Music has provided the soundtrack to Yiigaa’s life from absorbing the sounds exposed to her as a child, by way of her parents, to finding her own sound and venturing into making music of her own. The sounds that holds sentimental value for her include genres like reggae, soca, garage and dancehall, rhythms of the Windrush generation that transformed music in the U.K. and beyond. While also being enamoured with the Ivorian and South African sounds that provided the soundtrack to her parents' lives.
Sounds that create an upbeat feeling is what Yiigaa adores and she is determined to bring these elements into her own music. Being of Ivorian heritage and growing up in South London, it’s not just her musical palette that is wide-ranging, but her identity as a whole. Having been exposed to London’s cultural diversity, fashion became a playground to express the different parts of her identity. Slicked back buns, hoop earrings, harem pants and all. Yiigaa takes us through her story, in her own words, starting with her first interactions with music, to important transition points in her life and what she would like her legacy to be…

Yiigaa wears R.L.E jacket and jewellery by Xhen Xhen 

DE: With your mum being a music lover and your dad being a master drummer, what was that like and how would you describe your first interactions with music as a child?
Y: My dad used to run a class at Brixton, which is where my mum and dad met. It was so fun. When I was a kid, I would go with my friend and we would run around the drum circle. It was just amazing being around that kind of music in London. My mum always listened to reggae, that’s what was always playing around the house and world music, like African traditional music. Even Indian music and Latin music too. Lots of other types of traditional African music and lots of South African music. They were always playing in my house. 
Also, just being in Brixton a lot of dancehall, soca, reggae and where I'm from in South London as well, everyone would listen to funky house and garage. So I've always kind of grown up around a really wide [range of music]. Then obviously you've got the mainstream stuff, which when we were growing up like the 2000s–it was R&B, hip-hop, indie pop music,  that kind of vibe. I feel like I've always grown up with knowing that music is so vast and that there's so many possibilities with it.
DE: I love that. I feel like there's something about the music that you grow up with that has such a sentimental value–
Y: Yeah.
DE: The genres that you grew up around, reggae especially and African music too. Do you feel like you're still in touch with those genres? Are they still your favourite genres? Or has that changed?
Y: I think obviously music does change with time and primary socialisation and secondary socialisation play into the type of music that you like. Growing up at home and having those as the genres that I listen to at home, then going outside, going to school and hearing the genres that I hear outside of school - both of them play a huge impact into what we all like, even now.
Even the music that comes out now is influenced by those things that came before it. So, I don't think musical genres ever really die out, they just turn into new things. With the music I make it's a blend of the afrobeats I grew up listening to, the pop that I grew up listening to, a little bit of the garage and house stuff I grew up listening to also. Then there's always different elements that kind of come in and out.
I think it's all ever-changing, but I think everyone that makes music, usually a part of their upbringing, is included in that. I can't speak for everyone, but definitely for me.
DE: Of the genres that you mentioned, is there a standout song for you? A song that - when you hear it, it just takes you back to that moment as a child, it feels very peaceful, warm or even, just makes you feel happy, because it’s an upbeat song. You can name more than one if you want.
Y: Yes! Premier Gaou by Magic System is a very traditional Ivorian song. People were trying to say it was Congolese, but it’s not, it’s Ivorian. Then, loads of old school reggae songs, loads of Bob Marley always reminds me of growing up in my house. My mum used to listen to punk as well. All of these genres really remind me of growing up.
DE: That’s a great selection. I love Premier Gaou, it reminds me a lot of my childhood too. How would you describe your fashion sense as a child? How did growing up in South London, the cultural diversity and the fashion in the area impact you and what items of clothing, shoes, jewellery and accessories were distinctive part of your style?
Y: Omg. Everyone used to think I would dress really weird. I think that was because I used to mix [different styles together]. My dad would wear traditional African clothes, mixed with Rastafarian mixed with streetwear. He’d wear a tracksuit, with an African top and trainers and then his Rasta hat. He’s just always been very mixed up and my mum's quite hippie, with lots of colours. So, I would wear the traditional South London attire, which is like a slicked bun, big hoops, ‘Just Do It’ bag, leggings and a crop top. I’d always mix things in, I was also really into vintage stuff, hippie stuff - sometimes I’d mix my crop top with harem pants, with Air Max trainers and big feather earrings. It was just a mix of everything and I’m still quite like that now. It depends on the day, I think mixing and matching is fun.
DE: That’s super insightful. As a teenager, I loved hoop earrings (still do) and white Nike AF1’s growing up, I used to change the laces into multi-coloured ones (I would dye them sometimes) and even write my name on the AF1’s too, it was a crazy time haha. While I was studying journalism at university, fashion was quite revolutionary for me. I would rock up to lectures in my camo pants, AF1’s and hoop earrings. It was important to me to be everything that I am and not conform to my environment. Thinking back to the wind rush generation and the importance of fashion as a statement and activism in itself. Would you say that fashion has been a statement for you, of showing who you are?
Y: Yeah, I think being mixed heritage as well, when you're from two different cultures and you're from a culture in London, where there's so many different cultures. I was so proud of that. I was so lucky to be able to express that side of myself and every part of me. I didn't feel afraid to do that and I feel so blessed for that. 
Even if somebody was like, “oh you dress a bit weird”. It was never deep like that, you know. I do feel so blessed to be brought up somewhere that I could really truly be myself. I never felt like I had to change who I was. Obviously there's societal things and being mixed, I may not have it as difficult as people that are fully black and those pressures are obviously still there. I think where I’m from, you were allowed to be who you are, which I’m so blessed for, just because there's so much of that like rich Caribbean and African influence in South London.
DE: With a key theme of this residency being the word ‘transition’, I thought it could be interesting to explore the word within the context of your journey as a musician. You’ve spoken in interviews about transitioning from a more ‘neo-soul and lo-fi sound’ to more electronic and dance sounds. What was the reason behind that transition and what pressures do you feel catering to the dance and electronic market?
Y: I first made the transition, because I honestly didn't really like the music I was making anymore. I have never really listened to that much like neo-soul. I've always listened to dance music from about 15 to 17 years old, all I would listen to was dancehall. That's all I wanted to hear and wanted to listen to. I also always loved garage and funky house. If I went out for a night out, I'd want to hear those genres. I realised the vocals that were in those genres were vocals of black women. They were big vocals, by a lot of women that were from the soul scene and it was soultronic. That's the kind of music that I love. So, I just had a look inward and I went on a trip to Zimbabwe for an acting job. I was just listening to so much gqom at the time, which was just before amapiano and that genre that blended into amapiano. That was amazing, because there's so much music that’s influenced by African music and black music. Music that feels cultural and like those traditional elements are still there. Listening to that really influenced me. It's not like I don't take those R&B and neo-soul elements into it, because I love the 90s and 2000s era. I think it was more the ‘new age’ version of it that wasn’t really me. I grew from it, I evolved from it, like with anything and the music I make next year may be different also. You've got no idea where it's gonna go. You've just got to move with it and you have to be unafraid to do that because not everyone's gonna like it. 
DE: When it comes to creative and visuals–music videos, what is the process like for your music videos? Do you create a treatment beforehand? How much creative direction do you have and how involved are you in this process? 
Y: I work closely with my friend and we work together. But I never hand over the reins. I always have a lot of creative control in terms of concept and then we work together to create it. I'm just a creative person in general. I think a misconception is that if you have a manager, a team or you have a bit of funding that you don't do everything yourself. I literally do everything myself. But I'm getting used to giving more creative control to other people that I don't necessarily know.

