She was on an undeniable upward trajectory.
When she dropped out of the University of KwaZulu Natal while doing her honours in Drama and Music to be part of the 2005 South Africa Idols, it paid off.
She had a passion for music and ended up in the Top 6. She was then offered a recording with Sony BMG, which was the ultimate goal then.
Two years later her first album A State of Aya was released.
Ayanda ‘Aya’ Mpama’s career blossomed after that. She was a presenter on SABC 1's Soul Sunday, had a role as Pumpkin on Muvhango, Hot Chicks on Rhythm City, and presented Talk SA as well as Our Perfect Wedding.
When she took time off the spotlight, she was working on a theatre production, and is the voice behind YoTV Land’s animation character Nunu.
Now she is back and focusing solely on her music career and she released an EP titled Ayanda Amandla Ami, the first in a trilogy of extended plays that will eventually result in an album on various streaming platforms.
She got into the industry while she was still young and she says back then, she didn’t own her narrative. Being signed under a record label she always had to listen to other people’s opinions and now she is in the space where the only opinion that matters is hers.
Aya tells Drum that she has always been working on this new offering and some of the songs are old like, Mind the Heart, the second song on the EP, was written 12 years ago.
She says it was about time she releases new music because her fans were asking for it. The songs in this EP are about her personal experiences some not so great, some great, and others challenging.
She is sharing her heart, experiences, voice, and writing with everyone, hoping that they will love it.
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“The new offering is a combination of R&B and Afro-Soul with a hint of jazz with elements of jazz that were from the first album. I have taken this EP to a more soulful place because it comes from a soulful place. I have matured over the years in terms of what I sing about, and how I sing, and I wanted to be able to share that. The similarities that both my old and new projects have is that they are both timeless.”
She says this is the most vulnerable and expressive she has ever been. She listens to other artists and some of their songs have inspired her when she was feeling low but, she says, she wrote a song that will inspire her when she is feeling low, will remind her who she is, encourage her, and she hopes it will do the same for other people.
“When I released my first album, I was very young. So, over the years I have developed confidence in my writing, my voice, and my work, especially now being an independent artist. I wanted to make something that I could be proud of, that I can stand on stage and share confidently and sincerely. Also, in this song, I am partially writing to myself. And Lutho is a song about not giving up, so I always remember what my purpose is. Lutho was an unexpected song that was born under pressure.”
Aya worked with Kabomo on this EP, and she says she has known him since 2008 and they have been in and out of the studio. They have always had a musical relationship, and he understands where she is at as an artist.
“I wanted to work with somebody who understood my state as an artist and understands that I want to make timeless music. I am not here to create music in a genre that will be a hit for now, I respect all genres but what is sincere to me is making music from the heart. Kabomo has more experience than me, which something that I am grateful for in working with him.”
Being in and out of the spotlight has its impact and now that she is focusing on her music career, Aya says she decided to give the EP her all because music deserves that from her.
She went back to school during the pandemic and finished her honours at UKZN.
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“I am grateful that I have always worked, from the moment that I left varsity to do Idols. I have learned so many different things in the industry like the power of trusting the voice inside you. It is okay to say no to something that doesn’t work for you inside is a good idea. Our industry is difficult, we have to always work to stay afloat but I believe that if I had the confidence to follow that voice when it said no, I might have avoided stuff that didn’t serve me. I like to live some things in the past because everything that I have done has contributed to this EP.”
She says the most amazing thing now is that artists have the power to share their craft on various streaming platforms and control how they want it to grow in the era of digital content producers.