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Up There With The Best

AYANDA Jiya is an exceptional kind of talent worthy of a great deal of attention and to be heard by as many appreciators of fine vocal talent as possible.

A number of her songs – available for downloads- such as Go Go Girl and Happy Alone showcase her as a superb South African vocal and performing talent that can stand its ground anywhere in the world. The quality and standard of production on her music is on par with any of the contemporary R&B singers considered to be cream of the crop.

The visually stunning and well-produced video of Happier Alone (Youtube) nicely switches between black and white and colour images. Great and worthy of attention as Ayanda is; there’s something about her music that may cast an unwanted shadow on her deserved glow. Her vocal expression, intonation and music accent is clean of any instant African traces.

It’s commendable that Ayanda can go toe-on-toe and even out-do many of her contemporaries in R&B, especially from where the style originates, however the lack of distinctiveness in her music place her at the risk of being put on that heap of modern American female vocalists who tend to sound the same most of the time.

In fact apart from being heavily influenced by the various American music accents Ayanda goes further to sample or do covers of American musicians such as Jill Scott’s “Hear My Call.” Add to that Go Go Girl which has sound samples of Teddy Pendegras’s Close The Door.

Perhaps it has not yet been pointed out to the impressive singer and songwriters that there’s nothing wrong, in fact it is perfectly possible to be world class or be in tune with the trends of the globe and still not loose one’s identity. It’s possible to absorb and embrace influences from other parts of the world without altering (to a point of no or little trace) or abandoning the African in you – the core or the soul and crux of who you are and where you come from. There’s absolutely no need to sacrifice one for the sake of the other. Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Fela Kuti, Rokia Traore and Angelique Kidjo are just some of the Africans who became global and embraced other influence without loosing their identity.

The young promising vocalist from Klerksdorp in the North West should not be totally made to carry all the blame for an identity that has been constantly projected to her through local radio and television.

As one respected South African musician puts it: “we cannot blame most of the new exceptionally talented kids for mimicking and trying to outdo Americans by sounding like them in most of what they do. The radio and television feeds them the culture and sometimes makes it seem like what is ours is not cool or up to scratch.”

Still, attempting to sound or even succeeding in sounding Americans has not worked that greatly for South African R&B musicians. Yes local R&B singers get gigs here and there and some play-listing on this or that radio stations but overall when it comes to audiences it would seem multitudes of locals would rather hear it from the originators.

Let’s hope when Ayanda’s full album (“Ayandastand”) finally comes out it is not a total display of Anglo-Saxon influence and cultural colonization of South Africa’s finest youth talent.

Her songs are available for download on I tunes and on Soundcloud.

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