Joya Mooi is a hidden gem. The Amsterdam-based singer has influences of jazz, hip-hop, and R&B that peek through her beautiful tunes. She previously released albums ‘Hard Melk’ (2010), ‘Crystal Growth’ (2013) and EP ‘The Waiting Room’ (2017). Now she’s back with a new album – ‘The Ease of Others’. ‘The Ease of Others’ is an introspective soundtrack that tells a story. I had the opportunity to talk to Joya about the new album, her family, and much more. Additionally, Joya’s latest music video for her song ‘Been Here’ will be premiering at the end of this article. ‘Been Here’ is a dreamy song with vintage-inspired visuals. Read all the way through to see the video!
Mia Vittimberga: You recently released your new album. How does that feel?
Joya Mooi: It stills very much surreal. I’m not so keen on sharing my work with the people around me, especially when I’m still working on something. But my relationship with my family plays a huge part in it, so now I have to send it to my entire family. But during the process of making it, I didn’t share a single bit. So now that I’m back in Amsterdam, it makes it even more special now that they can tune into it.
What’s the story behind your album title, ‘The Ease of Others’?
It’s about the longing to belong. About how power structures work within the continent in relation to the people from the diaspora, and how that affects personal stories. I feel South African and Dutch, and on this album, I wanted to freely share the process of my search for roots and identity.
Can you describe your album in three words?
Honest, hopeful and soothing.
Your father is a political exile from South Africa. What impact did that have on you?
It was complex growing up in the Netherlands after my parent’s exile. I used to wonder a lot about what my life would look like if my parents stayed in Angola or returned to South Africa during my childhood.
What’s your family like?
It depends on who you talk to, haha. But my close family members are very nonjudgemental and empathic people. Even though we are most active in different fields, I think we are very much alike in how we treat others in life.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about working in music?
I love that I can create space for myself in the current music scene – I don’t have to conform because I release my own work. And the fact that I can own my masters is especially powerful since I’m a woman of color, based in the Netherlands with listeners all over the world. But working independently in music also means marketing my own music to an audience that’s used to seeing artists with specific aesthetics. Specifically in the Netherlands, it’s still difficult to get around the amount of power that major labels have.
What is the most beautiful memory that’s happened to you in the past few weeks?
Before I finished recording my album almost two months ago, my social life was basically nonexistent. Recently I spent an entire day with some close friends and had a laughing attack I’m still feeding off of.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
If I had to choose it would be Santo Antão, an island of Cape Verde and the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. But I could be happy anywhere with some time off and a ray of sun piercing my hair.
What is a place you want to visit someday?
Bali, Indonesia. A good friend of mine relocated there some time ago. I’d love to see her in her new home, so I can’t wait to visit there soon.
Your album tells a story – speaking of stories, what’s the last book you read for pleasure?
The last book I read was Sisonke Msimang’s ‘Always Another Country’. I often read and get inspired by the way a writer tells a story. So when I read, I do make notes for my own work.
What’s the last movie you watched?
Black Girl (1966), by French Senegalese writer and film director Ousmane Sembène. I highly recommend watching it, still very much relevant.
What’s the last song you listened to?
‘Haunted Water’ by Spellling.
What was the production process of ‘The Ease of Others’ like?
Last year, when I had some time off in South Africa, I had thoughts about creating this album. Once I got back, I hit up two producers that I’d never worked with before but really fit the trappy approach I was going for. Once the base for the music was put together, I got my band involved. So it was a very organic process. Normally I work either in the studio with electronic sounds or with my band. Now my two worlds happily collided together.
How did you celebrate the completion of your album?
I ate a chocolate cake with great icing. I have a huge sweet tooth!
Are you working on anything right now?
Always! I can’t really sit still, so I’m again creating a lot of new things. Music that either didn’t fit with my last project or just new sounds and stories I want to explore.
Do you have any long-term plans for the future?
Of course, always. It would be cool the have more time for creating – especially for the recording process. So I’m working out a few ideas to make that possible.
If you could tell your sixteen-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
To not be afraid of failure. I studied music, danced, and did all sorts of things when I was sixteen. When a project or an audition didn’t work out as planned, it felt like the end of the world. Now I know that I can’t succeed in everything and that I can share cool opportunities with other talented people if I know it’s not meant for me.
Check out the exclusive premiere of Joya Mooi’s ‘Been Here’ music video down below.
Featured Image by courtesy of Joya Mooi Press