video premiere + interview: toya delazy tackles xenophobia, racism & homophobia head on with bold new anthem, “why hate?”
By Sound Check
August 21, 2015
Back in 2013, South African Lesbian Duduzile Zozo was brutally raped and murdered in her home. Duduzile was found with a toilet brush inside of her, the heinous act considered an attempt at a “corrective rape”. Many took to the streets of South Africa to protest against the horrific murder. SA artist Toya Delazy was deeply moved by Duduzil’s murder and following a conversation with photographer Zanele Mohuli, penned the track, “Why Hate?” The song tackles the growing climate of hate across the globe and, more recently, the homophobic/ xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Today we’re premiering the track’s video, co-directed by Toya Delazy and Lesedi Rudolf (from Your Girlfriend productions); and featuring fans, following Toya’s call on Facebook, friends, soccer player Portia Modise, comedian Donovan Goliath and singer Moonchild. Check it out below. Plus, our interview with the musician, in which she spoke to us candidly about her music and about the racial tension in Africa.
By Ayara Pommells, AFROPUNK Contributor
Describe your sound and your message to readers who may not yet be aware of your music?
My sound is called JEHP (pronounce the J like French folk would) an acronym for the harmoniously delicious mix of Jazz Electro Hip & Pop. I am a classically trained Jazz pianist, I have been playing since the age of 9, and I make an eclectic mix of the genres I enjoy.
What inspired you to write “Why Hate?’
Hate crimes, which are killing folks. In South Africa, homophobia, xenophobia and racism mainly. I wanted to write a modern day “Heal the world”, which could use simple language to explain how we are one unit, we may be different but there are similarities, which only human beings can identify. As a human being, I can’t let another person go through victimization when the same blood hue flows through my own veins. We all in this together.
Some people feel that everybody is prejudiced to a point. Do you feel you have any prejudices?
It’s no lie; everyone is misunderstood to a certain extent. Everyone has a hater, and without the misunderstandings there would be nothing to fight for, we would be in a perfect world. We are all so different and I sometimes even catch myself looking at some people like “DaFUK were you thinking leaving your home looking like that? but actually, surprise and shock poses an opportunity to open your eyes to something new that challenges the way you think. When I visit England, I almost feel invisible, no one notices anything over the top about me, I easily blend in, everything seems acceptable. In South Africa I have been called Illuminati at some point, because my ‘Ascension’ album cover was unexpected and unfathomable, therefore evil. Another time, I got called masculine by a label exec, because they couldn’t live with the fact that I was standing for myself and talking back during a disagreement about my music. Being a black girl in South Africa is no easy task; you are prejudiced before you even get born. So yes, I have been prejudiced by my age, religion, race, gender, but I don’t pay attention to it, I don’t give it power.
How are racial tensions right now in SA?
There is still intense segregation; it’s not like when the end of Apartheid came, everyone moved into each other’s hood and sipped some tea. Everyone above the age of 25 today is still confused, as much as when the end of Apartheid was won by a landslide in 1994. There are still some who didn’t want it to end, some who are unforgiving, still living the Apartheid regime. So how do these two people ever find solace in each other’s company? Through their children I guess… the youth in South Africa, the born-free generation, is one of the brightest and interconnected generation coming up, they will help mend the generation gap caused by the scars of Apartheid.
Have you personally even been the victim of a hate crime? If so, how/why?
Yes a few times it’s regular life outchea; see I am not the pin up doll sorta bitch. I speak my mind and have my own opinions and most importantly I stick for what I believe in. Once you don’t fit into the normal mold that has been set before, you become an enemy to the status quo and open yourself to possibly become a victim of hate crime. Society questions your intentions, why should you be different when everyone else is the same. You can get hated for simple shit, for just being, in this world. Growing up, some folk in my hood hated me cause I spoke good English, I was labeled a coconut. When I grew up and wasn’t interested in playing with Barbie dolls and preferred cars, climbing trees, Gameboys, scooters, soccer, I was the Tomboy. When I sag my pants too low in Yeoville Johannesburg I almost got beat up by a bouncer who was disgusted. But the story I’ll ever forget was celebrating a friend’s birthday at a famous and very classy strip club in Cape Town – it was super early in the evening, the place was pretty much empty, we ordered a bottle of champagne, and a few dancers came to chat, we were the only ones in the place so we got some attention, even the hairstylist joined us, and I ended up talking hairstyle with them. Next thing my girls are asked to leave and pushed down the stairs by the bouncers. Some other male client probably complained. Things got really violent and out of hand. When we filed a case the next day, the video footage was gone, and cops laughed like it wasn’t the first time… I have had my fair share of abuse when it comes to this topic.. Now is a different time these thing don’t happen thanks to the shield of fame.
How have South Africans reacted to the racial incidents/police brutalities in the U.S.?
