Today we are talking with Just-Aya, a profound isiXhosa lyricist and musician, an active ambassador for Bedroom studio producers in the Eastern Cape, rapping fluently in both English and IsiXhosa, live hype stage presence when performing, producing his own instrumentals, and developing his own unique hip hop sound. Read about his experience with Imibala Arts Festival and Creative Lab!
Just-Aya: Hats off to Pachamama and the Imibala team for putting together one of the best spaces for talent I have been to in 2019! The Creative Lab was very therapeutic and I enjoyed the clips from the international speakers while learning how other creatives have different backgrounds but overall the visions are aligned, in those few hours that we spent together. I met a lot of interesting personalities and each artist I had a brief chat with left me wishing we had a studio in one of the rooms there where we could just go in and chop some loops of Eva’s nyunga-nyunga mbira. I can already imagine Njabs on that production with Sam on the keys and catchy hooks, Lutho and Thando definitely in there somewhere before the track switches up tempo to let Ola and the rest of the Imibalian gang hop in. I am looking forward to seeing how the festival grows. I think there is a need for Creative Labs in every art discipline so others can also engage and network with their peers.
Just-Aya in his songs makes confessions about major life events of all nature and what is interesting, he raps both in English and IsiXhosa. What is the biggest inspiration for his lyrics? Is it easier for him to deliver the message in IsiXhosa?
Just-Aya: The beauty of language and spoken word is the biggest inspiration for my lyrics. I rap about my life because it’s all I have and I truly appreciate how my story resonates with the next person when I perform any of my songs. I still find IsiXhosa quite challenging because it’s complex, deep, and it can’t be interpreted directly into any other language. Rapping in English is easy, maybe that’s why everyone is doing it. Most African languages are great for freely expressing yourself and if one appreciates heartfelt figures of speech like me you’d definitely know IsiXhosa will do justice with the message you want to get across to the listener.
Just-Aya has no formal music education and learnt everything himself, which is very impressive. Does learning only with own experiences and experiments give more freedom and courage?
Just-Aya: Man where do I even begin? I can’t say how it began but there definitely was a feeling that triggered it, could be the first poem I wrote for my primary school English class Oral or maybe a few years later in our old High School playground with a group of mates when all we had was a dream of making our mark and the passion to keep going at it, no matter what. I would always be in search of something I can challenge myself with and learn how to do it very well. Learning in my own space (home studio) and not wanting to be like anyone else gave me the courage to continue learning. At Imibala, I had people who never spoke IsiXhosa before chanting along to the lyrics of my chorus when that beat dropped! You see that, right there, is why I enjoy telling my unique story and experimenting with what I have at my disposal.
Just-Aya is also involved in an arts program in East London for the Duncan Village Community Arts Centre. What are his workshops about? Who can take part in this program?
Just-Aya:Oh yes of course, the Duncan Village Experience is still one of the few projects I am planning on keeping alive for a very long time. We aim to help artists understand the fundamentals of working independently by running 3 workshops that focus on Personal Branding for artists, organisations that artists can benefit from and reap all the rewards of being independent and at the moment it’s localized to Duncan Village, anyone from the township can take part in the auditions. We hosted one “DV Experience” unfortunately 2020 got badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s talk about plans for future now!
Just-Aya:If I told you half the things i’m working on you wouldn’t believe me but maybe let me share the exciting ones you may be seeing soon. I am celebrating 10 years of my striving creative career on my birthday in December this year with a house party that will have a fans-only invitation, where I will be showcasing all the projects I’ve worked on since I embarked on this journey to the forefront of Eastern Cape’s Performing Arts community. I am also currently working on a documentary which will be premiered on the night.
During this pandemic I became a Digital Volunteer to Combat COVID-19 Africa and in May 2020 I initiated a Digital Culture project on the platform that is aimed at using Art Therapy as a way to fight anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that people may be dealing with as a result of the challenges brought by the spread of COVID-19 called Afrikan Create.
There’s lots more to, my day job also has me going in and out of numerous virtual meetings every day with people who are keen on exploring opportunities for us to collaborate on various initiatives and other social impact projects that will help people become self-sustainable entities in the near future.