A Tale of Tyla’s Triumph


March 30th, 2024

Half a decade ago, Tyla burst onto the African pop scene with fun-filled energy. Now, she confidently treads the path toward global pop stardom.

On 28 January 2021, 19-year-old Tyla (born Tyla Laura Seethal) released the video to her two-year-old single Getting Late ft. Kooldrink. The video was sleek and  her aura was unmistakable. Tyla’s quality was distinct—that was evident early on. Expectations of stardom weren't lurking far off.

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Created with producer Kooldrink, “Getting Late” merged pop and the minted Amapiano genre. Tyla’s singing was like sweet honey on your ears, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of amapiano log-drums. As Tyla danced, the energy was contagious. Listeners were left with no choice but to  subconsciously surrender their bodies to the rhythm. For fans and followers of African pop music, Tyla stood as a torchbearer—a link to a tradition of powerful female artists who used the dancefloor as their canvas, painting intentional expressions with every step.

Renowned artists like Miriam Makeba embodied the essence of being South African through their music. In the 1980s and 90s, Brenda Fassie and Yvonne Chaka Chaka ruled the dancefloor, earning titles like the ‘Queen of African Pop’ and the ‘Princess of Africa.’ Lebo Mathosa, in the 2000s, achieved solo success with her gold-certified debut album ‘Dream.’ Known for her distinctive voice, energetic performances, and bold style, she left an indelible mark. Later, Busiswa, Sho Madjozi, Msaki, Moonchild Sanelly, and Elaine emerged, blending genres and elevating South African music. Like the accomplished women before her, Tyla also has ambitions to continue the legacy of South African female stars. 

And it’s on this journey of crafting her legacy that Tyla has captured the attention of global listeners.  Two years after her impressive debut, Tyla retained the same sensual melodies over compelling production, paired with exciting Bacardi dance moves, on her global hit single “Water”.

Between “Getting Late” (2019) to “Water” (2023), Tyla was recording, learning, and waiting for the right time. In the digital age of streaming, waiting can be considered career suicide as music is on demand and fast-paced. Time waits for no one, but when opportunity meets preparation, time becomes relative.

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When asked during the interview, if she was ready for the huge global success that came with “Water” or if she had to rise to the occasion for it? Tyla retorts “I think I was ready because I have worked so long on this and I have been waiting for this moment so as soon as the opportunity came, I took it and ran and used all the opportunities to show the world what I bring to the industry.”

Like many artists on the rise, Tyla began posting original songs and covers to her Instagram account, as well as sending them out to a number of figures in the music industry. It was through this process that she was discovered by her first manager, Garth von Glehn, who organised her first recording sessions.

Her last year of school at Edenglen High School, she would go to her manager’s house with her best friend, Thato and make music every weekend. The artist's development bloomed as she explored multiple genres, searching for a sound that resonated with her.

Tyla recalls, on one of weekend trips to the studio, she wanted to make an Amapiano song, “At that time, Amapiano had just started playing on the radio and it was going crazy, but there weren’t many people singing on it. So I wanted to put my own twist on it because I’ve always been influenced by pop and R&B.”

The outcome of that session would change her life’s trajectory.

Months after “Getting Late” was released. COVID-19 had set in—that meant no performances and touring. Artists across the world turned to social media to keep the fan engagement. While the world had slowed down, taken a breather, it was evident the music industry had a void that needed to be filled.

South Africa, synonymous with dancing, slowly introduced a new genre, called Amapiano**.** Mixes ended up on YouTube, led by DJs; while the world played with lower tempos, South Africa had found an outlet that allowed them to sway their bodies. When the rest of the world experimented with Instagram Live performances, South Africa had already introduced Balcony Live mixes. Every week, a new episode surfaced on YouTube.

After the lock down eased, Tyla would continue from where she stopped, starting with the release of the visuals for her single ‘Getting Late’

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With success from Getting Late'', major labels came knocking, and Tyla took her talent to Epic Records. I wondered how smooth her journey had been, going from a South African artist to being signed into Epic Records? 

She explains, "It was definitely a big jump. I can remember when I was independent doing everything on my own with my manager so now that there is a big label, I had to let something go. So there was a lot of learning and it has given me the opportunities to learn greater things.”

Tyla, recognizing the path to success involves collaboration, treats collaboration as an opportunity to refine her skills. In  Overdue alongside DJ Lag and Kooldrink, she expresses her affection for someone who seems like the perfect match. She sings “My love for you isn't something new, I dream about us being the perfеct two”.  

Her voice, set against an Amapiano-EDM fusion, is light and sweet. In the remix of To Last,” she partnered with Young Stunna and DJ Maphorisa to create an Amapiano version. And in Girl Next Door,” her vocal synergy with Nigeria's Ayra Starr is akin to a morning breeze in a garden, all set to P.Priime’s Amapiano production.