Yiigaa wears a blouse by Brian De Carvalho and jewellery by Lucky Little Blighters

DE: Another element of this residency is performance, which is also such an important part of being a musician and an entertainer. What does it feel like being on stage? Do you have an alter ego?
Y: I think sometimes it makes it a little bit easier to separate yourself a little bit from the artist. My actual name is Yiga (spelt Y-I-G-A), but the way I spell it as an artist is different. So, I think that's the way I kind of separate myself. I trained as an actor before I was a musician and they are very different. Being on stage as yourself is terrifying, but I do try to be myself as much as I can.
I think performance is so much about crowd interaction. It's about making everyone feel like the space is theirs, because it is. Making everyone feel calm, excited, at peace or whatever the vibe is of the show. I think it's just about making sure everyone in the room feels comfortable to be themselves, to sing their heart out if they want to do and dance as well. Not every artist is the same, but for me, it's a party. if you come to a show, it will be a vibe, you'll meet people and have fun. That's the kind of show I want.
DE: Which artists do you look up to when it comes to fashion, identity and stage presence?
Definitely Rihanna, in terms of fashion. And I just think she’s just incredible. In terms of identity and just making the music that you just want to make, I think an amazing example of this is Rachel Chinouriri. She’s making the music that she loves and it’s clear and authentic. And vocally, I would say Raye. I love her. I think she is one of the best vocalists we have in the U.K., for sure and she's authentically herself with her lyrics as well.
Yiigaa wears a dress by Kata Haratym
DE: I wanted to get your thoughts on the residency too! How you feel about it, what you think about it and just the idea in general?
Y: I think it's an amazing idea! The concept is so cool - being able to link up with people to create something is what the industry is all about. 
I think this is what we used to do, when I first came into the industry like five six years ago, but I think social media has made it a lot more individualistic. So, it's nice to go back to how it was before and just work for people that you don't know, have fun and trust each other. I think it was tough, because again, when there's a team of so many people it's stressful. But, everyone was lovely. I trusted everyone to get their job done. You know, more ideas can be amazing. I think it's just about navigating them and making sure that everyone is heard. But, I really enjoyed the process and over time, when everything's solidified, I think it's going to be really successful.
DE: As a final question, what would you like your legacy to be?
Y: It's a big question…I think it’s to not be afraid to create the music that you really like. When I say that, I mean the music you make in your bedroom. The music you feel other people may find cringy or the music that your family listened to growing up, that you may think people don't understand. Or the lyrics that you think people won't relate to. Don't feel afraid to represent every single part of yourself within your music. Don't hide from it, because authenticity is so important. I also just think that I want to be remembered for being a good creative. When I say that, I mean sharing, collaborating, supporting [others] and not being stuck up. Being like a nice person, sharing knowledge and being supportive in this industry it's so important and supporting other people, as well without expecting things. 
Project Coordinators Terna Jogo, D.wiafe and Adrian Wood (Content Lab)
Artist Yiigaa
Photography & Video Yasmin Yasmin,  Janice Quiñonez Portales, Khatun Khatya
Producer Terna Jogo
MUA Sahara Malcolm-Smith
Hair Lee-Anne Nxova from Celebraids
Hair Assistant Kellianna Jay
Stylist Danette Powell
Stylist Assistant Mercy Amedu
Movement Direction Emma Babasola
Set Design Princess Adenrele
Interview by Daniella Ekundayo
BTS Photography Ana Blumenkron, D.wiafe & Adrian Wood
Gaffer Kushagra Aanand
BTS Video Kushagra Aanand
Graphic Design William Sousa
Special Thanks Jack Hartshorn and Martin Bamidele at Kingswood Arts and 

Hakeem Osman, Gabija Morkunaite and Maria Miron at Capture One
Supported by LCC EDI, PARC, T&L
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