We have been following the recent turn of events in disgust and shock. It seems like we watching apartheid play out on the big screen in modern day. I was 5 when South Africa was liberated so I don’t have heavy recollection of the era. It almost even made us question our own stability. Even though South Africa has crossed that rickety bridge of color war, I hated the way America publicized it and pulled the entire world into it whilst doing nothing about it. The most powerful country in the world was turned into the weakest before my very eyes. I felt anger, why couldn’t America end this saga, and most importantly, why isn’t anyone doing anything? Where are our legends Martin Luther Kings and Mandela’s legacies? When xenophobia hit South Africa earlier this year, everyone stood up against it immediately, together.
How is the attitude of the SA police towards the black community?
Most of the police officers are black, and blacks have a empathy clause in their DNA… it must come from the years of emotional torment, we understand each other. But then there are some cops who are misogynistic and don’t take crimes towards women seriously. Many times, a woman will get raped and go to the police station only to get scoffed at. I usually feel extremely unsafe when approached by policemen, a simple situation can turn into a nightmare just because you don’t want to back down and let them abuse their power. Often cops will confront you in a rude and belittling tone, they shout at you like you are a son in their yard, they don’t truly understand what it means to enforce the law and their first motion of action at a scene, is attack.
What can you tell us about recent Xenophobic attacks in SA?
Xenophobia is a recurring problem in South Africa, It’s not the first time it hits, I feel like each time the country goes through a financial dip and jobs are scarce, foreigners are attacked in the poorer communities. I remember when I was still in high school in 2003 and there was a wave of attacks in Stanger (a rural town near Durban), locals would walk up to foreigners, point at their elbow and ask them to pronounce the Zulu name for it (elbow – indololwane ), if they pronounced it wrong (Idolo elincane) they would know that the person is foreign and would be beaten and the shop raided. The main argument they use is that the foreigners are taking their jobs, but it makes me wonder… How can someone take a job from you, when you never applied for it in the first place? It is a crime associated with poverty mainly happening in rural and poor neighborhoods, where people are uneducated.
Are the media giving these issues the attention you feel they deserve Does the SA media care about change?
Yes, everyone has spoken out, every single celebrity, sports personality, tweleb feleb, politician and every citizen has said no to xenophobia, it was a humiliating time when we were associated with such plebeian violence, it makes us really feel like we are from a third world country. The media did milk the story and started using footage and pictures that had nothing to do with what was happening in South Africa, labeling it under xenophobia. War moves money, it’s irresistible for the media to let a situation like that go without blowing it out of proportion. It lasted 2 weeks, went global, tarnished South Africa’s image, and that’s it really. The media care about change, but I’d love them to cover the “good stories” as much as the “bad ones”.
Which activists inspire you in regards to social change?
Zanele Muholi, she is a an activist for black lesbians, and goes around the world telling the untold and hidden stories, taking portraits of South African lesbians and documenting the history and evolving world of an African lesbian, I first met her when we were nominated for Glamour magazine woman of the year in 2013, She won photographer of the year and I won best styled artist of the year. We became friends and during our friendship I have seen her attend way too many funerals, and all of them are female lesbians who have been slaughtered for their sexuality. She called me from New York, distressed, saying “Toya they are killing us, I don’t want to attend another funeral of a born free, you need to write a song against hate crimes because people listen to you”. This was the inception of ‘Why Hate?’
How strongly do you feel that music can contribute to this change?
I feel very strongly about the power of music. When you have a platform such as the one I have been blessed with, you realize even more how music can change lives, you see it happen everyday, my music is cathartic, people cry at concerts, I receive endless messages in my inbox thanking me for my music. Music changed my life, if songs like “With You” or “Memoriam” were never written, I wonder where I would be today. I believe artists should care about the people in their communities and tell stories that will help uplift the community. Music has helped me and I want to spread that. What I give out for the youth counts more than the pay, it counts more than what I receive. I really want to help instill power in people’s lives.
If you had a magic wand and could make three significant changes overnight and globally, what would they be?
1) Teach people how to use fear as a tool to propel them forward rather than hold them back
2) Everyone needs to know about their inner wealth, for wealth means nothing unless it is within, help them identify their heaven sent fruits
3) Doing what you love and living a fulfilled life as a result of it is the ultimate goal in life, achieving this is bliss.
What’s in the pipeline following “Why Hate?”
My Facebook page is about to hit 400k followers, so to celebrate I will be dropping a rap track titled ZULU TURN UP featuring my homie and dope comedian Toll Ass Mo. The producers are my Durban homies Nut Scratchers. I’m firing shots at a stagnant mediocre male dominated industry. It’s time to switch up and open doors for many more femcees.
How would you like to wrap up this interview?
I really want the ‘Why Hate?’ video to show people that we can all live together. I want to show America that South Africa is the key. This video isn’t a cheesy video featuring a random list of people casted like they were going to Big Brother, to fit in with as many socio-demographics as possible. There was no casting, it features fans who wanted to be part of it and FRIENDS. It’s important, everybody involved in the video is actually a part of my real life. It’s REAL, I hang out with each and every person in this video, every day.
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