It is another miserable winter night in Cape Town and the wet weather is as erratic as ever. But I brave the cold to make it to The Waiting Room on Long Street and after a minor identification issue I’m welcomed into a warm lounge style set-up. But the warmth in the room has little to do with the easy design or L-shape arranged couches or even the fact that the oft-open balcony doors are shut. Toya Delazy is in the building and her presence cannot be denied.
Presence can be a tricky thing when you are a pop star or that famous. But this isn’t a case of imposed celebrity. After I had sorted through my admin enquiries with her publicist, I’m introduced to Delazy who directs her attention to me with an interested demeanour. She holds my hands and listens with intent and I’m almost intimidated by how genuine she is.
She had obviously made her rounds before I arrived in the room and her warmth still lingers in the air. There are about 30 people in the building including those lounged on the couches and ambling at the bar. In my mind, here is a performer who has graced the stages of the SAMAs and flown the South African flag high at the BETs, so surely there are more guests coming through. By the time I am half way through my beer, I realise that this is it. The ambient house music is cut and the abrupt silence directs everyone’s attention to Delazy who is already seated behind her Casio keyboard.
The first song on her setlist is “Yesterday” by The Beatles and unbeknownst to me, it would be the start of an eclectic gumbo of influences. We are treated to covers of Adele’s “Hometown Glory,” Radiohead’s “Creep,” OneRepublic’s “Apologize,” and Liquideep’s “Fairytale.” “Because that’s my origin. That’s where I come from,” she tells me after my enquiry about her elaborate setlist. This was not the “pop-a-fied” production sound you were introduced to on her debut Due Drop though. If Due Drop is Lilly Allen, her acoustic night at The Waiting Room is Laura Mvula. And how refreshing it is to be introduced to a multi-faceted Delazy.
By the time her first set is over for a small break, Delazy begins to mingle with the crowd again making sure that everyone in the room is comfortable. She returns to the stage and as though to pull the carpet from underneath our feet, her best friend announces that this would be Delazy’s final performance in South Africa; seemingly catching Delazy herself off guard. Toya Delazy is moving to New York City.
At the stroke of midnight, Delazy’s set is complete. Weary though I am for my first interview to be conducted during ungodly hours (read the full interview on Feedback Musiq), Delazy is still in top form and ready to go, even after about three hours of performance.
It has been three years since the release of Due Drop but Delazy has still managed to remain relevant through it all. “I’m listening to everything and I think artists stop doing that somehow once they crack through then people aren’t relevant.” And if her acoustic night has anything to do with anything, I learn that it is a subtle precursor for what to expect from her as yet untitled second album: “I feel [by] the second album you gonna understand why I did this today.”
I begin fishing for details on her forthcoming sophomore LP. If there was anything I learned from my time with Delazy it’s that everything is a journey, and that’s exactly how she’s treating her second album. On the process so far: “I’ve started already.” On whether she’s off to continue this process in New York: “I’m finishing the process there. Yes. Hopefully—you know it’s a journey. Let’s see who I see; who I find.” And while she is reluctant to reveal any concrete details, as this is a journey in progress after all, she lets me in on an interesting visit she made to the world’s best kept secret in the recording industry. “The Boom Boom Room is insanely famous,” she informs me. “I didn’t know myself but then as I looked on the walls there were plaques all over the walls and it’s like you know, Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby [One More Time]” was recorded there, Justin Bieber’s “Baby” was [recorded there], Rihanna’s “Umbrella”! You know it’s like, whoa, huge room! So being there, having a chance to freakin’ stand behind that mic and also meet people in there, I don’t know. I hope it leads to something. You know America makes people dream, it’s weird. You never know.”
While all of these developments signal a very exciting new chapter in Delazy’s life, she is very adamant about the fact that this is not and never was about leaving Africa. “One thing for sure: whatever happens, I’ll be home to freakin’ launch a single or—trust. It began here. Africa is the place to be.” At the crux of it, Delazy’s move to the States is about one thing and one thing alone: “God-willing, I’d really love to express myself and you know expose Africa in the States because of the platform the States has to the rest of the world.”
Delazy is now officially a New Yorker and if her current success is anything to go by it’s unlikely that her next chapter will be any less fruitful. At 24 years old, Toya Delazy possesses more ambition and success than some of her contemporaries. Her future in the US is one to be followed with a keen eye.
For our full-length interview, ‘Toya Delazy – From Mahlabathini to New York City’, visit our sister site Feedback Musiq.