- Words Isabelle Cassidy
- Photo Credit Alfie White
Notion's One to Watch for 2022, Tora-i, talks about her sound, touring with Snoh Aalegra, and the album she's had on repeat all year.
Striving for perfection in all that she does, Tora-i has her eye on the prize. This year, that prize entails further soulful singles to follow up the success of last year’s “Serial” and “PBFF’.
East London born-and-raised, Tora-i discovered her love for music aged 16. Four years later, her debut project ‘Cavelier’ was born, a mission-statement of the soul RnB to come. Still only 22, her latest single ‘Lounging’ is full of the atmospheric magic we’ve come to expect from the artist. Cutting her teeth playing live shows, she toured with Snoh Aalegra last year and currently on tour with Omar Apollo. She’s also set for festival appearances including All Points East this summer.
With big things on the horizon, Tora i’s new track ‘Lounging’ has dropped complete with intimate visuals that track the lyrical heartbreak. If the success of her debut EP, accumulating 12 million streams, is anything to go by, she really is one to watch. Find out about her influences, songwriting process, and hopes for 2022. Dive in!
Thank you for including me! Year has started well, I cannot complain. It’s the year of the tiger and that’s what my name translates to in Japanese – and my favourite number is 22 – soooo it’s feeling steady.
Let’s start by talking about your influences – you’ve cited a range, from Destiny’s Child to Mariah Carey. They seem to have set you up perfectly for strong RnB roots – what is your relationship with those artists now and how do you feel they’ve shaped your musical growth?
I still look to them for inspiration when it comes to vocal ability, agility and arrangement. I don’t make RnB so I wouldn’t say there’s a direct link between my music and theirs’ but they certainly laid the foundation.
With these inspirations in mind, how would you describe your current sound?
It’s derived from soul music, I prefer to just play it and let you take what you feel out of it rather than assigning it to a certain name.
You’ve been writing since a young age – first getting published at just 16. What is your lyrical process when songwriting – do you start with lyrics or melody, or does it vary by track?
I’d say it changes dependent on the song, often just following the feeling than a strategy.
My best songs have come from an urgency to speak on whatever is weighing on my head at the time so as a cathartic process but generally on a day to day, I like writing on the train. There’s something about creating while moving that gets all the cogs going…
Using the video for “Call Your Name” as a discussion point – it includes a range of musical and historical references from Black British culture. How do you feel your cultural identity and heritage is intrinsic to the music you create and is it important to you to be able to make wider statements with your music?
Whether it’s a full video or specific references or even certain phrases that are used in my art, it’s a part of who I am and my lived experience so it’s gonna come out in whatever form.
“Lounging” is more conversational than any other song I’ve released so far, as I wanted it to feel like a real exchange between partners. The main takeaway I’d hope for you to leave with is to make choices out of love rather than ego/ fear.
Those were my first shows in years so it was a special moment. Definitely thrown in the deep end but it was definitely what I needed. It was just refreshing to do something physical after so long.
An album that I’ve had on repeat for the year has been ‘Heaux Tales (Deluxe)’ by Jazmine Sullivan. I love albums that take you on a journey and in these super intimate stories there’s a little bit of all of us in there.
I’d say “Serial” is a good place to start, it marries my love for electronic sounds and live instruments well so you can understand my sound.