SONY MUSIC GROUP
To describe the music of TĀLĀ, it would sometimes be simpler to list the genres she doesn't take inspiration from. Rave to RnB, Pop to soul, electronica and exotica, all make themselves felt in her rich sonic mix. Step away from the genres for a minute though and TĀLĀ's recipe becomes a bit clearer: it's East meets West via South London.
Her breakout came with last year's The Duchess. It was an EP of largely instrumental music, that was complex, but still beautiful, jumping from idea to idea like a beat tape might. “I always wanted the first stuff I put out to be more production heavy” she says now. “I wanted to bring through the vocal-driven music more slowly”. That combination came together later in the year with the Alchemy EP, the name itself a nod to her unique fusion of styles. Take the title track which matched an 80s influenced pop melody with neo RnB vocals, only to then finish on the flourish of a Persian wind instrument. It was backed up by Black Scorpio, an instrumental that brought trap and Grimes-style etherealism into the mix. Final track Unfinished Business flipped the script again, serving up a piece of up-tempo electro-pop.
To properly understand this musical melting pot we need to take it back to the start. TĀLĀ– the name means 'gold' in Farsi – was born to an Iranian father and English mother in the South London neighbourhood of Hampton. Her much-missed dad was an entrepreneur who came to the UK and started a number of businesses, from supermarkets to restaurants. But it was his passion for music that filled the family home.
“He was a very creative person my dad, he loved art and always encouraged it”, TĀLĀ recalls. “In the house we'd have loads of instruments and he'd always be encouraging you to pick up something and play it - even if you didn't know what you were doing! The energy that he had definitely influenced me; it made me feel confident. You wouldn't think about making a mistake you'd just do it, it wouldn't be a thing.”
So while her dad would be playing Iranian singer Googoosh in the kitchen, her mum would be in the sitting room blasting Michael Ball. And in the middle, TĀLĀ would be on the piano, jamming. Her musical talent was clear from an early age and it was nurtured at school, however during her teen years, “I went on a bit of a journey of trial and error. I was just in my own private space making music and a lot of it was quite angry. A lot of it was really bad.”
Facing up to her own frustrations, it was then that TĀLĀ stepped away from the safety of home and decided to explore. “My dad lived in Qatar and I have a lot of family over there so that's where I wanted to go. It was a really inspiring trip because it turned out that, not only do I have all this family there I'd never met but because the culture is so different. On the one hand it's so traditional but on the other hand there's all this modernity and so much wealth. The things clash so much! I spent time with my cousins and found it fascinating to see what they did, what music they were into, what they did at the weekend. A cousin played me all this cool arabic music and we were in this taxi once and I got her to sing one song back to me - the title in arabic means 'you are my gold' – and I recorded it on my phone. When I got back to London I chopped up the record, sampled the original and then layered it all together. It's these things that start you off sometimes.”
After that trip things started to fall into place for TĀLĀ. Further crafting her skills alongside fellow producers Craze & Hoax, who influenced the further development of her sound, TĀLĀ took a step back, producing a beat tape with the view to independently posting it online to test the water. This got into the hands of the Brixton based record label Aesop, turning into her debut EP, the aforementioned “The Duchess”.
On the back of The Duchess TĀLĀ finally landed a record deal.“I feel like I'm more comfortable where I am now”, she says. “I feel like I've still got a lot to prove but to myself more than anyone else. Previously it was about proving to other people. Maybe I lacked confidence, maybe I felt insecure and self-conscious. Now I don't really care. I just want to prove to myself that I can do this. That's where I am now.”