Stars and Dragon’s magical/mythical blend, infuses and enforces a stunning sound. The E.P.’s second-born shows the Welsh-Ghanaian’s ambitious polyryhtmic mandate, in full flight.
Tidal Wave is available via:
The E.P. Stars & Dragons is available via:
NEW music is an art form that relies upon a number of different facets…
Most of the issues I have with new music, is a predetermined lack of knowledge of market needs. Many bands, artists and acts are too contented to produce the bare-minimum; not concerned with doing some necessary research to establish a number of things: what people want; what constitutes a great and worthy artist, and how to ensure that you stick in people’s minds. A big issue at the moment, revolves around the ease of which one can record music. There is no longer a reliance on studio sounds: bedroom motifs and tales are favoured as much as anything. If you own some basic record equipment, and have Internet connection, then laying down your sounds, and distributing them to the world, is simple and uncomplicated- and attracts swarms of participants. This is great. It should be simple to record music and let people hear about it; who wants to be restricted and frustrated by barriers and obstacles? Problems arise, when artists get it into their minds, that simply pressing record, equates to an inevitable quality: assumptions are that they will be heralded widely, and ensuing success will surely follow. I have born witness to a great deal of new talent, each of whom has done their research, electioneered hard (and wide), and have a strong and insatiable work ethic. It is those artists whom often succeed- and deservedly so. Still there are too many, whom sound exactly the same as several dozen others: diversity and individuality seem to be long-forgotten bywords for sustainability and memorability. The media is partly to blame as well. Every review I have seen for a new act- and I am guilty as well- starts off by saying: “They are the new…”. Half the battle is already lost, if the very first thought on the listeners mind concerns tribute and borderline mimicry. Artists get it into their head that hanging onto the coattails of their favourite act/band/artist will see them obtain a similar amount of respect and credibility: it doesn’t. Success and patronage arrives when the act imbues their tones with some influence and familiarity, but above all, it is down to key pillars: ambition and originality. Because of these- some would say, rigid- rules, many have fallen through the cracks, or less, been unable to find a market. For those whom put the extra effort and consideration into their palette, find that funding and opportunities can be a little difficult to come by.
Having been funded via Musicians Benevolent Fund and their Emerging Excellence Awards (that assists artists aged between 18-30; offering funding and support), Juliyaa is a curious case: for very good reasons. Her real name is Julia Suit, but her musical alter ego is every bit as fascinating as any other new act. She is a talent whom realises the importance and significance of an impressive online portfolio. The official website is easy-to-use, and informative; well laid-out and professional-looking. Her Twitter and Facebook accounts are filled with relevant and detailed biography, and chart her progress and ambitions perfectly. Welsh and Ghanaian are probably genetic combinations that are rare. Musically, socially and culturally they are diverse and share very little in common. With regards to Juliyaa, it instantly sets her apart from her contemporaries. From looking at her she is incredibly striking. Possessed with stunning beauty and a statuesque figure, she is a modern-day pin-up. That should not distract you from her personality and passion. From her Twitter feed, you can tell that she is extremely intelligent and sharp: words are not wasted, and all are correct and intriguing- almost unheard of in 2013. Home for Juliyaa is north London, and she has had a colourful- and sometimes difficult- road to prominence. She has labelled her sound as ‘Rhythmic Soul’: a term that succinctly boils down her essence. Having released a number of singles in the run-up to late-2012, Juliyaa spent time honing her sound, and making her voice heard. Her E.P. Stars & Dragons, was released in November of last year, and is a tight and memorable collection of songs. One cannot help but be impressed by the E.P. cover. Boasting beautiful colours and an artistic and entrancing design, it will catch your eye and elicit a smile from your mouth. So few new acts neglect the need to produce an original and memorable E.P./album cover: choosing to scrape along, with a basic portrait or lazy design. It is details like this, that are so vital in drawing in people. Without having heard a song or note, you are intrigued and fascinated. The plaudits received off of the back of Stars & Dragons, has included airplay on BBC IXtra and BBC Radio 6. Very influential and prominent ears have been captivated by her sounds, and has been made possible by the combination of funding from Musicians Benevolent Fund. and her ambition and impressive range of tracks and styles. Twinning the fresh and vibrant sounds of U.K. urban music, alongside soulful harmonies, has resulted in a terrific blend, and one that has earned her fans from wide reaches of the country; as well as drawing in supporters whom would not usually be aware of the types of music Juliyaa purveys. Her influences include Alicia Keys and Outkast and you can hear a lot of the former’s vocal silks, as well as elements of the latter’s innovation and free spirit. In preparation for her new E.P., which is due out soon, I investigated Stars & Dragons, to see what delights and treasures could be found within.
