The multilingual queen møya rey releases her first single, “Transatlantic Calls”, in English, Spanish and French – Galore Premiere
Story by Eduardo Rolle
møya rey is a New York City based multidisciplinary artist. As a Dominican-American born and raised in New York, møya rey has been shaped and influenced by a multitude of cultures. The transatlantic dialogue that occurs in music is the pulse that gives møya rey’s music an unwavering rhythm of expression and liberation. møya rey takes her soulful and melodic voice to new heights by synthesizing genres such as Soul, Afro-Tunes, and R&B in her first single. “Transatlantic Calls” is a whirlwind of vulnerable and empowered emotions that breathe a vibrancy of a new interpretation of soul and afro tunes. “Transatlantic Calls” is a fitting title for a song that is part of a larger project that aims to understand the transatlantic dialogue that happens in Black music.
møya rey’s new and fresh interpretation of Caribbean, West African, and electronic sounds plays as a cohesive musical suite accentuated by the three languages on the track: English, Spanish and French. Produced by Arty Furtado, “Transatlantic Calls” is the first song møya rey created during the quarantine period and the first single off of her EP “Lost In Translation.”
The altered drum patterns are looped and are tied together by the sparkling sound of simple piano melodies. The saxophone provides an atmospheric finish that is nostalgic of afternoons spent in New York City’s Washington Square Park. The vocals are equal parts smooth and sultry and upbeat and the varying languages serve to be as bridges between the verses and choruses. The short length of the track, and the mixture of 808s, saxophones, piano and subtle electro sounds, makes you want to loop this song as the soundtrack to your day.
First off, I wanted to congratulate you on your debut single “Transatlantic Calls”. I know that you’ve been working on it for a while and it’s come out amazingly. I feel like we’re getting the perfect mix between different music styles, different languages since the song is in English, Spanish, and French; and even to a certain extent I’ve felt like these music genres and languages intertwine in a really rich way and they are able to give the listener different vibes even within the same song, which is so cool. (I’d be listening to the part in English being like “Go to a museum or a club to dance” and then you come with the Spanish verse and I instantly go “Dime papi, qué tú quieres?”. And I was really curious as to what makes you choose one language over the others?
OK, so as far as choosing the language it’s not that I’m like, OK this verse or the chorus or this bridge or this hook will be in X language. It’s more that I have to really just vibe to the song a little bit, and then whatever comes out of me is going to be whatever came out of me authentically and organically. Certain beats and melodies evoke the feeling for me to tap into another language, and that’s when I get inspired.
And is there any specific songwriting process that you went through either in this song or with all the other songs you have?
For this song specifically, I don’t think I really sat down and wrote down lyrics, it was more like, whatever came out of my mind or popped into my thoughts, I would write, just so I wouldn’t lose it. But it’s not like I was meditating on wanting a certain lyric pattern, or writing scheme. I feel like most of the time when I write it’s just mostly whatever is pouring out of me.
Apart from that, there are songs that I have meditated over but in the project that I’m releasing, the songs are not those songs. Because I really wanted them to come from a really authentic place and it was more so like, whatever came out.
You’re a person that has been able to experience many different cultures. Even growing up Dominican-American in New York is already a very enriching and differentiating experience. But you’ve also traveled and lived in many places around the world like Madrid, Paris, South Africa, Senegal, etc. How does this very multicultural background play a part in your music?
I love this question thank you so much for asking because this is the type of discourse that I like to have, this is something that I would talk about on a regular day. To me, for example, the Dominican part is most tied to the Spanish language and so I feel like when I’m tapping into Spanish in my songs it’s because that’s my mother tongue and that’s what comes out most naturally sometimes.
I have a very specific relationship with the language as far as different experiences. I think I’ve been more accepting of Spanish recently. I’ve always accepted being Dominican, but not always accepted the language Spanish. I think that has to do with the context of growing up in the US, in the sense of me growing up in a very white-centric way of understanding things, just because of television or the education system. I was tapping on Disney Channel every time, I was not trying to miss any episode. But you know, the majority of these actors were white actors, so I wanted to be like them, but I still had what made me Dominican at home when that TV turned off. Like the music, the Dominican channel and Dominican news, food, my family… So I was very much myself in what is my root. Because my neighborhood is predominantly Latinx growing up I could understand myself in relation to that, because everyone around me was like me.
As far as the music and how my travel experiences are represented and translated into the music, it’s because I see myself a lot within black culture and the nuances of what black culture is, and so that includes that Latinx culture, because there is that transatlantic dialogue that happens in food or music. And so, there’s just so much in which, for example, West Caribbean countries and West African countries that I’ve been to, and then the ones that I haven’t been to but still listen to the music. When I hear it, it just translates completely, I can be listening to Congolese rumba in Dominican bachata or merengue and so like, just when you start to connect those dots is when you wonder: “How do I enter the discourse in music? How do I make sense of these rhythms and then make sense to them through lyrical form?”.