Tyla’s path to success was evident. She became part of Chris Brown’s ‘Under The Influence Tour,’ strategically positioning herself. Like a sponge, she has and still is absorbing the influences that bridged her world.

On July 28, 2023, Tyla released her now- viral single Water. An Amapiano song with elements of pop, R&B and Afropop. The hook is catchy: “Make me sweat, make me hotter, make me lose my breath, make me water…” Tyla expresses her willingness to let go of inhibitions and embrace the moment fully, wanting her partner to match her intensity and passion.
As the song grew and topped charts, audiences around the world flocked to her. It was a delight to see more rising stars represent African music globally, when asked how she felt, she responded “It’s amazing being able to do it for all of Africa and I am just happy that I am part of the generation that is leading this conversation even though it’s still a bit early but we are making so much progress and big moves”.

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Tyla’s success soared with ‘Water,’ ****leading to platinum certification, a top 10 Billboard Hot 100 ranking and spent 24 weeks on the Official Nigeria Top 100 Chart,  Peaked at No 13.

As an African artist, Tyla carries the torch lit by predecessors like Mariam Makeba, Brenda Fassie, and Angelique Kidjo. Tyla’s story will inspire the next generation. When asked about her message to the young women who look up to her? She emphasizes, “I come from South Africa, a place that is not really easy to make it as an artist but It happened for me so I just want people to know that it can happen even if there is no example for what you wanna do and there is no one who has done it before, it can happen and you can be the first.”

At this year’s Grammys, the track Water stood tall among contenders like Rush,” “City Boys,”Unavailable,” and “Amapiano”. Tyla’s elation was palpable as she accepted the coveted Grammy for Best African Music Performance, making history at just 22 years old.

When questioned about her emotions regarding the Grammy Award, from the initial nomination to ultimately securing the Best Performance accolade, she expressed sheer amazement. It was amazing, as soon as I heard the category being introduced I was already like wow because this is a huge step for us and I was like bring it home first.”. 

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In light of her global success, Tyla said she’d always intended to release the album. However, Water prompted her to invest more time in creating additional music for the album. She carefully packaged it, considering both the success of ‘Water’ and the overall timing. Ultimately, her commitment to delivering a comprehensive album experience led her to delay the release slightly.

As the stars align for Tyla and her team, she recently graced her first fashion campaign for Gap. The campaign showcased a playful, vibrant Tyla.

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When asked about her approach to music since achieving global stardom, she confidently replied, “I wouldn’t wanna release any song that I wouldn’t listen to and this my album is filled with music that I love and I listen to but obviously making music that my supporters can relate to and end enjoy as well. It is about making music that I would have listened to growing up.”

African music albums have evolved, emphasising the importance of thematic consistency and seamless flow. A lasting impression goes beyond individual tracks. Tyla’s strategic positioning had been subtle, from hosting a release video party during Grammy’s week to the attention-grabbing album announcement video that sparked interest on social media outlets. Despite the excitement, her debut world tour—the TYLA Tour—had to be called off due to an ongoing injury.

Last week, Tyla released the tracklist to her debut album and once more sparked excitement.

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Six artists—‘Tems,’ ‘Kevin Momo,’ ‘Gunna,’ ‘Skillibeng,’ ‘Becky G,’ and ‘Travis Scott’—were featured in collaborations. When asked about the inspiration behind selecting these artists, what motivated their choices? She explained “So going into the making of the album, I didn’t really have it in mind, like collaborating with people but along the journey making the album, the features came easily. For Becky G, she was in the studio next door when we ended up working together, she sent me a text message a day or two before I had to submit the album and I liked it so we made it work and I put it in last.  With Gunna, I made a junk which had a very different vibe in silent walls, so I thought they would bring it to the world I was tapping into, so everything happened organically and I have been talking to these people for a while so this was a chance to work together with them.”

Tyla’s debut album seamlessly blends pop-R&B with Amapiano beats, delving into themes of attraction, self-worth, empowerment, and moving on. Her intimate vocals, reminiscent of a young Rihanna (whom she cited as an influence while growing up), convey a cool yet committed demeanour. Self-expression serves as the ethos of the album.

Notably, Tyla’s collaborations with artists like Tems and Becky G add depth to her musical journey.

Despite achieving mainstream success, Tyla remains anchored in her unique sound, positioning herself as a promising young talent.

Tyla spent nearly five years crafting her debut album, and one thing is certain: she won’t be rushed. She’s determined to move at her own pace. While it’s disappointing that she won’t perform at Coachella or kick off a world tour, Tyla has learned not to spread herself too thin (if you know, you know). They say time waits for no one, but when opportunity aligns with preparation, time becomes relative.

As for what’s next on Tyla’s timeline, we’ll have to wait and see. But one thing remains crystal clear: with Tyla, the sky’s the limit.

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