The title track may have received the most number of plays, historically, and Iwihia is not too far behind. It is, however, the track Tidal Wave that caught my attention and compelled me to investigate further. The sense of adventure and intelligence is present imminently, when listening to the opening moments of the song. The voice is queen: up front and strong, showing strong soulful veins, with a tad of modern urban influence. However, there is an ominous and swirling sound, that builds momentum in the background and creeps further towards the front. It has urban elements, but also modern pop and soul touches too. That combination spikes interest straight away, and then prostrates to what follows. Energy and passion multiply and intensifies as Juliyaa’s voice is layered and harmonises with itself, creating a stirring chorus. Maybe with a hint of mid-career Beyonce/Destiny’s Child, the vocal choir eases and evaporates; giving way to the central, focused vocal line. The musical landscape changes to something more intoxicating and psychotropic. Electronic sounds and sensations swirl and contort, reminiscent of sonic blood-flow- backed by a sharp and edgy percussive beat. Words are offered and brought forth: “The water’s rising”, is the initial tristesse, and is the foreword to a chapter, speaking of sublimation, subversion and a metaphorical sense of drowning. It is clear that our heroine has anxiety and burdens to shoulder. The use of imagery steers from metaphysical temptations, and instead vividly paints a scene of a overwhelming tension. Thematically, it may well be ground that has had many footprints make their impression, but precious few have managed to combine the protestations and poetry, alongside such soulful and streetwise sounds. It is the way that the hallmarks of urban composition: stinging and punctuating percussion and electronic whirls and grimey sparks; are tied together in unity with soulful vocals and a strong prowess, that invigorates and inflames the bones. Gravity, momentum and energy are keywords that one cannot help but avoid. There are few gaps for breath or consideration: the song drags you in and pulls you along (perhaps appropriate given its title). Juliyaa’s voice swoons, trips and seduces; tying your tongues, as the rampant winged beasts that are the embodiment of the sound, clean rip it out. Before the 1:00 marker, there is a coda of “I’m calling”. The vocal performance has elements of Knowles, Keys and (at during its lightest moments) Sande. No needless histrionics nor wasted breaths: the performance is strong, passionate and convincing. Tales of the night, forces beyond our heroine’s ken and perception, are shaking her nerves and stirring her soul (“The power it calls me to stay”). In the past- as well as the present- I have been put off by a lot of urban artists for a number of reasons. Firstly their personalities and projection highlights them as people you’d rather not support or be generous towards; this is often galvanised by their words, which are often infantile or sloppily generic. Juliyaa has the sounds of the street in her arsenal, but in a locket around her neck, is a soulful voice and spirit, bonded by a chain that is strong and unyielding. It is those combination and flavours that means Tidal Wave supersedes expectation, as well as positions itself well above the offerings brought forth by many of her contemporaries. A hymn and calling card to her unnamed beau, Juliyaa has his love, and is falling. When she sings, she does so with intense passion, but treats her vocals with care: she layers where appropriate; elongates here and there; electronic slices it to create juddery staccato, and at its core is a tender and heartfelt serenity. Few urban or pop artists have a voice that stands up to such a workout, such is the ability of Juliyaa; even fewer are capable of melting their voice into a musical cauldron that bubbles with smokes of toxic, sweet-smelling, noisome and erotic. The sense of tenderness and honeyed annunciations is ever-present at the 2/3 mark. Here the mood is brought down, stripped and rests peacefully. “I’m falling” is repeated, backed by softer and less forceful sounds; the voice contains less anxiety; whether the falling refers to falling in love, or a free-fall into an emotional quagmire is uncertain: such is the allure and sly bait-and-switch. When it is said that “Your love is my calling”, doubts may have been cast aside from the listener’s perspective. When this confession is delivered, there is an air of Dangerously in Love/I Am… Sasha Fierce-Beyonce, mingling with As I Am-era Alicia Keys. Neither are overly-obvious nor overly-intrusive influences: their flavour notes and scents ruminate, but the most potent sensations are Juliyaa’s alone. The sing-along quality of- the unofficial- chorus will strike chords with urban and soul fans alike, and unify dance floors and venues, as well as draw in any disenchanted fans of N-Dubz (whom are probably not used to hearing any quality music).
The key themes of love and desire, as well as the associative side effects of its tribulations and reality, are all present and correct. Our protagonist brings a sense of autobiography in, and is clearly writing about something that is meaningful and relevant to her. Subsequently, the words are filled with conviction and authority. Her voice is able to remain composed and taut, but has a range and emotional spectrum that paints many scenes and pictures. In the current climate there are not many solo artists whom have an ability to integrate urban and more soulful sounds together, and make it work well. I myself am not a huge fan or follower of urban music, so there was a measure of apprehension. For those alike, there should be no fear, as the track, and E.P. as a whole is testament to a talent, whom is restless, inventive and bold. Juliyaa can unite different genres and sounds together to create a harmonious and intriguing whole; not losing focus or passion at any turn. The debut E.P. has shown that she has real staying power and potential, and it will be interesting to see what her forthcoming E.P. has to offer. For anyone unaware of her presence, and unfamiliar with her back-story and biography, should check her out: it’s free after all. The solo market is a difficult sector to crack, and with the help of the Emerging Excellence Awards and The Musicians Benevolent Fund, Juliyaa has brought her talents and visions to fruition. It may have been a less-than-easy transformation to where she is now, but the future will be bright indeed. Take a moment, and discover someone who will be familiar to many…
VERY soon indeed.
The Musicians Benevolent Fund has been supporting musicians for more than 90 years. It helps young musicians at the start of their careers, professional musicians when an accident, illness or injury means they are unable to work and older musicians in retirement. In 2012 the Fund assisted over 2,000 musicians either directly or through partnerships. The Musicians Benevolent Fund is independent and relies on donations to underpin its work. For more information visit: helpmusicians.org.uk
Emerging Excellence Awards
: The Emerging Excellence Awards are open to artists working in any genre, from jazz to rock, urban to classical and folk to funk. The awards celebrate the diversity and entrepreneurialism of the UK’s exciting young talent. For more information visit: helpmusicians.org.uk/eea
Debut EP from singer/songwriter Juliyaa
Released 01 November 2012
Production: B.Hanson (1,5,6) Antony OTB (3,4) Moses “Mo-Keyz” Samuels (2)
Live Instruments Recorded by: Mike McGill, Tom Szappanos (SSR Studios)
Keys & Guitars: Niji Adeleye, Si Cliff, Jon Atterbury
Drums: Donna Thompson, Matthew Fox
Strings: Chris John, Abigail Davis, Susie Attwood
Brass: Josh O’Riordan, Dave White, Dan Hayter
Photography & Styling: Hilda Sackey, The Mother Plucker, Andree Marie
Design: SMB Studios