10 things you need to know about Tora, London's mysterious queen of R&B
The 20-year old artist has just launched her brilliant EP Cavalier, which seems to have appeared out of thin air.
Still from Vein
London-based artist Tora broke onto the scene in March this year with her debut release "Vein" -- a sharp yet incredibly soulful song that came with a rather compelling video. Shot by up-and-coming director Aliyah Otchere, it explored the beauty and dexterity of black hair and saw Tora entangled in a gigantic web of her own braids. "The song is essentially about feeling trapped within yourself,” Tora explains. “I see my hair as an extension of myself so it was just my way of expressing that feeling.”
While both the song and video seemed to indicate the workings of a seasoned artist, "Vein" had only been preceded by "Pisonia Prologue", a brief but promising flash of the sonic brilliance Tora had in store for us. And she delivered. New single "Call Your Name" -- taken from her forthcoming EP Cavalier, due May -- is about boldly confronting the conflicting and unbalanced power dynamics she sees in the world. The video was shot by i-D coverboys Motherlan, a crew of young Nigerian skaters that have become an integral part of Lagos' fast growing Alté community. Apart from designing their own streetwear, they’re known for their skate videos, and are now expanding into making music videos as well. Quite a unique collaboration, which came about when a friend of a friend introduced them and it just instantly clicked.
"The song is about the reality behind power -- how those without it feel the need to unceasingly prove themselves whilst those with it, use that desire in their favour in order to keep that dynamic constant," Tora explains. "The core idea for the video came from me wanting to celebrate Black British moments throughout history but those so by creating the feeling of your grandparent's living room. Of course we couldn’t fit hundreds of years worth of content into just over 3 minutes, so it took some twists and turns -- especially considering the current climate. I felt that Motherlan would be able to take on the initial idea and create something unique whilst remaining true to the foundation of it."
Give the track a listen and get to know more about Tora through these 10 fun facts...
1. Singing has always been the only thing to truly resonate with her
"I used to be quite a busy child, so I was always doing some activity but singing was the only thing that made me feel clear headed and truly in the moment. According to my mum, the first time I actually said ‘I want to be a singer’ was when I was nine."
2. Her earliest music memories include a dance we’re all familiar with
"What stuck with me most is either singing along to a Mary J. Blige song in the car with my dad, aged four; or learning Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” choreography in the living room -- not sure what came first."
3. The first time Tora ever performed was at age 8
"I had a solo in the school play in year 4 but I have no clue what song it was. It might have been "Cry Me Out" from Pixie Lott -- it's something I vaguely remember."
4. The first concert she ever attended sounds wild
"Me, my mum, cousins and aunt went to see the Pussycat Dolls and Rihanna. I remember planning my outfit the day before, pink kitten heeled boots and all. I have the merch to this day."
5. Her lockdown mood is lowkey
"I still haven't done Instagram Live, and I'm proud of that."
6. She's a polyglot, sort of
"I studied Russian for three years... I can only remember ‘hello’, however."
7. The artist she cites as influencing her work are like music to our ears
"I love Frank Ocean, and Banks was a seminal artist for me as I hadn’t heard anything like it at the time. Same goes for Kelis and OutKast."
8. The video for "Pisonia Prologue" was made using CCTV footage
"I had the idea for the video for a while and eventually I stumbled across Silence (the director) through Instagram and we instantly clicked. I knew she was the right person to bring it to life. The video is about lack of privacy, which is something we all have in common."
9. She doesn't shy away from a trial and error approach
"It sort of happened that way with “Vein”. I had previously mentioned to my producer Courage that I wanted to implement a jungle beat in a song, but I wasn’t sure how it’d work as my music is mostly mid-tempo, but in my head it just made sense. On the day we made it, he had all these baroque-esque chords and somehow these wildly different styles fit into each other easily.
10. For her new EP Cavalier, she's done some intensive soul-searching
" Cavalier as a whole is about knowing when to remove yourself from detriment whether that’s romantically, mentally or platonically. Sometimes we prefer the easy option since we’re comfortable, and we end up accepting the bare minimum. In the process of making it, I realised how often I would do this and by actually putting it out into the world, it was me coming out of denial and saying I wouldn’t allow it anymore."