Holly Rey revives Mabrrr spirit with her Sama

07 June 2019 - 08:38
By Emmanuel Tjiya

House chanteuse Holly Rey emerged as the underdog to clinch the public-voted Record of the Year at the SA Music Awards (Samas) last Saturday.

She made history with her song Deeper, by becoming the first woman in 20 years to scoop the highly sought-after honour. The last female to win the award was Brenda Fassie with Vulindlela in 1999 when it was still referred to as Song of the Year.

Real name Holly Wasserfall, reveals that Mabrrr has always been her spirit animal.

Her sassy sense of swagger makes her this generation's PJ Powers with a mix of Claire Johnston and Tamara Dey.

"My entire life I've lived like a Brenda Fassie," she confesses to Time Out. "I know all the lyrics to Vulindlela. It's one of my favourite South African songs. To be mentioned in the same bracket as her is an absolute honour."

The 23-year-old singer beat some tough competition, including AKA's hip-hop banger Fela in Versace, Dladla Mshunqisi's gqom smash Pakisha and Vusi Nova's anthemic As'phelelanga.

Holly was not even sitting in the VIP area where all the nominees were stationed on the night when her surprise win was presented by Skwatta Kamp. "When my name was called out I just sat still and my manager had to say to me 'you just won'," she says.

"I'm still in shock and taking it in. I'm just feeling blessed and grateful to my fans for giving me this award.

"I was not expecting it at all because there were so many amazing artists. But I had campaigned a lot and my fans came through."

The songbird released Deeper, produced by Mondli Ngcobo, last May. Never in her wildest dreams did she envision it would turn into such a hit.

"When we came into the studio we kind of had a rough idea for the music. Originally the 'eh eh eh eh' was just like a melody we came with, but we couldn't find words for it.

"So we decided to leave it as it was because it was quite catchy. It stuck and we made a good choice.

"I didn't think it was going to be a [hit] single, just because gqom is so big in Durban where I'm from. I thought it was too chilled."

Born in Westville, Holly signed her first record deal at 14. After playing around with different music genres she settled on house at 16.

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She recalls chilling at shisanyamas from as young as 14, which is when her love for house music was rooted.

"I probably should not have been there, but I was working with musicians and band members. Everyone was doing that on a Sunday. I really wanted to fit in," she says.

"I was like the youngest girl there, but I didn't really care. I'm often the odd one out, but I just feel at home.

"I fell in love with the culture of house music in South Africa which includes the fashion, dance moves and shisanyama Sundays. It's not just a genre, it's a subculture."

Her new single is titled You. She also has a song with Prince Kaybee called Yes You Do.