Get To Know: Joya Mooi
Introducing Joya Mooi - the South African and Dutch songbird who possesses a raw and unfiltered pensmith, an enchanting vocal range and a burning desire to morph the memories, inspiration, pain and joy running through her mind into pure sonic expression.
These qualities are embedded into Joya’s narrative, a narrative that is executed through the lens of a dual-heritaged woman who harbours an intelligent, creative and humble soul.
Although the genre-blending singer and songwriter’s discography routes back to 2010, the realms she has created along the way have painted a portrait of an artist with limitless potential. A prime example, is a the noticeable honesty oozing from her last album - “The Ease Of Others,” which sees her explore her family’s history across 12-tracks which discuss identity, heritage and the relationships she’s encountered throughout her life. The same can be said of her most recent single, "Good Girl" a hypnotic “ode to disobedience,” that specifically travails the expectations and restrictions placed upon womxn. And while the production and the writing provide an immersive listening experience, it is Joya’s rich timbre that shines through, stopping you dead in your tracks.
We caught up with the talented songstress ahead of her fifth studio album to discuss her upbringing, her thoughts on identify, new music and more!
Hey Joya! For those who may not know you could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Joya Mooi, I live in Amsterdam and my family is from the Netherlands and South Africa.
Describe your sound and musical influences?
I think every project of mine, has a different kind of sound. Most of the time it’s not a deliberate choice, I just want to work with different producers or create stories that need a different musical approach. My last album “The Ease of Others” is a mixture of alternative pop R&B with zest of trappy-ness. I'm greatly inspired by interesting arrangements or blunt songwriting by musicians like Georgia Anne Muldrow, Beach House, Boogie and Spelling.
What sparked your interest? - musical household, music icons?
I grew up mainly listening to jazz, from Standards, to Bebop and Bossa Nova and Angolese Semba. My parents listened to Alice Coltrane, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson a lot. But before I started studying jazz music myself I really gravitated to music or lyrics that shook the life out of me. So that could be any genre really.
How have these influences shaped your music?
They for sure have shaped my perspective on music, but when I create myself I actually stay away from listening to other music at all. All my projects are quite story based and personally themed so I really want to create something that uplifts and reshapes my lyrics, rather than going for a specific sound.
Speak to us about growing up in Amsterdam?
It was complex growing up in the Netherlands after my parent’s exile – I use to wonder a lot about what my life would look if my parents stayed in Angola or returned to South Africa during my childhood. I grew up in a small town in the Netherlands and now reside in Amsterdam. Being both black and white had a huge influence on how I grew up and how I was perceived. That's also the main reason why I create; I really felt the need to dissect and review the world I was living in.
How does your identity effect your artistry? And do you think it coincides with the development of your music?
I feel South African and Dutch, but for a long time my mixed heritage caused me to feel lost. I felt like I was stuck in between two worlds. But in music I've always found solace. I think in my work I always attempt to be honest, my last album I've opened up about my own search for an identity.
For that album particularly I wanted to be vulnerable and mostly be transparent about the process of mending with all the elements that make me, me; being Dutch, South-African, a post-exile child, a woman, educated and very stubborn.
What drives your passion for a career in music?
I feel really normal and at peace when I create. I write about things that are wandering in the back of my mind or on the tip of my tongue but I just won't come out in conversation. In music I really can explore these thoughts, make jokes, create this space just for me. It really is empowering.
A career moment you are most proud of?
My career is very much linked to my personal life. I've lost my brother and after that music, and specially releasing music to an audience felt very trivial. Couldn't do much really. Now I am again at a place where I feel peace and can feel joy. So being able to do that again, is what I'm most proud of.
You speak a lot about being open to positive things and deserving all the stuff you work for. Was there ever a time where you didn’t have this outlook on life and how did you overcome this?
I’ve always been an outgoing person but with a lot of thoughts about belonging - even as a child. It took me a long time to figure out what's most important to me. But when I finally found out what 'sparked my joy', there was no way of returning, you know.
For me that means being more selfish than I want to be at times. But by keeping energy for myself, so I can feel positivity and love.
Talk to us about your new single “Good Girl,” what’s the inspiration behind it and how does song fit into the upcoming project?
“Good Girl” is an ode to disobedience. Womxn are moulded from an early age, and that has such an effect on self-expression, emancipation and the development of any person really. I wanted to share my perspective on this. On this upcoming project I'm really exploring what freedom means to me, as a brown intuitive and sensitive person. Can I explore myself and the world avowedly and will it welcome me? How far can I go? Beyond my wildest imagination I hope.
What’s next for you?
More music, hope, rest, sun and good food on repeat.
Press Shots by Casper Kofi
‘Good Girl’ artwork by Zarlasht Zia & Niek Dekker