone. I want people to look back at 2021 and know the song of the summer was Getting Late by Tyla featuring Kooldrink. That’s my goal for this summer.
And finally, What’s your South African heritage?
I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. My parents are from Durban. I’m mixed so a lot of my heritage is lost down the line. But I do know that I come from the Zulu tribe.