Up Next with Tora-i

As we wait for the drop of her latest EP, what else?, the London-born artist takes stock of her music career so far for Re-Edition’s music column

Looking for the soundtrack for your next adventure? Be wary of the algorithm and let yourself be guided by the entrancing vibrations of Up Next – Re-Edition’s long-awaited music column – where arts and culture writer Gilda Bruno sits down with some of the most inspiring names on the up-and-coming and established music scene to delve into the inspirations, sounds and dreams of a new avant-garde of musical talents.

Today Bruno speaks with British mercurial artist Tora-i to explore her multidimensional approach to music and dive into the story behind her newest project, what else?, which is set to land later this year.

Listening to Tora-i’s soulful, atmospheric music explorations feels like dreaming with your eyes wide open. As one of the leading rising artists of her generation, the East London born-and-raised talent isn’t afraid to constantly challenge people’s conception of her work, instead chasing every opportunity to engage her following across a variety of contrasting – yet equally hypnotising – tunes.

Having kicked off her creative journey with Vein (2020), her debut single, the British alternative musician has rapidly grown to become one of the most enigmatic, fascinating personalities on the emerging music scene.

Her skyrocketing success is confirmed by the over 15m streams amassed on Spotify alone by her first EP, Cavalier(2020), her touring experience supporting trailblazing artists Snoh Alegra and Omar Apollo, and her chameleonic ability to reinvent herself through both music and fashion: yet another one of her vehicles for self-expression.

With R&B cult figures such as Destiny’s Child and Mariah Carey as her early inspirations, over the years, Tora-i went on to hone an approach to music which is grounded in and evocative of the feeling of a moment. Transcending labels of all sorts and built around a combination of electronic experimentation and raw instrumentals, her latest project, what else?, is expected to inaugurate a new chapter of her artistic journey.

We talk to her about what music means to her, finding inspiration in everyday experiences, and the “evolution” represented by her soon-to-release EP, what else?

Re-Edition Magazine: When exactly, and how, did music come into the frame for you, and what led you to it? How did music allow you to tap into other aspects of life that are relevant to you, including your Jamaican-Ghanaian ancestry?

Tora-i: My love for music started at home: music video channels being a habitual understanding, radio a constant background noise and the towering CD rack a fundamental part of my furniture. At the beginning, music was something that kept me busy as a child and opened me up to different interests. As years went by, singing was the only thing that always felt right and I just followed it through.

RE: Think of the way your music has evolved since you first started playing around with it and even more so since the release of your first single, Vein (2020), and EP, Cavalier (2020). What drives your musical experimentation today and what is the vision behind it? Where does your desire to experiment with multiple genres stem from?

T: All we are is our experiences. My heritage, race, gender and sexuality inform those and shape the way in which I see the world. I guess my music is a reaction to what I have seen and been through. I listen to a range of music, and naturally, I am inspired by the things I consume regularly. However, it is probably less about actively wanting to try different genres at once and more about striving to evoke certain emotions through them. Cavalier and all the releases that have followed it are all varied sounds, there are no expectations of what I am “supposed” to release.

RE: The first single of your upcoming project, what else?, has just dropped. Titled Palace, the track blends ethereal R&B vocals with the contagious rhythm of percussions and jazzy keys. What is the story behind this song? Can you walk us through the process that led to it?

T: Palace was one of the last songs written on the project but probably also the easiest to write. As it was made nearing the end of a three-something-weeks solo trip to LA, that discipline of writing everyday and having that time alone inspired the return of self, which is what the song is about. After the tour, I knew I wanted a bouncier song, something lighter in subject. Singing the same songs night after night reaffirmed the power of the tongue. I know it is quintessentially British to be self-deprecating and moany, but I promise I am not like that everyday.

Tora-i by Jesse Crankson

RE: To what extent is this specific track emblematic of what we can expect from what else? What insights can you share into this upcoming project of yours?

T: Most of my songs are stand alone stylistically, so Palace doesn’t sound like anything else on the project. what else? is about choices and taking the next step so in both ways, it is a step forward, an evolution.

RE: In recent years, more and more music artists have lent their talent to other creative realms. Whether music, fashion, cinema or art-related, what would be your dream collaboration?

T: I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to write with James Blake.

RE: What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2023? What can we expect from you in the future?

T: All I can say is, “you’re not a tree, you can move!”

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