East London’s Tora-i has proven that despite the overbearing weight of lockdown and restrictions, an artist breakthrough is possible.
Pinpointing the moments that manifested her passion for music, the singer song-writer recalls herself in “the car, really passionately singing to grown people songs like Mary J Blige or Mariah Carey. I was young, definitely in primary school but I was really feeling everything like I’d been through it at my small age.” This sentiment remains ingrained in Tora-i’s soulful vocals that elegantly carry an array of emotions, drawing a strong influence from Frank Ocean and BANKS.
As the now-21 year old embarked on her journey of adolescence, her musical inclination both oversaw and followed where by 16, Tora-i started attending studio sessions. “In that period I was figuring out what kind of artist I was and what I wanted to say. I was 16, I wasn’t sure of everything and I’m probably still not 100% sure of everything now.”
2020’s debut EP ‘Cavalier’ is a result of years spent mastering Tora-i’s artistry, experimenting with different styles and musical processes. Working closely alongside producer Courage, she explains how prefers “working with producers consistently so I can really build a proper relationship with them and you’ll be able to hear it through the music.” Struggling to box herself into one genre, the multi-dimensional singer pushes limits with tracks like ‘Vein’ that lends itself to a Jungle rhythm, haunted by a dark R&B quality that runs throughout the EP. For Tora-i, remaining authentic to herself involved identifying how “as a person, you’re not just one dimensional, so with my music I wanted to be able to show that there are so many different sides of me.”
Tora-i’s poetic lyricism shines bright on the highly-praised single ‘Call Your Name’, which illustrates the struggle of “people that are taken advantage of and usually doing the most for society but they are ridiculed or not taken seriously.” She took charge of the video’s concept, adding: “I wanted the video to talk about Black Britishness because I think generally, when we talk about Blackness, it’s usually centred around America.”
The future for Tora-i holds an opportunity to build a tangible relationship with her listeners, which up til this point has inevitably felt distanced, metaphorically and literally. “I just want to grow as an artist. I want to reach more people.”
FACT: Tora-i is pronounced “Tora-eye” – the additional letter separates her from an unrelated Australian band, who have a similar name.
What: Thought-provoking, experimental, R&B singer-songwriter
3 Songs: ‘Call Your Name’, ‘Vein’, ‘Pisonia Prologue’
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Words: Ana Lamond
Fashion: Zarina Shukri
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
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