I feel like, what really helped in that process was working with my friend and producer Arty; he himself has such a diverse background, his mom’s from Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau, and then his dad’s side Russian, but then grew up in Switzerland. So it’s fun working on the project when you both speak the same languages .I feel like it was very easy for me to feel represented through his music.
I’m assuming that “Transatlantic Calls” is part of something bigger, like a bigger project, because it’s got that something that leaves you wanting more, whether that be a video, an album, some artwork… Can you tell us a bit more about what you’re currently working on and what wonderful things we should be expecting?
This is a larger project, it will be an EP, we’re remastering the tracks now because I wanted to add more instruments, like Transatlantic Calls didn’t always have that saxophone. And I find that it gives it a lot more of a joyful vibe. I think that without it, it comes across as melancholic with my voice but there’s still that kick with the percussion. But the sentiment behind the lyrics are about being hurt, they’re very much like “Yo, I really believed in you, and you was running me stupid or whatever” and it’s like, I’ve overcome those feelings and that’s something beautiful to describe.
The translation of emotions into language but then also into music. But apart from that, I have other songs and they all kind of like run up a lot of homage to all the rich cultures that have shaped me such as R&B growing up in NY. There’s also this soulful Caribbean and afro-centric vibe, even though that’s not really a genre.
How was the music video process like?
As far as this song goes, I also have been working on a music video with a very lovely, kind, and talented team here in Paris. And it’s funny because the way that I met the team is that, I was at a brunch, and there I was playing my EP and I am starting to see these people with their phones out to Shazam it.
And I was like you’re not gonna find it and they were like “What do you mean? Comment ça c’est pas sorti?” And I was like, yeah that’s me. And it was very humbling because my music was not out yet but these people were already asking for links and shit. And so like, I started speaking about my project with one of the members of this brunch, her name is Leila Cabiac, and she was really interested in making a music video for me.
And I was like, God is really on my side and the universe is really pointing me to meet the people that I need to meet in this process. And on top of that, she is so lovely, so it was really meant to be. So she directed all the creative direction with her friend Joséphine Habif, who is also very sweet. And what I really appreciate from both of them is that they’re not black women, but they made sure that my team was predominantly formed by black women. So the director of photography specializes in lighting for black skin, her name is Diarra Sourang, and then the stylist is Grazziella and the makeup artist Djélissa. And that was very cool because I didn’t really expect this whole production, where my whole house would have shit everywhere. The team took me by storm.
Finally, I wanted to talk about a line in your song “Transatlantic Calls” that I really like and I wanted to know what it meant for you: “Lose yourself in some silence, you’re not the only one hurting”.
This song is about three boys, but this part specifically I know who it is for. This is me telling that individual from the bottom of my heart that sometimes you are grieving or in pain and you’re not the only one, like for real. That’s in a way me understanding the plight of what is a black man in America specifically, and so it’s like, I understand that, and you know my experiences and yours are different, but I can understand it, and at the end of the day you kind of just have to center yourself and be able to be fully wholeheartedly yourself.
But on top of that, I was creating it at the beginning of the Covid lockdown, and in France, they took that shit seriously. I was in my room and the sacrifice was mental, so I had to come up with a way not to just relive past traumas. There’s the saying, “idle time is the devil’s playground,” and that is to say that, if you really just sit with your thoughts and let them overcome you, they can be really harmful if you don’t have a healthy outlet.
And so I was trying to also say that I recognized those feelings of when time and silence just zone in on you, and I feel like there’s a lot to learn when you just allow the silence to speak to you. And it’s like my ability to have connected on a deeper spiritual level with what I consider my ancestors, but it’s in a way that I feel like they communicate in very subtle ways that could lead me in the right direction. And so it’s just like telling someone to allow themselves that silence because it’s something that they can learn from it.
møya rey on the web:
Watch her video for “Transatlantic Calls” on YouTube
Interview conducted by Eduardo Rolle
Editor: Leila Cab @leicabi
Director of Photography: Diarra Sourang @dia.sourang
Color Grading: Diarra Sourang @dia.sourang
Camera Assistants: Alexandra Fischer and Dorine Destouches
Set Photographer: Daniel @enjoydanysan
Photographer: Kevin Jackson @burban.pics
Photographer: Hélibert Fini @strangeb0yz
Makeup Artist: Djélissa @djemack
Stylist: Grazziella @graz.ziella
Hair: Awa Soumah
Producer: Arty Furtado @artyfurtado
Saxophonist: Maceo Le Fournis @maceo_saxman
Drawing: Janya Nyala @janaya.nyala