By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information
We met a number of very talented musicians and vocalists on the recent “Timeless Tour” of Tony Toni Tone to Ghana, West Africa, in late July of ‘21. The main destination of the tour was Panafest, a Pan African festival spanning approximately two weeks, in different cities around the country; displaying the intellect, politics, art, and culture of the international Black world. “The Timeless” entourage consisted of Tony Toni Tone and KeidraOnStage from the U.S., as well as Ghanaian artists: HipLife Afrobeat lyrical monster Yaa Pono, the West African phenomenal producer Mix Master Garzy, and the band that he leads, and the young Afro Beat lioness Chayuta.
At 17 years old, Chayuta’s music is a mix between the Pop sound of Rihanna with the smooth sultry voice of Amel Larrieux, but on a conscious tip. She opened up both Panafest concerts that Tony Toni Tone headlined, one in Accra and one in Cape Coast; with her original songs that would be considered Neo-Soul here, but is called Afro-Pop or Afro Beat there. I wanted to sit down with the very gifted Chayuta, to expose the Bay Area, as well as the U.S., to this musical prodigy.
JR Valrey: Who or what inspired you to become a singer? And what made you take music seriously?
Chayuta: Music has always played an important role in my life. My family loves music, and although no one in my family is a singer or artist, I was always surrounded by music. My mom is a music lover, and was and is always playing music around the house and in the car.
We moved to Ghana from South Africa in 2013, and when I started schooling in primary 4 (4th grade), I was 9 years old at that time. My music teacher who was also a music lecturer at the University of Ghana told my mom and I that he believed that I had an exceptional singing talent, which he felt we shouldn’t ignore. He convinced my mom to enroll me into the ABRSM program, from the Royal School of Music, in London. This is a classical music course. When my mom saw that I really liked singing, and was taking my vocal lessons very seriously, she told me that if I really wanted to pursue a singing career, she would do her best to make sure that I would succeed. I have never looked back since. I did the ABRSM program for 4 years, but after that I wanted to do more contemporary music, and write my own songs, so I decided not to continue with classical music, and started recording my own music.
To be honest, I can’t see myself doing anything else but music, so I take it very seriously. I attend vocal training sessions twice a week. I take good care of my body, and don’t do anything to put my voice at risk.
JR Valrey: What is the story behind how you, and one of West Africa’s biggest producers, Mix Master Garzy hooked up?
Chayuta: I met Mix Master Garzy in May, 2020. At that time, I was working with a photography and blogging team, and they were doing a shoot for Garzy. He was doing a live studio session with some of the biggest artists in Ghana, at that time and although I wasn’t part of the session, the photographers asked me to go with them just to see how Garzy works. When he heard that I am a young vocalist, he asked if I would like to sing one of my songs; and from the moment he heard the first note, he just loved my voice. He said he would like to work with me, and help me push my music career. He then promised to come by my studio one day, which he did about a month later, and since then we have been working together. I think what a lot of people don’t know about Garzy is that he is very keen on helping young upcoming artists.
JR Valrey: Why do you have a live band? What is unique about live instrumentation?
Chayuta: I started as a performer, even before I started recording my own music. My vocal coach, Coach Freeman, believes that every artist should be able to perform their recorded songs for a live audience, and that artists should be able to interpret their music and adapt to their audience. It is a beautiful thing to be able to always deliver different renditions of your own music, and to surprise your audience. It is also the best way to interact with the audience, with a live band. Because if the audience is ready and responsive, the band and I can just jam and include the crowd in my performance. That’s why I always perform with a live band, if the opportunity is there. I think a performance with a band will always wow my audience, and they will appreciate the fact that I put in the extra effort for them, and we come out with something special.
JR Valrey: How would you describe your music?
Chayuta: I am a very versatile artist. Because of the extensive vocal training I go through, I can sing any genre but I would describe my music as Afro Pop. I fuse western Pop music with elements of Afro Beats to create a unique style, which appeals to fans across the globe. Eventually I hope I can create a new sound with Pop, contemporary R&B and Afro Beats.
JR Valrey: With you being a teenager from Accra, where do you see the future of Afro-beat going in the next 5 years? Where is the sound going?
Chayuta: I think Afro Beats has a bright future. Being a Ghanaian and an African, I am very excited to see Afro Beats making waves across the globe, and to see non-African artists jumping on the trend and collaborating with African artists. It makes me very proud to see my friends in Europe, and in the US, dancing in clubs to Afro Beats. To see Afro Beat artists filling venues in Europe and the US, and performing for an international crowd, makes me strongly believe that Afro Beats will continue to break boundaries and very soon, even in less than 5 years, it will be a globally recognized music genre on its own.
JR Valrey: How did you feel about performing at Panafest this year, opening up for Tony Toni Tone?
Chayuta: Performing at Panafest was really a dream come true. As a young artist who only started releasing songs professionally about a year ago, it was such an honor to be part of such a big event. It was also a nice experience performing for a diverse crowd with a lot of members from the diaspora, watching me sing. Sharing the stage with Tony Toni Tone was just the icing on the cake. I was so blown away when I met them, and to have D’Wayne Wiggins introduce me on stage was a highlight for me. Seeing Tony Toni Tone perform all their timeless hits was a very emotional and proud moment for me.
JR Valrey: How did you meet Tony Toni Tone?
Chayuta: I met D’Wayne Wiggins, in February, of this year. He came to my studio, in East Legon, to record a live interview. I honestly could not believe it that day when they told me who was in the studio. I was actually shy when they asked me to come and greet him, but when I did he was so nice and supportive. He asked me about my music, and when he heard one of my songs, “Gimme Love”, he said he would love to do an acoustic version of it. Unfortunately, that evening we couldn’t work on the song because I was writing an exam the next morning. But the next day, on his way to the airport to catch a flight back to the US, he stopped by, and we recorded the acoustic version. It was such a surreal moment for me, to be sitting there and singing with a legend who has worked with so many other successful artists. Then in July, he came back to Ghana with the other members of Tony Tony Tone and I got to meet and rehearse with them and ultimately, I opened for them at Panafest.
JR Valrey: What was it like for you to have Tony Toni Tone rehearsing in your studio?
Chayuta: Because I have my own recording and rehearsal studio, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of artists but Tony Toni Tone’s rehearsal session at my studio was on a totally different level. I was just in the studio watching them, and I was completely blown away. Also the way they were interacting with my band and teaching them how to play the R&B chords, was just so inspiring. I learned a lot in those 2 days in the studio with them, and it’s definitely an experience I will cherish forever.
JR Varey: Do you have any music out? Where can people hear more from you online?
Chayuta: I started releasing music professionally last year. My first song, “Solo”, was released in August, 2020. And I released my EP “17” on the 11th of June. The EP and all my other releases are available on all streaming platforms. My fans can also connect with me on social media.
Youtube: Chayuta Music