Canadian singer of Haitian descent Gaya started off singing back-up for several bands and solo artists on the Canadian scene before striking out on her own. Even before she became the darling of the Canadian musical scene, she was taking risks. Firstly, she quit a lucrative position to spend time networking on the music scene in her native country. And later when she had gained fame as a lead vocalist for a major band, she turned the tables again and went out on her own venture. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And Gaya has definitely ventured, and she’s gained much!
Kreyolicious: So, you started off singing background for several artists and then it was solo time!
Gaya: In 2013, I started composing songs for a much more personal project call Rara Gaya. These songs were mainly organic, vulnerable…and showcased another side of my personality. My main influence at that time was Toto Bissainthe. With [the] full desire to give this project a chance, I left the Boogie Wonder Band in December 2014, and in early 2015, I showcased my talent on the TV show “The Voice Canada”, called “La Voix”.
Kreyolicious: And how was that experience?
Gaya: “La Voix” was an exciting experience! They took me from where I was…a funk queen, as they let me perform major successes such as “I will Survive” from Gloria Gaynor to “Uptown Funk” from Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. They also let me showcase that other side of my personality, the grounded warrior, when they allowed me to perform “Le Mal Du Pays” by Manno Charlemagne, a song about liberty.
Since 2015, I have been touring under the stage name Team Gaya showcasing my amazing musicians and myself around North America and Haiti. We have finished our first album, which will come out [this month]. This first opus is definitely made for music lovers! It is organic like the vision I had in 2013, and it reflects every stage of my life. It has gospel [tracks], French songs, English songs and Creole interactions. It is high on energy, but the energy is brought in many different ways! Stay tuned for the album, called Little Bird.
Kreyolicious: Which artists and groups have inspired you on your musical journey?
Gaya: OMG, so many. I love music. My ultimate females vocalist were for the longest time Whitney Houston, Janet jackson and Tony Braxton, Gosh I love Tony Braxton. As a pop fan, The Spice Girls, Britney spears, the Backstreet Boyz are totally my guilty pleasure. Later on came Aliyah, TLC, Destiny’s Child…Beyonce, Amarie, Rihanna, Drake, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd and I gotta say that I really think that Ariana Grande has amazing productions and an amazing voice. [The] 70’s-80’s: Michael Jackson, Prince, Chaka Khan. Finally, on a more jazz, world and soul music angle: Toto Bissainthe, Manno Charlemagne, Sade, Joy Denalane, Teri Moïse, Corneille, Tracy Chapman, Nina Simone, FKA Twigs, and my favorite, Solange Knowles.
Kreyolicious: What if you could create a band for one night…made up from musicians and other artists…who would you include?
Gaya: I would keep my actual musicians because I am very loyal and I would love to reach the top with my team. Now the real question is if I had one night to produce an epic record who would I choose to produce it with. [Smile] Well…the answer is, I would put around one table, myself, James Blake, Raphel Saadiq, Mike will made it, Kuk Harrell, Niles Rogers, Pharell, Sampha, Aubrey Graham, Max Martin, Solange Knowles, and Kanye West. It is not a record without Kanye West.
Kreyolicious: Your parents have your back in this music stuff?
Gaya: My parents are great. Two very modern Haitian parents. My father introduced me to Michael Jackson when I was a Child! [Some] nights, he would wear white gloves and moonwalk in the hallway to make me and my siblings laugh before going to sleep. And [on] other nights, he would dress like a Taino to tell us the history of Haiti. My mom was always very athletic and would teach me some dance moves while doing aerobics to Abba’s music. She is a very colorful person. She could care less about what others can think. She is driven, passionate. She loves her family and fears God. Both of my parents are very creative and they always made me feel like there was nothing impossible for me to achieve. Today, they come to my shows with their friends and support me in my art. I love my parents. God bless them!
Kreyolicious: What do you hope to accomplish over the course of your career?
Gaya: Produce some great music. Stay authentic. Perform over and over again, share the stage with the greatest and die satisfied. Let the music speak for itself. I wanna create a model in which my children will feel comfortable in their skin, embrace their vision and be free to accomplish great things when comes their turn. In the end, I just want my music and my career to be a great example for the generations to come—because the best is yet to come.
This has been another episode of Haitian-Canadians…in which…in which your favorite chick Kreyolicious explores Canadians of Haitian descent and what they’re up to. CLICK HERE if you missed PART I of the interview with Gaya!
[Photo Credit: Deydey Fine Arts]