Joya Mooi wants to bring substance to her sounds

Living in Amsterdam but heart is in SA

04 November 2022 - 07:00
By Masego Seemela
Singer Joya Mooi speaks about how her South African roots influence her music.
Image: Supplied. Singer Joya Mooi speaks about how her South African roots influence her music.

Singer Joya Mooi wants her music to reflect a deeper and holistic connection to her identity and SA roots.

The jazz singer-songwriter was born and raised in Amsterdam after her father went into exile during the apartheid era.

He was from Mofolo Central, Soweto, and her mother is Dutch.

Her parents met in Angola while her dad was in exile but she has had issues of belonging and music became her escapism.

Mooi's fourth studio album, What’s Around The Corner, is a blissful display of modern-day R&B that explores various societal patterns, reflection, identity and spirituality.

“I became a singer mostly because of the jazz influence I was exposed to as a child. My father played the trumpet, my mother and sisters sang a lot, and because I was always around music, I knew it would be what I’d grow up to do,” says the 31-year-old.

“At the beginning when I wanted to play my own music, I chose the saxophone as my instrument because I was too shy to sing … only later I garnered enough confidence to use my vocals.

“I then started taking vocal lessons at the age of 14 to hone my singing and musical composition skills.”  

Mooi then went on to record her first project at the age of 19, and now 12 years later in the music industry, the singer has got enough experience to share her passion and gift of music. She dubs her sound as alternative R&B.

Image: Supplied.

“I usually gravitate towards those genres to craft my sound. What I’ve noticed with music these days is that musicians are blending all these sounds, which is sort of futuristic,” she explained .

“My father was the first person to influence the way I listen and view music because of his love for South African and American jazz. However, my biggest musical influences are American singers Janet Jackson and Jazmine Sullivan as well as Nigerian singer Tems … I love the way they have mastered the art of singing.”   

With some of her family members still living in Soweto, Mooi from time to time visits them and shares traditional meals which makes her “feel at home with every bite”.

“I love spending time with my family, eating morogo (spinach) and traditional home meals. I enjoy being in SA because I get to see people who look like me, who are vibrant and full of life,” she says.

“I also enjoy living in the Netherlands but people here keep more to themselves which is completely different from my experience of SA.”

As part of a country she grew up to love, Mooi adds that an additional responsibility is to include social injustices and political issues in her music.

“It is embedded in me to be political and to bring awareness to certain issues affecting our people like racial injustice and inequalities. I like to address things that matter to me because there’s a lot of superficial music and I hope with my music I can help balance it and bring enough substance,” says Mooi.