Joya Mooi

Amsterdam-based artist Joya Mooi speaks with intent and cements herself as an enthralling artist with her new album, What’s Around The Corner.

The 15-track LP is a uniquely distinctive project that traverses soul, alternative R&B, trap, and ethereal soundscapes. It’s a project that sees Mooi explore themes of patterns, reflection, identity and spirituality whilst also delving into the theory of social change on both a political and personal level. Undoubtedly, What’s Around The Corner is a project that Joya Mooi could only have made at this point in time and acts as a culmination of everything that came before. The artist grew up in a family of jazz lovers and musicians; her dual heritage ties to both the Netherlands and South Africa and has often led the creative to feel lost when it came to her own selfhood. Yet one constant form of solace throughout her life so far has been music. Following in the footsteps of her parents, Joya Mooi took up music and first learned the saxophone before pursuing classical training. Although jazz was mainly played in the household, the vocalist developed a taste for R&B, hip-hop and pop music. After launching her music career in the early 2010s, the artist has worked hard to hone her craft and developed her ideals through a handful of well-received tracks and EPs. It’s all ultimately led to this release, What’s Around The Corner, a project that Mooi hopes gives an insight into the experiences of a new generation from the African diaspora whilst also helping spark change for the better.

1883 Magazine sat down with Joya Mooi to discuss the album, a common misconception about Amsterdam, and what she’s manifesting in 2023.

 

 

Joya, your new album What’s Around The Corner is out now. As a whole, the LP explores themes of patterns, reflection, identity and spirituality but it’s split into two parts. Side A is inspired by escapism and seeking clarity and Side B is inspired by bringing resolution to end certain cycles. At the beginning of the writing/recording process for the project, did you always intend to focus on these subjects? And what are you most proud about the record?

I began writing for this project a little bit frustrated really. I was frustrated about the state of the world and some of the barriers I was feeling. I love making music but I had the feeling that at times what I’m voicing on tracks – people don’t seem to hear. So once I started, my intention was to write more bluntly about my views on life and social matters. And not long after I came across a theory, the social cycle theory, which argues that historical events and the different stages of society generally go through recurring cycles. And in a way that resonated with me – not only on a societal level but personally as well. So for the album, I wanted to change my routine for recording, mixing and I started composing with band members as well. I’m super proud of the process of making this record, it did take a lot of head space but it was definitely worth it. 

 

It’s quite interesting that Side A of the album was released in September 2022 before the full version was released this January. What was the reason behind this move? And as a creative, do you feel traditional album launches are becoming somewhat outdated?

In the last phase of recording, when writing No Beginning, the idea of releasing two sides of the album just crossed my mind because that track is really about craving a new beginning but having a whole lot of baggage haha. So for this project, it was the best way to present two sides of my journey. Navigating different themes and emotions on two sides – but  even though there are two sides, it feels like the story really comes together with the first and last track. I don’t feel that traditional albums have become outdated at all, I think the main thing is that you want to create something that caters to the story you want to tell. If that’s either in a film or with a physical release – whatever uplifts your expression, matters most. 

 

From the title’s font to your surroundings in the photo, the album’s artwork is stunning. Can you tell us about the shoot and the reason why you went in this direction?

Thank you! We’ve tried three ideas for the artwork but this one was definitely our favourite. The artwork (and other single covers) were shot in Barcelona by Marina Coenen and I feel that this photograph really represents the themes of the album. Being aware of the present and past, moving between both sides… I’m so happy with the outcome of this shot.

 

You mentioned in a previous interview that your transnational heritage led you to feel lost identity-wise. Do you now feel like you’ve found yourself? 

I think identity is very fluid and complex. But the space between being a teenager and being in my twenties has more form. That was a period where I struggled the most with my continued seek of freedom, while still wanting to cater to the convictions of my family in South Africa and the Netherlands at a time when I was still learning to use my voice because i wasn’t brought up in a household where people would express their vulnerabilities or feelings. So it took me some time to become myself. Music played a huge role in accessing different parts of my identity. Over the years I think I’ve gotten a better idea of who I am in life, in crisis and who am in love. 

 

As someone that is based in Amsterdam, what is one common public misconception about the city that you would like to demystify for 1883?

Probably the biggest misconception is that Amsterdam is based in the Netherlands, where smoking weed is legal. Yet selling or producing weed in the Netherlands is still illegal – strangely enough- but it’s decriminalised for personal use. I think people have this idea of the Netherlands/Amsterdam being quite open minded and free but I can attest that it isn’t primarily the case, since the last decade, the majority of the people voted for liberal/right and conservative political parties.

 

What’s Around the Corner was produced by Sim Fane, SIROJ, Blazehoven, and yourself. Was this your first foray into producing? And how did each producer help enrich your artistic vision for the album?

This is the first time indeed that I’ve released a song that is solely produced by myself, the interlude, Little Lies. It’s bold, theatrical and i love it so much. I had shared it with SIROJ because my initial idea was to work on the arrangement together but he really convinced me that it was already perfect in the way it was created. He was so essential in this process, bringing a perfect balance between instruments and electronic production and eventually editing the album I just love working with Sim Fane and Blazehoven because their productions evoke a lot of emotions in me. It was truly amazing combining their works with the music of my band members. 

 

Jazz music has been such an integral part of your life so far thanks to your musical family and your classical training. What is the earliest memory you can recall that is linked to the art form?

I think my earliest memory is being woken up by my father playing the trumpet. As my parents love jazz music, I later started playing saxophone myself. Music from Dizzy Gillespie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Nina Simone, among others, were solely played in our living room. Of course, once my siblings and I got older, we listened to R&B, hip-hop and pop music – which my parents tolerated a bit!

 

Finally, there must have been so many career highlights for yourself in 2022, the Spotify billboard in Times Square must have been one of them! So what are you manifesting for this year?

I’m manifesting good health, good vibes and being present whilst being ambitious. I’m so eager to perform the songs from the album live in South Africa which is going to happen! I’m also looking forward to creating intimate performances for my new music, which I’m working on with artist Boris Acket who specialises in combining light and music with movement in installations.

 

What’s Around The Corner is out now. Follow Joya Mooi @joyamooi

Interview by Cameron Poole

Photography by Ines Vansteenkiste-Muylle

 

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